Bolsonaro’s land decree heaven for land-grabbers

. Dec 11, 2019
Bolsonaro's land decree heaven for land-grabbers

Land-grabbing in Brazil goes by a curious name: grilagem, or “cricketing.” The story goes that as a way of making forged property titles seem genuine, large landowners would leave them for a month inside a drawer filled with crickets. The insects would nibble on the edges of the papers and produce a substance that yellowed the titles, making them appear much older than they actually were. Thus, the landowners could untruthfully claim they were the rightful proprietors of the territory in question, and that they had been for some time.

These days, people don’t need to go to such lengths to unlawfully seize territories in Brazil. And now, thanks to a decree signed this week by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, land-grabbing just got a whole lot easier. 

</p> <p>As a continuation of his government&#8217;s attempts to reduce red tape in Brazil, this latest move simplifies the process of regulating land ownership around the country, leaving the door wide open for <em>grileiros</em>.</p> <h2>What changes?</h2> <p>The decree alters a 2009 law to regulate <a href="">land ownership</a> in the Amazon, loosening certain requirements and opening up the same provisions to the whole of Brazil. Outwith that, the other major change involves the simplified, self-declared process of land declaration.</p> <p>Previously, individuals could become the rightful owners of small plots of land if they simply provided a description of the territory and a statement that they occupied the land before the year 2008. This was restricted to areas of four &#8220;fiscal modules&#8221; or less—being the <a href="">unit of land measurement used in Brazil</a>, varying depending on the size and characteristics of each municipality, as you can see in the chart below. </p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1013" height="907" src="" alt="environment land grabbing brazil" class="wp-image-28901" srcset=" 1013w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1013px) 100vw, 1013px" /></figure> <p>Now, this simplified route of registration will apply to territories occupied before 2014, as well as land measuring up to 15 fiscal modules—almost three times the previous limit. For all of these cases, the Brazilian Colonization and Land Reform Institute (Incra) will not even visit the land in question before granting ownership.</p> <h2>Cutting red tape, or encouraging land-grabbing?</h2> <p>The president of Incra, Geraldo Melo Filho, argued that the previous rules, which required in-person inspections from the agency, was &#8220;legislation that wasn&#8217;t obeyed.&#8221; &#8220;[Requests] stayed on a desk waiting for an inspector to be able to visit the property, often in a remote location,&#8221; added Mr. Melo Filho, who is a large landowner himself, being the proprietor of two farms—one in Bahia and another in Minas Gerais. He was appointed to the role of Incra president in October of this year.</p> <p>This is the third time in ten years that the government has changed the rules in a way that makes it easier for illegal landgrabbers. &#8220;The message the government is sending is: continue to occupy public land, as the law will be made more flexible to legalize your actions,&#8221; said Brenda Brito, a researcher from non-profit organization Imazon.</p> <p>Former Environment Minister <a href="">Marina Silva</a> took umbrage with the decree, saying that the measure is a &#8220;land-grabbing amnesty.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;The loosening of the existing rules will stimulate an increase in deforestation in the Amazon and the escalation of <a href="">land conflicts</a>,&#8221; she said. Ms. Silva added that the decree &#8220;pardons crimes of invading public land and encourages an unprecedented process of destruction&#8221; in the rainforest.</p> <p>Indeed, land-grabbing was one of the main drivers behind this year&#8217;s spike in Amazon fires, with farmers clearing patches of rainforest in order to use them for cattle-grazing. The interactive chart below shows the extent of deforestation in the Legal Amazon, comprising the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins. (Use your mouse to zoom and pan around the map.)</p> <iframe title="Deforestation rates in the so-called &quot;Legal Amazon&quot;" aria-label="Brazil municipalities Symbol map" id="datawrapper-chart-omJyn" src="//" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="600"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if(void 0!["datawrapper-height"])for(var e in["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-"+e)||document.querySelector("iframe[src*='"+e+"']");t&&(["datawrapper-height"][e]+"px")}})}();</script> <p>

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