BRASILIA, Brazil: On 11 July, President Michel Temer signed into law important new legislation (MP 759) that paves the way for land thieves, who have illegally occupied and cleared vast areas of public land in the Amazon, to legalize their land holdings. The changes introduced by the legislation will make it easier — and very cheap — for wealthy land grabbers (even those who illegally occupied land fairly recently) to gain property rights over vast areas.
The bill was passed at a time of drastic cuts in funding for key government regulatory bodies, such as the environmental agency IBAMA, the agrarian reform institute INCRA, and the Indian agency FUNAI.
The new law which is likely to embolden land thieves, when combined with the huge enforcement cuts, could lead Brazil into a period of lawlessness and unrest believes Deborah Duprat, Prosecutor for Citizen Rights in the Office of the Attorney General (PFDC).
“Among numerous unconstitutional elements, MP 759, which was approved in the midst of protests, transfers into private hands an enormous stock of public land,” said Duprat. “With this, various policies that guarantee land for peoples, the environment and conservation units, are going to become completely compromised. We have to be prepare for a situation in the countryside where — as a result of the bankruptcy of public policies — violence will grow exponentially,” Duprat said.
Remote parts of the Amazon are especially expected to be impacted. Experts fear that the passage of MP 759 will greatly accelerate deforestation.
The new legislation came in the form of a provisional measure, MP 759/2016, which was proposed by the administration, approved by Congress, and then signed by Temer. Despite its expected major impacts, the law has attracted little attention in the mainstream media, largely because of the current political tumult in Brasilia, which is dominating the news.
President Temer signed the measure on the same day that Judge Sergio Moro sentenced former president Lula to nearly ten years imprisonment for corruption, on the basis of what many see as flimsy evidence. The Lula conviction announcement, while taking attention away from MP 759, also muted trade union movement protests over a massive erosion of labor rights that was being approved by the Senate. All of this also helped delay voting by a Congressional Commission on the serious corruption accusations Temer is facing.
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