Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil police storm landless settlement near Sao Paulo

Brazilian riot police have stormed an illegal settlement of landless workers in Sao Paulo state to reclaim the land for its private owners.

Several cars were set alight as residents tried to defend their homes in the Pinheirinho slum in Sao Jose dos Campos, and 16 people were arrested.

Police say they are now in control of the area after encountering less resistance than had been feared.

Some 6,000 residents are being evicted from the eight-year-old settlement.

Eviction

Around 2,000 police officers were involved in the operation to reclaim the private land, which had been occupied by landless workers and turned into a community.

Local government officials and social workers have been going door-to-door to evict families and help them move to alternative accommodation.

Some are being put up in temporary accommodation, while others are being offered transport back to their original home villages.

The evictions follow a legal battle between the residents and administrators for the bankrupt property company that owned the land.

Activists who supported the residents briefly blocked a main road in protest against the eviction.

The Pinheirinhos squatter camp established by a land invasion in 2002 had developed into a settled neighbourhood, complete with shops and churches.

A decade of strong economic growth and social spending has helped millions of Brazilians out of poverty into the expanding middle class.

But millions of others are still poor, and extreme inequality persists.

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