Since December 19, 2022, the Direct Action of Unconstitutionality (ADI) has been sitting in the drawer of Cármen Lúcia, minister of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), which questions the sale of vacant land to landowners with discounts of up to 90% in the state of São Paulo. Paul. The action was filed by the Workers’ Party (PT) bench of the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo (Alesp),
Although prohibited by the Constitution, the commercialization of vacant lands, public areas that never had an owner and that must be destined for agrarian reform, has been possible since the approval of Alesp, on June 29, 2022, of law 17,577. Later, on July 21, former governor Rodrigo Garcia (PSDB) sanctioned it.
On June 1, the PT bench at Alesp sent a letter to Cármen Lúcia, ADI rapporteur, requesting speed in the analysis of the action. Weeks later, on June 27, the minister received state deputies Eduardo Suplicy (PT) and Simão Pedro (PT), in a hearing requested by the Minister of Agrarian Development, Paulo Teixeira.
During the meeting, Cármen Lúcia signaled that she would publish her opinion on the matter in August of this year. Near the end of the month set as a deadline by the judge, opposition parliamentarians in Alesp and social movements continue to await the minister’s vote, which will force the STF plenary to vote on the matter. The Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the Attorney General’s Office (AGU) have already declared in the ADI files that they consider the São Paulo law unconstitutional.
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Yamila Goldfarb, PhD in Geography from the University of São Paulo (USP) and member of the Brazilian Agrarian Reform Association (Abra), explains the constitutional precept of vacant lands. “These lands have a constitutional precept to comply with: all vacant land must be destined for indigenous land, quilombola lands, conservation units or agrarian reform settlements,” she said.
The geographer is critical of the legislation approved in São Paulo. “What Law 17,577 does is make it possible for the state to sell vacant lands, therefore public lands, to people who already occupy these areas and want to buy these lands at huge discounts. This means the legalization of an occupation that is already irregular, that is, it is the legalization of land grabbing”, he stated.
Behind the scenes, the opposition to Palácio dos Bandeirantes is concerned about the slowness of Cármen Lúcia, who has given time for governor Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans) to move forward with the regularization of areas seized by landowners.
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“Our expectation is that the minister will take into account the scale of the problem we have in São Paulo with the advancement of this law, which goes against the principles of agrarian reform and also the Constitution”, stated state deputy Simão Pedro.
Pessimistic about the path that the law should follow in the courts, members of the São Paulo government began to organize themselves so that the landowners could speed up the registration of their processes at the Fundação Instituto de Terras do Estado de São Paulo (Itesp), the body responsible for agrarian and agrarian.
In May of this year, Itesp’s executive director, Guilherme Piai, was caught by the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo in a meeting with landowners, warning agribusiness entrepreneurs about the risks of slow process protocols.
According to Piai, it would be necessary to act on the process “while the law is in force”. “Now there is a political issue happening, which is also outside the jurisdiction of Itesp, and this law has a great chance of falling”, he said at the time.
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Palácio dos Bandeirantes has already arranged the sale of ten farms that are in vacant land areas, with a discount of up to 90%. Of these, seven have already received a positive opinion from the State Attorney General’s Office (PGE) to conclude the negotiation and receive land titles.
The ten plots of land, combined, are worth R$64.1 million, according to an assessment carried out by Itesp itself. However, Tarcísio de Freitas’ government will sell them for R$13.7 million, a reduction of R$50.3 million, calculated based on the text of the law.
The areas requested by the landowners, all in the Pontal do Paranapanema region, are the subject of litigation with the state of São Paulo. The legal dispute is even one of the determining parameters for calculating the discount. According to the law, the reduction calculation is influenced by the “procedural phase of the discriminatory action or claim action, so that the percentage must be increased according to the stage of the procedural phase in the respective legal actions, and reduced according to the criterion of tame and peaceful occupation over time.”
Two farms, Triunfo I, claimed by Alberto Azenha de Almeida and Silvia Pádua Ferreira de Almeida, and Triunfo II, claimed by Aldora Rodrigues Azenha de Almeida, obtained discounts of 90%. The other eight had a reduction of 78% (see table).
wealthy land reform
State deputy Carlos Giannazi (PSOL) described the law as “a mockery”. “It’s almost like a donation that the state is making to the big land grabbers and landowners. They are handing over vacant (public) land – which should be destined for agrarian reform for the landless – at a bargain price to agribusiness entrepreneurs. A mockery total.”
For Yamila Goldfarb, the damage caused by law 17,577 could be greater than the R$50 million discount. “What this law does is stop agrarian reform in São Paulo. It is clear that there are still large large estates, farms that must be expropriated when unproductive, but a large part of the agrarian reform is carried out on vacant land, not on private land.”
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“It is illegal and also immoral”, criticized Simão Pedro, “as it disposes of public goods at a bargain price, with exaggerated discounts and infinite installments, to benefit supporters and voters of both former governor Rodrigo, in the 1st round, and Tarcísio in the 2nd round”.
The government of São Paulo is preparing a major event for September 14th, in Presidente Prudente, to hand over property titles. Behind the scenes, the expectation is that Tarcísio de Freitas will deliver the first records to the landowners who adhered to law 17,577 and managed to buy vacant land that they occupied.
In a note, Itesp stated that “to date, most of the processes considered suitable by Itesp have been registered in the owner’s name for more than 70 years. As determined by law, the resources from compensation are intended strictly for public policies of health, education and social and economic development, prioritizing investments in the respective municipalities where land regularization takes place.”
The STF informed that there is no provision for the PT’s Direct Unconstitutionality Action to be analyzed by the Court’s plenary.
Editing: Thalita Pires