12 June 2008 20:25 [Source: ICIS news]
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HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Brazilian social movements have begun to protest the ownership of farmland by foreign investors, but a large Brazilian ethanol producer on Thursday dismissed the protests as leftist propaganda.
Foreign entities own more than 3.8m ha of land in ?xml:namespace>
In response to concerns over national sovereignty, the federal Attorney General’s Office (AGU) is formulating an opinion about the acquisition of Brazilian land by foreigners. Currently, such acquisitions lack almost any restrictions except close to national borders.
While the issue has flared up in the past to include widely publicised occupations of Monsanto’s lands by the French activist Jose Bove during the 2001 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, only recently the debate revived xenophobic tones over the investment by foreign firms in agriculture and biofuels.
“As if it were not enough that the land is concentrated in the hands of few Brazilians, the other part that could be given over to agrarian reform is with non-Brazilians,” said clergy member Dirceu Fumagalli, coordinator of the Pastoral Earth Committee (CPT) in an interview with Brazilian state news agency Agencia Brasil today.
The push toward biofuels cultivation in
The issue of land use in
“Foreigners can own the land but are subject to Brazilian law,” university program director Antonio Porto Goncalves of the Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV) said in an interview with Agencia Brasil.
He said that market concentration was the crucial test.
“The important thing is not to have a monopoly, the market power. The latifundio is damaging, because it creates undue and anti-democratic local power,” Porto Goncalves said.
Having skirted the law for years, the MST has also been the target of violent retaliation by landowners and police. The movement has gained significant political voice in
Lula still openly backs land reform, but is also a major supporter of the country’s ethanol industry. Commercial biofuels producers have consolidated in recent years and are increasingly opting toward mechanised cultivation.
In part due to these issues,
While Brazilians are enjoying the benefits of over a decade of belt-tightening and fiscal reform as reflected by $665 bn (€426 bn) in GDP for the first three months of the year, the huge division between rich and poor in the country remains.
Lula at times has even worn an MST baseball cap when campaigning for president, a move seen by many at the time as suggesting land reform would be at top of his agenda, given that the group’s land occupations are at the margins of the legal fold.
Government programmes to support ethanol and biodiesel have included work conditions for sugarcane cutters and other demands germane to Lula’s original political support base within
At a time when Brazilian land reform activists view efforts for more equitable land distribution as a pressing political agenda due to soaring food prices worldwide, Lula has consistently downplayed the effects of biofuels production on food costs.
Both locally and abroad, he has touted ethanol as the “passport” that will allow Brazil and its partner countries in the poorer parts of the world to cross the frontiers of development.
“Lula is a capitalist now and ethanol has no better friend,” an industry source said.
With additional reporting by William Lemos in
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