October 1, 2002, Tuesday
17:11 Central European Time
Brazil to confiscate land owned by Moon followers
Rio de Janeiro - The Brazilian government has targeted for
expropriation more than 10,000 hectares of land belonging to the
Unification Church, headed by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, because the
land is fallow and could be better used, a newspaper report said Tuesday.
The chief of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform
in Mato Grosso do Sul state, Celso Cestari, told the Folha de Sao Paulo
daily that 15 out of 16 farms owned by Moon's followers in the region are
not productive and could be included in the land distribution programme.
Cestari said the only Unification Church farm examined that is
productive also will be confiscated, since it was found to violate an
environmental law stipulating that at least 20 per cent of the original
vegetation must be preserved in privately-held lands in Brazil.
The report said the haciendas the Brazilian government is moving to
expropriate are a small fraction of the many properties owned by Moon
followers in Mato Grosso do Sul, located near the border with Paraguay.
The Unification Church organization has acquired 46 haciendas in Mato
Grosso do Sul, covering 67,080 hectares, according to the Institute of
Cestari said investigations would be launched into 22 of those
properties to see if they are abiding by the law.
A Unification Church spokesman, Neudir Simao Ferabolli, charged the
expropriation was "politically motivated" and born of the "exaggerated
bias that exists around the Moon stigma".
Ferabolli said that the haciendas the government claims are lying
fallow "were never farmed and cannot be farmed, due to the poor quality
of the soil".
He said Moon followers wanted to use the farms to build tourist
Faced with the takeover of its lands, the Unification Church has two
weeks to present a defence to try to block the action and could file a
legal writ in opposition before the courts.