José Líbio de Moraes Matos, an economist who according to a local report was involved in the Eldorado do Carajás massacre where 19 landless farmers were killed in 1996, was nominated INCRA’s interim head on October 2.
The decision about Corrêa’s dismissal followed an hour-long meeting on the afternoon of Sept. 30, hosted by Bolsonaro with leading agribusiness figures in his government, including Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias and Luiz Nabhan Garcia, who leads the ministry’s land affairs department, according to news reports.
“There is a huge concern that these processes will legalize irregular occupations,” said Adriana Ramos, policy director of Brazilian NGO Instituto Socioambiental. “First you deforest in order to occupy the land, then you request regularization,” she said.
INCRA, an agency created in 1970 to regulate land reform and register rural properties, led the colonization of the Amazon during the military dictatorship, and more recently redistributes and entitles rural properties to landless settlements and farmers. In the Amazon, claims for titles are often on deforested land, raising questions about whether the measure will legalize cleared land and encourage further land grabbing.
There are around 800,000 rural properties throughout the country without definitive land titles, according to government estimates. Corrêa’s dismissal will make the push for the government to meet its target to issue 750,000 land deeds this year easier under a proposed interim measure, according to Reuters. So far, fewer than 2,000 land titles were regularized through 2019, far less than the government’s goal, the report said. Corrêa and Nabhan have reportedly been butting heads on the issue for months. In his interview with Veja, Corrêa suggested there was friction with Nabhan: “I don’t want to comment [on him]. It won’t help. We can’t be destructive.”
Nabhan, who also leads the powerful right-wing lobby group Democratic Rural Association, is actively pushing for the approval of an interim measure that would allow farmers to self-assess their land titles, making the process automatic. “Why create difficulties if we have the conditions, with georeferencing technology, to make it self-declared?” he said, comparing it to tax self-assessment, in the Reuters report.
For Antônio Galvan, Garcia’s ally and vice president of Brazil’s soy farmers’ trade association, Aprosoja, Corrêa’s dismissal is a “necessary evil” to meet Bolsonaro’s ambitious goal of a fast-paced land regulation program. “If there isn’t a competent and dedicated team, the president won’t reach his goal of regulating a minimum of 600,000 land titles,” he told Mongabay. “This is a demand by rural producers and people living in rural settlements.” According to Galvan, the goal is to reach 750,000 approved land titles, but 600,000 is an established minimum.
Ramos says the proposed measure makes the legalization of irregular land plots easier and may affect indigenous and quilombola communities. “This would make regularization easier in irregularly occupied areas, including those in territories claimed by traditional communities that still haven’t been recognized,” she added.
INCRA is in charge of demarcating and issuing land titles to settlements known as quilombos, areas to where African slaves escaped from harsh working conditions. But even though Brazil’s 1988 Constitution enshrined the property rights of descendants of runaway slaves who live in quilombos, most of them have no formal deeds to prove ownership of their land.
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