Bill 2633 (Land Regularization): high risk requires further debate

maio, 20 2020

WWF-Brazil hereby expresses its concern about the possibility that the matter could be voted on an urgency regime
By WWF-Brazil

Bill 2633, the successor to Provisional Measure 910, which deals with the regularization of private occupations on public lands, can be voted on this week. WWF-Brazil hereby expresses its concern about the possibility that the matter could be voted on an urgency regime, without fundamental improvements being made and, especially, with a real risk that serious problems - which effectively reward and boost the grabbing of public lands - return to the text in a hurried vote.

The text of Bill 2633 advances in solving part of the problems presented by Provisional Measure 910, in its original version presented by President Jair Bolsonaro, as well as in the reports proposed by Senator Irajá Abreu. It was a victory for society to show the Congress that this Provisional Measure was against the best interests of Brazil and to start a dialogue for a fairer text.

In this sense, the bill does not change the timeframe to legalize occupations, does not allow regularization for legal entities, and limits the size of areas that can be legalized without inspection to 6 fiscal modules – all items of attention in the previous versions mentioned. But while limiting, it does not eliminate undue benefits for land grabbers. It also includes serious problems to be solved.

Voting on an urgency regime, in addition to preventing the required improvements, still brings the serious and tangible risk of bringing back to the project very serious points. If this happens, the Brazilian Parliament will be helping to permanently tarnish the country's image as an exporter of agricultural commodities produced in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. It will reward public land thieves, instead of taking care of alleviating the families most vulnerable to the economic and health crises brought about by COVID - 19.

As it stands right now, Bill 2633:
· weakens compliance with the environmental law after regularization, changing the current rule that requires the resolution of the property title in case of non-compliance with environmental legislation (Section.15, paragraph10);
· grants amnesty to those who practice illegal deforestation but have not been convicted in an administrative lawsuit (only 4% of illegal deforestation results in administrative condemnation);
· extends for the third time, in less than 10 years, the term for renegotiation of land regularization contracts, rewarding defaulters once again, and making the conditions established there not that credible.

Even recognizing some progress, it is clear that the project needs many improvements so that it is effectively a balanced proposal that contributes to land regularization in the country, sorting the wheat from the chaff, separating the land grabber from the good faith rural producer.

We know that to benefit the small occupants of public lands (97% of the total which awaits for a property title), new legislation is not needed, but instead the offer of human and financial resources to land agencies (currently the Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform - Incra). Eighteen thousand properties have already received titles by Ministry of Agrarian Development and Incra since the enactment of Federal Law 11952/09, several others by means of agreements with state agencies, a process that was strongly slowed after the approval of Federal Law 13465/09, due to changes in federal management, and practically paralyzed in the current management of Incra, which is again asking for a change in the rules - for the big occupants.

Strengthening Incra is essential so that the process can take off and serve those who deserve it, but that is not in the proposal. Qualifying the crime of invasion of public land so that there is an effective punishment for criminals is also an urgent need, but the proposal does not deal with that. Creating modern and effective rules so that the allocation of public lands is done in a planned way, respecting the land's vocation and getting away of the system of legalization of the 'fait accompli' is perhaps the most urgent demand that we have, but the project does not address that issue. Ensuring transparency in the regularization process, so that there is control by society regarding the allocation of public assets, is another issue that demands an urgent solution and is not even addressed in the project. For these and other fundamental points to be present, a broader and more qualified debate with society is needed, something that was not possible during the processing of Provisional Measure 910 and neither is it credible to happen during the greatest pandemic faced by our society in generations, at a time when the National Congress really needs to address emergency issues.

For all these reasons, WWF-Brazil asks party leaders, especially rapporteur Marcelo Ramos, to allow the topic to be discussed with the depth and seriousness it deserves. We are sure that, with determination and public spirit, it is possible to transform a project born to reward those who have broken the law into another that can address the problem of theft and misuse of public assets, preserving the rights of good faith producers, as well those of traditional communities. Voting the Bill now is a mistake.

Provisional Measure 910 used to legalize and encourage land grabbing
PM910, in its original version signed by President Bolsonaro, as well as in the reports proposed by Senator Irajá Abreu, was effectively a proposal to legalize large land grabbers, and not to meet the fair wish of small rural producers who are waiting for decades to receive the ownership title of the land on which they produce. This is because, among others, the Bill was proposing:
·      To grant amnesty to those who invaded and illegally deforested public lands until December 2018, that is, 7 years after the current legislation deadline (2011). It would be the second change on that date in 3 years (in 2017 the date went from 2004 to 2011). It was not, therefore, a matter of regularizing old possessions, but of recent invasions.
·      To exempt from inspection not only small occupations (97% of those waiting for a title), as provided for in current legislation (Federal Law 11952/09), but also areas of up to 1,650 hectares. Irajá Abreu's report predicted that even very large occupations (2,500 hectares) could win the title without any field check to verify the veracity of the statements made by the applicant.
·      To grant title to those who already have other rural properties or that have invaded public land in several places, not just to those who found in the occupation of a portion of public land the only way to survive and produce.
·      To grant title to those who have already invaded and obtained the title of the property on public lands, but who have sold the regularized property. In other words, it legalized the business of invasion and sale of public assets.
· To allow legal entities to be granted with property title in areas of ​​up to 2,500 hectares, without bidding process, something that until then was only possible for small producers (amendment of Section 17, Paragraph 2-B.II of Law 8666)
Deforestation in Amazon
© WWF-Brasil / Juvenal Pereira