There is an outbreak of land invasion in Brazil. Every year, thousands of hectares are taken over by criminals—often using violence and threatening life. Not infrequently, with explicit support from the Brazilian state.
According to the narrative imposed by the leaders of the Frente Parlamentar da Agropecuária (FPA) —the institutional face behind the political lobby of landowners and agricultural megacorporations—, the greatest threat to Brazilian public security is the occupation of unproductive farms by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) and other rural organizations. Together with the Bolsonarist wing of the Chamber, the FPA created a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) tailored to pursue movements fighting for land, equating its occupation with the crime of terrorism.
But those who really invade land in Brazil are not the landless. Neither do indigenous peoples and quilombolas, also in the sights of criminalization by the CPI.
On April 19, Day of the Indigenous Peoples, the observatory Keeping an Eye on the Ruralists published the report “The Invaders”, revealing, based on Incra land data, the names of individuals and legal entities responsible for 1,692 incident farms in 213 indigenous lands (TIs) homologated or in the process of homologation by Funai.
In all, the overlapping areas of private property in ILs add up to 1.18 million hectares —the size of Lebanon. Considering only the areas incident in ILs with the demarcation process concluded, there are 53.6 thousand hectares —the equivalent of the urban area of Rio de Janeiro. The registration of rural properties superimposed on homologated ILs constitutes a federal crime.
Among the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the spoliation are mega-investors, such as Jorge Paulo Lemann, the new “owner” of Eletrobras, who inherited a historic conflict with the Avá-Canoeiro people, in Goiás, one of the six ILs approved in April this year. The study also includes prominent names in agribusiness, such as José Maria Bortoli, partner of the Bom Futuro group, the third largest soy producer in the country and a premium supplier to Cargill. Bortoli was a campaign donor for former president Jair Bolsonaro and owns a farm on top of the Enawenê-Nawê IL, in Mato Grosso, which has been regularized since 1996. There are also subsidiaries of the multinationals Bunge and Syngenta, owners of trendy cultural spaces, loggers, exporters of fruits and politicians.
The same Brazil that ignores the invasions of traditional territories is the one that turns a blind eye to the theft of public lands by agribusiness.
In São Paulo, Governor Tarcísio Freitas (Republicans) decided to award land grabbers from the Pontal do Paranapanema region, in the west of the state, granting a discount of up to 90% for those who wanted to “regularize” their lands, using a law approved by his predecessor, João Dória (PSDB), and which may be overthrown in the coming weeks by the Federal Supreme Court. As reported by Sheetthe president of the Land Institute of São Paulo (Itesp), Guilherme Piai, called on landowners to speed up their processes “before the law falls”.
Again, the main beneficiaries are not MST camps. Among the landowners in Pontal is Jovelino Mineiro, partner of ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso in cattle ranching ventures, as explained in the book “O Protegido: por que o country ignora as terra de FHC” (Autonomia Literária, 2019), by journalist Alceu Luís Castilho. Jovelino’s wife, Maria do Carmo Abreu Sodré, is heiress to the clan that dominates the region — an empire formed mostly through land grabbing.
The couple’s son, Bento Mineiro, is a close friend of Ricardo Salles (PL-SP), rapporteur for the MST’s CPI. Together they formed Rural Jovem, a division of Sociedade Rural Brasileira. This, in turn, is one of the financiers —through the Pensar Agro Institute— of the rural lobby led by the FPA in Congress.
As always, the cycle of invasion falls on the same actors. And none of them are in an MST shed.
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