A national campaign to legalize quilombo lands was inaugurated August
18 in São Paulo by Brazil's National Coordination Board of Rural Black
Quilombo Communities, the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE, headquartered
in Geneva), and the Maranhão Association of Rural Black Quilombo Communities
(Aconeruq - MA).
Quilombos are rural
ethnic communities founded by blacks originally transported from Africa as
slaves, from the 17th century on, and their descendants, and who either fled
from slavery, acquired their freedom, or were the beneficiaries of the emancipation.
These communities, like
Indian villages, have customs, traditions, and social relationships which
differ from the rest of Brazilian society. Beginning with the 1988 Federal
Constitution, Brazil acknowledges the rights of quilombo communities.
Nevertheless, few have had their lands demarcated, and only 29 have received
According to a survey
conducted by the Palmares Foundation, the Ministry of Culture, the University
of Brasília (UnB), and the Association of Rural Black Quilombo Communities
(Aconeruq), at least 1,098 communities exist, and they are present in most
of the states.
Between now and the end
of 2005, the campaign intends to cast light on the problems experienced by
the quilombos, make technical and financial resources available so
that the communities can acquire deeds to their lands and access to government
services (basic sanitation and education, for example), expedite demarcations
and land concessions, and demand the participation of these communities in
forums where policies for the quilombos are formulated.
Land Without Deeds
Brazil's Minister of Agrarian
Development, Miguel Rossetto, told lawmakers in June that 200 million hectares
of land have no kind of deed whatsoever for the State to exercise control.
During a public hearing
held by the Parliamentary Investigating Committee formed to deal with the
agrarian issue, Rossetto affirmed that instruments must be created to evaluate
these areas in order for the government to obtain an accurate picture of their
legal status for the development of the State's social policies.
Along these lines, according
to the Minister, the Ministry was making a survey to recognize and demarcate
territories belonging to quilombolas (descendants of runaway slaves)
Altogether there are,
Rossetto said, 1.2 million squatters who traditionally occupy the land but
possess no official document or legal security.
Rossetto added that the
Ministry is working to regularize 2.2 million hectares. According to the Minister,
123 properties were already in the process of being expropriated, for a total
of 305 thousand hectares. In his assessment, 134,857 families can be settled
in these areas.
"This is why we shall
fully meet the targets of agrarian reform," he affirmed, referring to
the National Agrarian Reform Plan, which foresees the settlement of 400 thousand
families on the land by the end of the Lula Administration.
Pedro Malavolta works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.