Bolsonaro’s Gimmick: How He Claims to Take Care of Small Rural Producers
By Eduardo Geraque
At the start of the second round [of voting], the delivery of land titles was highlighted among the campaign promises of President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), candidate for reelection. His program in the October 7 election time announces: “in the next government, President Bolsonaro will give land titles to all settlers in Brazil and will increase credit for those who want to produce and grow.” The topic also dominated discussions focused on the environment on WhatsApp and Telegram. In the lists of alleged government achievements, there is: “more than 400,000 rural property titles (land reform)”.
In public groups, monitored by the Mentira Tem Preço (Lies Have a Price) project, videos and links echoed the campaigns of the president himself for the alleged feat and those of his former ministers, such as Tereza Cristina (Agriculture), elected senator for Mato Grosso do Sul, and even Tarcísio de Freitas (Infrastructure), a candidate for governor of São Paulo from Rio de Janeiro. But this agrarian reform did not happen. In the Legal Amazon, the express delivery of titles appeared in campaigns for governor, such as that of the non-elected candidate Teresa Surita (MDB-RR), “in favor of agriculture in every way”, who defended that land titles need to be quick.
The official discourse in favor of the small producer begins to crumble when one analyzes in more depth what has not happened in the agrarian reform since Bolsonaro took power, say experts consulted for this report.
“It is a government openly opposed to the historical demands for access to land and against the territorial rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities. This is different, since civil governments since the New Republic were led to negotiate, to dialogue with the social demands of the countryside,” says Sérgio Sauer, professor at UnB (University of Brasília), signaling how it will be more difficult, in a possible second government of Bolsonaro, that the demands of traditional communities be met.
It is a government openly opposed to historic demands for access to land and against the territorial rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities.” SÉRGIO SAUER, UNB PROFESSOR
First, the delivery of titles must be accompanied by an agrarian reform policy, a plan that invests in infrastructure in the settlements, in the demarcation of indigenous lands and in the recognition of quilombola territories.
How we monitor: The Mentira Tem Preço project, carried out since 2021 by InfoAmazonia and the producer FALA, monitors and investigates socio-environmental misinformation. In the 2022 elections, we checked daily the speeches at election time of all candidates for governor in the Legal Amazon. We also monitor, using keywords related to social justice and the environment, disinformation about the Amazon on social networks, in public groups of messaging apps and on platforms.
From January 2019 to August 2022, the Bolsonaro administration delivered 404,933 titling documents, according to INCRA, against 332,818 in the Lula and Dilma governments. But it also reduced the budget for agrarian reform in 2021 to almost zero. A good part of these bonds were issued by the current government in states in the North region between 2019 and 2022, according to INCRA data. The champions were Pará (92,590), Rondônia (18,919), Amazonas (10,144), Acre (6,170), Amapá (3,429), and Roraima (2,543).
Also in 2021, there was a reduction of R$ 2.5 billion in the economic subsidy to rural credit. Pronaf (National Program for Strengthening Family Agriculture) lost R$ 1.35 billion. According to the government’s original proposal, the program would receive R$ 3.8 billion this year. The cut in family farming was 35%.
The Bolsonaro government has also not demarcated indigenous or quilombola lands in four years of government.(link is external) “This government policy did not bring any progress to agrarian policy. On the contrary: it paralyzed the creation of new settlements in Brazil”, says Andréia Silvério, from the national coordination of the CPT (Commissão Pastoral da Terra – Pastoral Land Commission).
Why individual bonds are a risk
In areas crossed by the interests of large mining, logging, ranchers and real estate speculation —as occurs in most settlements in the Legal Amazon—, the issuance of individual titles in collective settlements not only frees up part of the Amazonian soil for the market, it can also mean the disruption of ongoing social dynamics, points out the specialist.
The delivery of individual titles in collective settlements allows these lands, which would be kept as inalienable by collective title, to be subject to alienation.” JULIANNA MALERBA, RESEARCHER OF THE NGO FASE
This policy unprotects the lands in the face of major economic interests and disarticulates the territorial and socio-productive dynamics based on the common use of portions of the territories by families, points out researcher Julianna Malerba, from the NGO FASE (Federation of Organis for Social and Educational Assistance) and organizer of the series “Right to the Land and the Territory.” “The delivery of individual titles in collective settlements allows these lands, which would be kept as inalienable by collective title, to be subject to alienation,” she adds.
This point was extolled by former minister Tereza Cristina. “Families can now sell, pass on to their children and produce better [in the titled areas],” she celebrated(link is external) at a land title delivery event in Mato Grosso do Sul in March. This was just one of the times that the senator elected by Mato Grosso do Sul (link is external)praised the work done by INCRA.
As an example of this issue of treating land tenure as individual and not collective, Malerba cites the Agroextractive Settlement Project (PAE) of Gleba Lago Grande, which he considers emblematic. Located in western Pará, between the Amazon and Arapiuns rivers, the region encompasses 154 communities and more than 6,600 families in an area of 250,000 hectares.
In Gleba, indigenous and riverside populations work in extractive activities and family farming. As the region has a soil rich in ores, such as bauxite, there are also companies operating in the region.
The site was defined as an environmentally differentiated settlement, because of the biodiversity and communities that live in the region. Therefore, there, land tenure should be treated as collective, and not individual, as the government wants. The imbroglio is old and unresolved.
The Bolsonaro government mixes provisional titles into settlements and talks as if it were all final. Provisionals are just authorizations of use, a kind of acknowledgment that the possession is legitimate. But that doesn’t change the lives of the producers” RAONI RAJÃO, PROFESSOR AT UFMG
Provisional title does not change the life of the small producer
Another problem with this express land title is that the titles delivered during the Bolsonaro administration are provisional or just renewal of documents issued in previous years, say experts. In practice, the fact that rural producers have this paper in their hands does not allow, for example, bank loans or the sale of land.
“The Bolsonaro government mixes provisional titles into settlements and talks as if everything was definitive. Provisionals are just authorizations of use, a kind of acknowledgment that the possession is legitimate. But that doesn’t change the lives of producers,” explains Raoni Rajão, a professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.
A survey carried out by the Amazônia 203(link is external)0 initiative shows that during the Bolsonaro government (between 2019 and 2021), 8,422 Certificates of Occupation Recognition (CRO), a kind of provisional titles, were issued on federal public lands in the Legal Amazon outside of settlement reform projects. agrarian. In the same period, 1,307 definitive bonds were issued in this region. One of the uses of this modality of provisional title, says Silvério, is to collect taxes through the collection of titles. “In addition to not investing in the creation of new settlements, the State will collect from the collection for these property titles,” he says.
“These provisional titles, therefore, without the value assigned in the electoral advertisements, give INCRA this amount of work, but they are just a piece of paper, which becomes a legal justification for the appropriation of lots in settlement projects,” adds Sauer.
Also, according to the version praised by the president, the MST —which has not been part of any Brazilian government so far— is a key factor in understanding why his government has done more for rural producers. “The MST [Landless Rural Workers Movement] lost a lot of strength also because of the titling. They gave no title and kept the people enslaved. In three years, we delivered more titles than from 2000 onwards,” said President Jair Bolsonaro. “It was no use for the MST to deny it.”(link is external) Messages sharing this release have reached public app groups.
For these experts, what happened in recent years in the country should be classified as a setback. “Bolsonaro was elected promising ‘no more hectare of land for Indians’ and ‘there is no dialogue with the MST(link is external)‘. The settlements were “practically zeroed out” and the budget of INCRA and land policies was dehydrated, says the expert. “Dismantling began in 2016 or even earlier, with a drop in the number of settlements and a smaller number of projects carried out via expropriation,” says Sauer.
This policy continued that of the Michel Temer government (MDB), in which the Ministry of Agrarian Development was relegated to the status of secretariat, which had an impact on the execution of land policies and programs. In the second round of the 2022 elections, Temer announced support for Bolsonaro and, days later,gave up supporting him(link is external). He said that he will support those who “defend democracy, strictly comply with the Constitution, promote pacification, maintain the reforms already carried out in my government and propose to the National Congress the reforms that are already on the country’s agenda(link is external)”.
*This report is part of the Mentira Tem Preço project – special election, carried out by InfoAmazonia in partnership with the production company Fala. The initiative is part of the Consortium of Civil Society Organizations, Checking Agencies and Independent Journalism to Combat Socio-environmental Misinformation. Also part of the initiative are the Climate Observatory (Fakebook), O Eco, A Pública, Repórter Brasil and Aos Fatos
**Trasnslated by Friends of the MST (US)