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Brazzil - Land - June 2004

Wanna Buy Cheap Land in Brazil?

The Internet has plenty of offers for those willing to buy a
piece of the Brazilian jungle. The price is good: from US$ 16
to US$ 50 for a hectare of public land in the Brazilian Amazon.
The problem is that government land cannot be sold directly to
the public in Brazil. So the police are warning: 'caveat emptor.'

Marcela D'Alessandro


Picture According to the Federal Police superintendent in the state of Pará, Brazil, ads have been appearing on the Internet offering Brazilian public land for US$ 16 (50 reais) to US$ 48 (150 reais) a hectare.

Some of the ads are in Portuguese, and some are in English, trying to tempt foreign buyers. Public land in Brazil cannot be sold until after it has been transferred out of government ownership. That is certainly not the situation of the public land being offered on the Internet.

A local prosecutor, Felicio Pontes Junior, says that attempts are being made to discover the origin of the Internet ads. "We still do not know what country the ads are coming from.

"We are in touch with the Federal Police and Interpol, however one problem with these cases is that some countries do not require advertisers to register or identify themselves and there is little we can do," says Pontes Junior.

Another related problem is that land registration offices have issued a flood of deeds as a scramble occurs to legalize land ownership in the Amazon. For the land registration offices that means profits, for the government losses.

In an attempt to control the situation, the Incra (Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária—Land Reform and Settlement Institute) is beginning to use satellite photos.

"We used to inspect by sample areas. Now we will have photos of the whole country and will be able to inspect each and every property. This system will be fully operational only in nine years, but our priority is the Amazon and we are starting there now," explains the Incra president, Rolf Hackbart.

With regard to public land in the Amazon, caveat emptor is indeed the order of the day: buying such land knowingly is a crime, punishable by a jail sentence of 1 to 5 years in prison.

Help for Farming

The Brazilian government will spend US$ 2.2 billion (R$ 7 billion) on the National Family Farming Program, 2004/2005. This measure should permit an additional 450 thousand farmers to benefit from the program of loans to producers.

The announcement was made last month by the Minister of Agrarian Development, Miguel Rossetto, following a meeting in the Planalto Palace with representatives of the tenth rendition of the Clamor of the Land.

"This quantity expresses Lula's Administration's support for family farming in the country. We are working to improve our performance even more," Rossetto emphasized.

He revealed that the government will expropriate 100 thousand hectares of land for agrarian reform as soon as possible. Also, a commission will be formed by the Ministries of Planning, Agrarian Development, and Finance, together with representatives of the Incra to study the job and salary plan for Incra employees.

The president of the Contag (Confederação Nacional de Trabalhadores an Agricultura—National Confederation of Agricultural Workers), Manuel dos Santos, left the meeting pleased with the 30 percent increase in the funds that will be made available for the 2004/2005 harvest, in comparison with 2003/2004. The resources rose from US$ 1.7 billion (5.4 billion reais) to US$ 2.2 billion (7 billion reais).

According to Santos, the government was more successful this time in meeting the grievances of the sector, but he stressed that the movement is still not completely satisfied. "We will still make a detailed assessment of the government's response to our demands," he affirmed.

On his way out of the meeting, Santos displayed a document containing the government's responses to the 183 grievances presented to the government by the farmers. He said that the counter-proposal would be evaluated at the Clamor of the Land encampment, which had been set up on the Esplanade of the Ministries.

The government also sent the National Congress a bill earmarking US$ 137.2 million (430 million reais) for agrarian reform throughout the country. This is the first portion of the US$ 542 million (1.7 billion reais) budgetary supplement announced by President Lula in April.

The Minister of Agrarian Development also announced the disbursement of over US$ 1.2 billion (4 billion reais) for family farming in the current crop year and reaffirmed the goal of settling 115 thousand families by December.

"According to April's figures, 30 thousand families are in the process of being settled. By June we should have surpassed the total number of families settled in the entire year of 2003," Minister Rossetto underscored.

He also pointed out that the contracts on behalf of the most impoverished rural segments through the National Program for the Strengthening of Family Farming (Pronaf) were allotted more than the total funds disbursed over the last four years.

"We gave a national dimension to the Pronaf and advanced in the North, Northeast, and Center-West regions. We also expanded technical assistance," he remarked. Through the Incra, the Ministry of Agrarian Development will universalize technical assistance services for families in settlements all across Brazil by year's end.

Rossetto also stressed the importance of winning approval for the Constitutional Amendment Proposal on Slave Labor, which will expropriate properties where the use of slave-like labor is confirmed and convert them to agrarian reform. The proposal is expected to be voted on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies next week.

The Minister called on the social movements for dedication and mobilization to pass the text of the amendment in the National Congress. "This should be an occasion of great commemoration for our government and all the social movements, which should accompany the voting from this point on," Rossetto declared.

Marcela D'Alessandro works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.

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