Brazil lets farmers buy Amazon land

Small parcels of public land in the Brazilian Amazon will be handed over for free to farmers, and larger ones at reduced or market rates, following approval of a bill allowing farmers to acquire an area larger than France, the BBC reported. While the law is intended to end the chaotic state of Amazon land occupation, critics view it as an amnesty for illegal land-grabbers.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva vetoed some of the most contentious clauses of the bill, which would have enabled absentee landlords and companies to benefit. In approving the measure, however, he retained a clause that allows larger properties to be sold on within three years, rather than requiring the owner to hold on to the land for at least a decade.

In the Amazon, hundreds of thousands of farmers have no legal title over their land, and some of their claims date back decades.

Environmental groups fear that the new law could lead to an increase in land speculation in the Amazon and also encourage occupation of new forest areas.

Federal prosecutors in the Amazon have been among the measure’s critics. They argue that it is unconstitutional because it enables land to be given to people who have acquired it illegally, and because it could infringe the rights of traditional and indigenous communities.

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