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
"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 AgráriaLand 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
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 AgriculturaNational
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.