Modern Brazil’s Transition to Democracy
and a Progressive Constitution Have Done
Little to Change Archaic and Abusive
Land Policies. That’s Bad News for
Environmentalists Around the World.
WEAK land rights=
by Sergio Leitão
A Xingu woman from
Kamayura Village in
Mato Grosso, Brazil.
lthough Brazil is among the 15 largest economies in the
world, its land policies remain stubbornly stuck in a state
of limbo between the modern and the archaic. Technological advances in agriculture have turned Brazilian
farms into some of the world’s most productive; yet we
have continued a pattern of exploitive rural settlement that dates back
to the early era of colonization. While the transition to democracy from
military rule has strengthened the basic rights of the urban population,
millions of rural Brazilians—many of them indigenous—are still awaiting their turn. Now, emerging conflicts between workers and rural landowners have put the issue of land development squarely at the center of
the national political agenda. At the same time, with concern about global
climate change rising, the government’s failure to apply land-use protections that are already enshrined in our revised constitution to the Amazon
threatens the fate of the planet.
It’s time to bring justice to the Brazilian countryside.
Understanding the current chaos requires a brief look at both Brazilian history and geography. Brazil’s 3. 1 million square miles ( 8 million
PHOTOGRAPH Y B Y JOHN LEE/AURORA SELECT