Tag Archives: Brazil

Week in links – week 43/2011

First, can’t we all find a reasonable substitute for palm oil if we put our heads together? The litany of indigenous cultures being wiped off the face of the earth so that the formula we give our kids in the evening won’t clot is becoming mind-numbing. Here, the New York Times reports on the latest victims of tasty, affordable transfats in Malaysia. However, lest we forget that plenty of other threats exist, the BBC reports on the standoff over the Belo Monte dam in Brazil, which threatens the traditional fishing grounds of Amazonian indigenous groups, and the UNHCR describes the plight of indigenous peoples displaced by the violence in Mindanao.

Second, the BBC provides evidence that property issues are already rearing their ugly head in the new Libya. The extent to which the NTC tent will be big enough to accommodate the traumatized residents of Sirte may well depend on how quickly the NTC can get said residents out of tents and back into their homes.

And finally, the New York Times reports on how a middle class suburb in Beijing is now being exposed to the same type of frenetic official land grabbing that its relatively pampered residents thought could only happen to “peasants in the countryside or voiceless city people with no education”. In a curious form of negative egalitarianism, the local government has not hesitated to administer beatings to protesters and harnessed an impressive mix of new and old media to its cause:

From morning until sundown, a van drives through the neighborhood blaring warnings. “Don’t be influenced by other people who might cause you unnecessary loss,” the loudspeaker says again and again. Daily text messages that clog residents’ cellphones drive home that point. More than one resident has had a window smashed. A half dozen homes, their owners having folded, have already been leveled.

Week in links – Week 21/2011

Good riddance Mr. (rat)Kom(l)adic.

– The New York Times reports on how the global land rush functions in a less permissive environment. The BRIC shows cracks as China, not satisfied with importing raw materials from Brazil and selling it finished goods, begins to make a play for control of soya growing land. Brazil fights back by doing what China has, ironically, always done – restricting foreign ownership of land.

– Both National Public Radio and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have provided updates on the state of forced evictions in Cambodia. The NPR piece puts the ongoing controversy over the Boeung Kak Lake settlement in Phnom Penh (most recently blogged on here) into regional perspective by describing similar urban evictions in the Philippines and Thailand. The ABC story also describes the ongoing evictions related to an Australian funded project to reconstruct Cambodia’s rail lines, previously described by Natalie Bugalski here. However, the most impressive quote (by David Pred of BAB-Cambodia) concerns Boeung Kak and the latest innovations in forced eviction tech:

Families refused to accept the compensation that was being offered to them, so they just started directing the sand pumping machine at the houses and literally drowning them in mud.

– For those who may have inadvertently missed the latest high drama in Bosnian politics, Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, scored a little noticed and quite possibly Pyrrhic victory in convincing Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik not to hold a referendum on whether to say nasty things about State judicial institutions. Commentators on Balkan Insights noted that the whole thing may have been a very successful bluff by Mr. Dodik, and that the political establishment in Sarajevo continues to feed the type of resentment that props up Mr. Dodik by denigrating it.

Supreme Court of Brazil to rule over Quilombo communities’ rights to land – arguments for a protective approach

by Leticia Marques Osorio and César Augusto Baldi

The Supreme Court of Brazil will start soon the judgement of the constitutionality of Presidential Decree 4887 of 2003 which regulates the procedure for granting property titles to Quilombo communities over the lands they occupy. The Decree establishes the modus operandi of the procedure for granting the Quilombo communities the right to property enshrined in article 68 of the Temporary Constitutional Provisions Act of the Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988, which must be implemented by the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform. If the Supreme Court quashes the Decree, this will paralyze a national land titling programme being implemented to benefit more than 1,400 Quilombo communities throughout Brazil (by the count of the Palmares Cultural Foundation.

Even worse, if the Decree is considered unconstitutional, the previous one – Decree 3912 of 1991 – will prevail and thus reinstate unattainable requirements for granting land titles to the Quilombo communities. For instance, these communities were required to prove that they were actual descendants of the original Quilombo fortresses right back to 1888, when slavery was legally abolished in Brazil. The Decree issued in 2003, by contrast, was elaborated by a multidisciplinary expert group in consultation with a range of civil and Quilombola organisations, and it complies with the Federal Constitution and the relevant international human rights treaties to which Brazil is a State Party, such as the American Convention on Human Rights, Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

In 2004 the Democrat Party (former Liberal Party) argued the unconstitutionality of the Decree before the Supreme Court (ADI n. 3239), with the support of the National Confederation of the Industry, the National Confederation of Livestock Producers and the Brazilian Rural Society. The arguments used to challenge the constitutionality and the applicability of the Decree threaten to undermine the rights to property and to access to natural resources of the Quilombo communities, which are recognised by international human rights law and by the Constitution. Article 216 of the Constitution recognises these communities as part of the national cultural heritage as their identity, action and memory form the Brazilian society. As such, they are entitled to be granted special protection by the State as necessary to guarantee respect for their distinct cultural identity, social structure, economic system, customs, beliefs and traditions and the preservation of their traditional way of life.

Although legally recognised, the property rights of Quilombo communities have been adjudicated at a slow pace, leaving them extremely vulnerable to forced evictions and threats by land owners, mining companies and development projects seeking to take possession of their lands and natural resources. Until December 2009, only 177 communities had been assigned ownership titles, comprising only 13% of the estimated 1,408 communities that traditionally occupy 87 territories with a total area of 1,171.579 hectares (according to the Comissão Pró-Indio São Paulo ). Out of this total only eight property titles have been issued by the current Government. The level of protection assigned to these communities will determine the extent of the preservation of their cultural legacy and its transmission to future generations.

The main arguments used by the detractors of Decree 4887 in the Direct Action of Unconstitutionality before the Court refer to (i) the inappropriateness of Decree 4887 to ‘regulate’ the Constitution; (ii) the concept of Quilombo communities; and (iii) the concept of occupied lands.

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Admin note – FAO on Haitian agriculture and upcoming guest-blog on the Quilombos case in Brazil

Following on to my prior post on Haiti, FAO has now reported that rural reconstruction continues to lag behind in Haiti, primarily due to lack of funding. In doing so, the FAO describes its cooperation with the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture and “over 170 non-governmental and international organizations” (!) in the agricultural cluster, providing an interesting example of an attempt to make the occasionally arcane terminology of humanitarian reform a bit more accessible to the general public.

Also interesting is the fact that investments in rural agriculture continue to be justified both on the basis of the decentralization concept and food security. In the words of FAO Senior Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordinator for Haiti Etienne Peterschmitt, “[g]reater investment in agriculture and the creation of jobs in rural areas are needed urgently to stem the flow of displaced people back into Port-au-Prince and to support food security throughout the country.” In addition, the FAO remains cognizant of the strain that hosting IDPs has placed on rural families:

“Immediately after the disaster hit in January we focussed on areas directly affected by the earthquake,” said Cristina Amaral, Chief of FAO Emergency Operations Service. “Now we are focussing on assisting host families whose coping mechanisms were severely strained by the influx of displaced persons into their communities and to prepare for the hurricane season.”

In other news, I am happy to announce that TN will soon be hosting a guest post on the Quilombos case in Brazil by Leticia Osorio and César Augusto Baldi. The post will give a thorough background briefing on the case involving the Quilombos indigenous people that is currently pending before the Supreme Court of Brazil. The forthcoming decision will determine the constitutionality of Presidential Decree 4887 of 2003 which regulates the procedure for granting property titles to Quilombo communities over the lands they occupy. The authors have also promised a follow-up guest posting once the Court’s decision is issued.