Thousands of people turned out to a rally organised by the Portuguese Communist party in support of agrarian reform in Lisbon on Friday (19 December).
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Background: Thousands of people turned out to a rally organised by the Portuguese Communist party in support of agrarian reform in Lisbon on Friday (19 December).
It follows the gathering of about twenty thousand conservative farmers in the town of Rio Maior, near Lisbon, on Sunday (14 December) to protest against illegal land seizures.
The Communist party has accused the farmers of planning to cut Portugal in two again, and has called for all its supporters to remain vigilant.
The farmers face a substantial drop in agricultural production this year. Some estimates place that reduction at least thirty per cent.
The drop is directly attributable to the application of the Revolutionary Agrarian Reform programme. The principles of the programme are accepted by all politicians. Its prime target is the large absentee landowner, and it also penalises the farmers whom the Government considers to be less than efficient.
The reform package was passed into law by the Communist-dominated fifth Government in July.
But the law was not supposed to open the door to an indiscriminate land grab. Farmers say that, encouraged by the Communist-dominated agricultural trade unions and abetted by the Communist Secretary for Agriculture, groups of workers have been roaming in parts of Portugal, taking over small, medium and big farms, almost at will.
This action was behind the farmers' protest last Sunday when they threatened to cut off Lisbon from the rest of the country.
Following last month's abortive left-wing revolt in Portugal, a government reshuffle is planned. it is expected that Doctor Antonio Bica, the Communist Deputy Minister of Agriculture, will be replaced by a less extreme appointee, possibly a Socialist minister.