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«The Latifúndios Exist»

Source: CartaCapital

By: Gustavo Souto de Noronha

The grand unproductive landholdings, considered latifúndios by definition, not only exist in Brazil, contrary to what the Minister of Agriculture said on January 5, but continue to grow.

During the Lula administration alone (2003-2010), latifúndios grew by 100 million hectares.

Furthermore, in 2010, unproductive lands represented 40% of the grand rural properties, according to data from the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra).

In all, 228 million hectares were abandoned or producing below capacity, which leaves them without a social function and therefore appropriate for agrarian reform under the Constitution.

The statistics do not support he statement of Kátia Abreu, that “the latifúndio no longer exists” in Brazil, and demolish the argument she presented in an interview with the Folha de S. Paulo, to the effect that Brazil needs no systematic reforms, just “[a touch] here and there.”

“Compared with official government statistics, the statements of the minister make no sense,” says  Edmundo Rodrigues, of the Pastoral da Terra (CPT). “In Brazil, latifúndios not only continue to exist, but are growing in number and concentrating more and more land,” the activist said.

Data from Incra provide a diagnosis of this expansion in the concentration of land ownership. In 2003, 58,000 properties concentrated 133 million unproductive hectares . In 2010, the figure was 69,200 unproductive properties, controlling 228 million hectares.

Expansion is not just the result of buying and selling land, Rodrigues says. It is also the product of occupations of indigenous lands and environmentally protected lands, or of claims presenting false title to lands belonging to the Union.

An example is the Federal Police action in the township of Barra do Ouro (TO), the state represented by Kátia Abreu in the Senate, where the impresario Emilio Binotto is accused of using false title (grilagem) to obtain 20,000 hectares of public land destined for agrarian reform.

The presentation of false title – grilagem, named after a method of antiquing a document to make it look old – and the co-option of small landholders are common in Brazil and involves prominent public figures.

The banker Daniel Dantas, investigated in Operation Satiagraha for fraud and tax evasion, is accused of using grilagem to obtain 25,000 hectares in the south of Pará, according to the CBT (Comissão Pastoral da Terra).

Former Minister of Communications and Senator Eunício Oliveira (PMDB-GO) owns a property of more than 21,000 hectares, acquired by coopting small farmers in the state of Goais, says the Landless Workers Movement (MST).

Concentration of ownership

Though it varies from state to state, properties over one thousand (1,000) hectares are considered large landholdings.

Gerson Teixeira, president of ABRA, the Brazilian Association for Agrarian Reform, says large landholders target areas undergoing the process of demarcation of Indian lands or destined for agrarian reform in order to obtain lower prices.

“Today, entrepreneurs and agribusiness are on the lookout for lands that are public or inexpensive, creating a new agricultural frontier in the North and Center-West”, he says. “They coincide precisely with where traditional communities are found, such as Indians or squatters awaiting reform, and that is whey we have so much conflict in these regions,” he says.

The Custody Case

The dispute between agribusiness and the indigenous peoples was also implicit in the statements of Kátia Abreu. During the interview, Abreu defended PEC 215, a constitutional amendment that transfers the responsibility for the demarcation of indigenous lands from the Union (executive) to the Congress.

According to Abreu, an amendment is needed because “the indigenous peoples come down out of the forests and start descending on productive areas.”

According to the Conselho Missionário Indigenista (Cimi), however, indigenous villages are not abandoning the forests, but rather, it is agribusiness that is invading the land. “They are agents of the latifúndio, of ruralism, of an agribusiness that invades and tears down the forests, expelling and murdering the native population,” the group said in an open letter.

Under-reporting

Though the presence of latifúndios in Brazil is considerable, it may be that its numbers are even greater. Why? Because the data collected by Incra are based on self-reporting. In the last instance, it is up to the owner to declare his land productive or not, which opens the door for under-reporting.

Currently , being declared unproductive implies an increase in the tax paid by the owner, the Imposto Territorial Rural (Rural Territorial Tax).

Further, if the Union inspects the area and finds it unproductive, the State can expropriate the land and dedicate it for agrarian reform. For this reason, it is estimated that the numbers of unproductive properties might be much larger than in 2010.

Another factor that conceals the real extent of latifúndios is the parameter used to determine productivity. Currently, these are the same standards used in the Farming and Stock Breeding Census of 1975.

If the standards were updated to account for new agricultural techniques used as a basis for the Census of 2006, the number of unproductive properties could be even larger.

… represented 40% of the grand rural properties, according to data from the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra).

In all, 228 million hectares were abandoned or producing below capacity, which leaves them without a social function and therefore appropriate for agrarian reform under the Constitution.

The statistics do not support he statement of Kátia Abreu, that “the latifúndio no longer exists” in Brazil, and demolish the argument she presented in an interview with the Folha de S. Paulo, to the effect that Brazil needs no systematic reforms, just “[a touch] here and there.”

“Compared with official government statistics, the statements of the minister make no sense,” says  Edmundo Rodrigues, of the Pastoral da Terra (CPT). “In Brazil, latifúndios not only continue to exist, but are growing in number and concentrating more and more land,” the activist said.

Data from Incra provide a diagnosis of this expansion in the concentration of land ownership. In 2003, 58,000 properties concentrated 133 million unproductive hectares. In 2010, the figure was 69,200 unproductive properties, controlling 228 million hectares.

Expansion is not just the result of buying and selling land, Rodrigues says. It is also the product of occupations of indigenous lands and environmentally protected lands, or of claims presenting false title to lands belonging to the Union.

An example is the Federal Police action in the township of Barra do Ouro (TO), the state represented by Kátia Abreu in the Senate, where the impresario Emilio Binotto is accused of using false title (grilagem) to obtain 20,000 hectares of public land destined for agrarian reform.

The presentation of false title – grilagem, named after a method of antiquing a document to make it look old – and the co-option of small landholders are common in Brazil and involves prominent public figures.

The banker Daniel Dantas, investigated in Operation Satiagraha for fraud and tax evasion, is accused of using grilagem to obtain 25,000 hectares in the south of Pará, according to the CBT (Comissão Pastoral da Terra).

Former Minister of Communications and Senator Eunício Oliveira (PMDB-GO) owns a property of more than 21,000 hectares, acquired by coopting small farmers in the state of Goais, says the Landless Workers Movement (MST).

Concentration of ownership

Though it varies from state to state, properties over one thousand (1,000) hectares are considered large landholdings.

Gerson Teixeira, president of ABRA, the Brazilian Association for Agrarian Reform, large landholders target areas undergoing the process of demarcation of Indian lands or destined for agrarian reform in order to obtain lower prices.

“Today, entrepreneurs and agribusiness are on the lookout for lands that are public or inexpensive, creating a new agricultural frontier in the North and Center-West”, he says. “They coincide precisely with where traditional communities are found, such as Indians or squatters awaiting reform, and that is whey we have so much conflict in these regions,” he says.

The Custody Case

The dispute between agribusiness and the indigenous peoples was also implicit in the statements of Kátia Abreu. During the interview, Abreu defended PEC 215, a constitutional amendment that transfers the responsibility for the demarcation of indigenous lands from the Union (executive) to the Congress.

According to Abreu, an amendment is needed because “the indigenous peoples come down out of the forests and start descending on productive areas.”

According to the Conselho Missionário Indigenista (Cimi), however, indigenous villages are not abandoning the forests, but rather, it is agribusiness that is invading the land. “They are agents of the latifúndio, of ruralism, of an agribusiness that invades and tears down the forests, expelling and murdering the native population,” the group said in an open letter.

Under-reporting

Though the presence of latifúndios in Brazil is considerable, it may be that its numbers are even greater. Why? Because the data collected by Incra are based on self-reporting. In the last instance, it is up to the owner to declare his land productive or not, which opens the door for under-reporting.

Currently, being declared unproductive implies an increase in the tax paid by the owner, the Imposto Territorial Rural (Rural Territorial Tax).

Further, if the Union inspects the area and finds it unproductive, the State can expropriate the land and dedicate it for agrarian reform. For this reason, it is estimated that the numbers of unproductive properties might be much larger than in 2010.

Another factor that conceals the real extent of latifúndios is the parameter used to determine productivity. Currently, these are the same standards used in the Farming and Stock Breeding Census of 1975.

If the standards were updated to account for new agricultural techniques used as a basis for the Census of 2006, the number of unproductive properties could be even larger.

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