Report details the allotment of agrarian reform in Brazil and its electoral use by Jair Bolsonaro’s allies

In Bancada Ruralista, De Olho na Política, Em destaque, Governo Bolsonaro, Principal, Últimas

De Olho nos Ruralistas mapped the political appointments in the agency and the capitalization of Titula Brasil, which releases the sale of plots in public lands; the report was the second in the observatory’s series on the Bolsonaro government and its agrarian policies

By Alceu Luís Castilho and Bernardo Fialho

Report shows electoral use of land titling by Bolsonarist politicians.

The Bolsonaro administration has allotted the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) among congressmen allied to the president, from the center right and the agribusiness caucus. The same deputies and senators who appointed regional directors and superintendents used the public machine – especially capitalizing the Titula Brasil program – for their campaigns in the states.

This is one of the main themes of the second report of the Dossier Bolsonaro series, published by De Olho nos Ruralistas: “Agrarian Reform Turned Into Voting Machine“. The first report was about the conflicts of interest involving the Bolsonaro family in Vale do Ribeira, in São Paulo: “The Banana President“. You can access the report on INCRA here.

Land deeds distribution ceremonies follow a script: local politicians line up next to congressmen, ministers and senators, all claiming some sort of paternity over the property titles (disguised as an agrarian reform program) handed out to families; at the end, they all pose smiling for the official photo.

Since the beginning of 2021, the ceremonies of Titula Brasil, the federal government’s land title regularization program, have become an important electoral campaign tool, especially for the party bosses that run INCRA in the states. Several events are attended by Jair Bolsonaro. The president often claims that he has “put an end” to the Landless Workers Movement (MST), in a counter land reform movement.

Titula Brasil inverts the logic of agrarian reform. The program allows the privatization of public lands and their availability to the market to benefit agribusiness – consolidating, in many cases, the illegal occupation of land. The dossier on INCRA mapped out the politicians and parties that hold the cards in appointments to regional directorates and superintendencies.

Since its creation, in December 2020, the autarchy has issued more than 370,000 individual deeds, delegating the competence to supervise and accompany the titling processes to the Municipal Land Regularization Centers. In practice, it transfers to the municipal governments attributions that were exclusive to INCRA.

TEREZA CRISTINA AND NABHAN GARCIA NOMINATED A CATTLE RANCHER TO PRESIDE INCRA

Tereza Cristina, Bolsonaro and INCRA’s president Geraldo Melo Filho deliver land deeds in Pará. (Isac Nóbrega/PR)

Besides the dynamics in the states, the report identified political appointments to Incra’s national board of directors, headed by Geraldo Melo Filho, a farmer, member of the Brazilian Association of Zebu Breeders (ABCZ) and son of the former governor of Rio Grande do Norte and former senator Geraldo Melo (PSDB).

Geraldo Melo Filho was nominated by federal deputy Tereza Cristina (PP-MS) – elected senator by Mato Grosso do Sul in October 2nd –, with the support of Nabhan Garcia, special secretary of Fundiary Regularization of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply – commanded by Tereza throughout the Bolsonaro government.

Both Cristina and Garcia usually participate in title delivery ceremonies around the country, but the former minister has been focusing on her electoral stronghold, where she is a candidate for the Senate. She was with Bolsonaro in May in Ponta Porã (MS) to deliver 2,600 land titles.

In June, Tereza Cristina – who was previously quoted to to run for the Vice-Presidency within Bolsonaro’s candidacy – went to Nioaque (MS) to accompany the delivery of Titula Brasil documents together with Geraldo Melo Filho and Humberto Maciel, superintendent of Mato Grosso do Sul, also nominated by the former minister for the position. To the Electoral Justice, the federal deputy has just declared a patrimony of R$ 5.7 million. In 2014 she had R$10,000.

DIRECTORS’ PATRONS LED INVESTIGATIONS AGAINST INCRA, IN TEMER’S ERA

Bolsonaro during a Titula Brasil cerimony in Pernambuco. (José Dias/PR)

Udo Gabriel Vasconcelos Silva and Eleusa Maria Gutemberg, respectivelly directors of Strategic Management and Land Governance, are political appointments made by members of the Agricultural Parliamentary Front (FPA). Udo Gabriel was nominated by federal deputy Fábio Reis (PSD-SE). Eleusa Gutemberg joined the Republicanos party in October last year, at the invitation of federal deputy Carlos Gaguim (União-TO), who migrated to União Brasil in 2022. Both were reelected.

Former governor of Tocantins, Gaguim was deputy leader of the Bolsonaro government between 2019 and 2020, and head of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry of FUNAI and INCRA in 2016 and 2017. The purpose then was to exorcise the participation of indigenous people, indigenists and social movements in those entities. Another member of the commission was Tereza Cristina herself.

Owner of a patrimony of R$ 15 million, declared this year to the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), Gaguim is a notorious defender of the Matopiba occupation policy. In the 2018 elections he declared seven properties as “bare land”. Eleusa’s nomination was supported by Senator Eduardo Gomes (PL-TO), government leader in the Senate until June 2022. Gomes is in the middle of his term in the Senate. All three parliamentarians are members of the FPA.

Deputy Fábio Reis was also responsible for indicating, in partnership with Bosco Costa (PL-SE), the name of Victor Alexandre Sande Santos for the superintendency of INCRA in Sergipe. In March 2022, Fábio Reis held two title delivery ceremonies, in the municipalities of Poço Redondo and Canindé de São Francisco, the latter attended by Bosco Costa.

LEADERS OF THE AGRICULTURAL PARLIAMENTARY FRONT MAKE UP THE NOMINATIONS

The pattern repeats itself in several regions of the country and includes old acquaintances of Brazilian politics, such as the president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), senators Davi Alcolumbre (União-AL), Luis Carlos Heinze (PP-RS), Eduardo Braga (MDB-AM) and Omar Aziz (PSD-AM), and congressman Alceu Moreira (MDB-RS). All were responsible for nominating the regional superintendents of INCRA in their states.

Alceu Moreira succeded Tereza Cristina in the lead of FPA. (Promotion/Agência FPA)

Heinze and Moreira have presided over the FPA and are among the main names in the rural caucus. Heinze is a candidate for state government. A climate denier, Heinze declared a net worth of R$ 4.3 million to the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), as a candidate for Rio Grande do Sul state government. Much more than the R$2.7 million declared in 2018.

In Amazonas and Rio Grande do Sul, the nominations were made through agreements between different party leaders. The same happens in Paraná, where federal deputy Sérgio Souza (MDB-PR) appointed the superintendent of INCRA in the state through an agreement with Osmar Serraglio (PP-PR).

Souza is the current president of the Agricultural Parliamentary Front. He kept his R$1.5 million estate between 2018 and 2022. Since May he posed for photos handing out property titles in Goioxim (PR) and in Jardim Alegre (PR), alongside Robson Luis Bastos, the name he indicated to command the regional superintendency.

IN REGIONAL COMMANDS, STATE CHIEFS LEAD THE NOMINATIONS

The political influence in INCRA is not restricted to the most nationally known names. Politicians who have been gaining space in state directorates are among those responsible for some superintendencies. This is the case of Lucas Vergílio (SD-GO), son of Armando Vergílio (SD-GO), Development Secretary of the Federal District, appointed in August by Ibaneis Rocha (MDB) for the position.

Lucas Vergílio, 35, commands Solidariedade in his state on an interim basis. Running for reelection, the federal deputy posted on his social media the results of the landholding regularization in the state, feeling proud of himself next to Geraldo Melo Filho, INCRA’s president, and Alexandre Rasmussen, superintendent in Goiás, whom he appointed.

In Acre, federal deputy Mara Rocha (MDB-AC), managed to nominate Sergio Antonio Pereira Bayum for the superintendency, while the federal deputies Paulo Azi (União-BA) and Dr. Jeziel (PL-CE), running for reelection, are political godfathers of the superintendents in Bahia and Ceará. Mara is a candidate for the government of the state of Acre.

ZEQUINHA MARINHO SHARES APPOINTMENTS IN PARÁ WITH OTHER DEPUTIES

Éder Mauro,  Zequinha Marinho e Bolsonaro  em Paragominas (PA) (Foto: Reprodução)

Another emblematic case of political capture of INCRA is in Pará, where the agency has three regional superintendencies, with headquarters in Belém, Marabá and Santarém. Bolsonaro was twice in the state to perform Titula Brasil ceremonies, always accompanied by senator Zequinha Marinho (PL-PA), who exercised influence over all three nominations for Incra superintendencies in Pará.

In June 2021, Zequinha and the president launched the program in Marabá, in a region marked by agrarian conflicts. They made a “symbolic” delivery of 50,000 land titles. A year later, in March, Marinho traveled with Bolsonaro to Paragominas, in northeastern Pará, to distribute another 30,000 titles, accompanied by federal deputies Éder Mauro (PL) and Joaquim Passarinho (PSD).

Vice-president of the FPA, Marinho is pointed out as the main articulator of the loggers’ invasions of the Indigenous Land Ituna-Itatá. For the superintendency of INCRA in Belém, which is responsible for the Northeast of the state, Miguel Fernando Veiga Gualberto was nominated by Marinho in coordination with Éder Mauro, recently reelected.

For the superintendency of Santarém, Marinho indicated the former councilman Chiquinho da Umes (PSDB), in agreement with federal deputy Junior Ferrari (PSD-PA). Éder Mauro and Junior Ferrari can be seen celebrating the land titles effusively, including during Jair Bolsonaro’s trips to Marabá and Paragominas.

TITULA BRASIL ENABLES THE PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC LANDS

The data of political nominations to INCRA’s regional superintendencies show that the Bolsonaro government created conditions for the agency to be taken over by ruralist interests, distorting the objectives of agrarian reform in favor of the territorial expansion of agribusiness. 

In order to guarantee new stocks on the land market, besides impeding that new lands be made public via agrarian reform, demarcation of indigenous lands, or creation of quilombola territories, the strategy established was the conversion (or reconversion) of public lands to the private sector.

“INCRA has become a real estate agency for the landowners,” says Alexandre Conceição, a member of the national coordination of the MST. In his evaluation, INCRA is today a machine aimed at the destruction of agrarian reform. He says that the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro to power has rescued the old latifundia, “carcassed by backwardness”.

Conceição also points out the increase in harassment and pressure from these groups – and from INCRA itself – on settled families, taking away from the settlers their own right to land.

Cover image (Renato Aroeira/De Olho nos Ruralistas): report on INCRA points to the use of the agency for the campaign of Bolsonaro and his allies

Alceu Luís Castilho is editor-in-chief of Agribusiness Watch. |

|| Bernardo Fialho is a Law student at UFRJ and a researcher, focused in labor unions and social movements. ||

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