[JURIST] Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva [official profile, in Portuguese] on Friday approved a controversial bill [Provisional Measure 458/09 text, in Portuguese] that would allow legal privatization of publicly held Amazon land. The measure is aimed at stabilizing ownership of nearly 260,000 square miles of Amazon land, the contested ownership of which has sparked violence in the region. Da Silva vetoed sections of the bill, which some critics, including legislators [letter, text], environmentalists [Greenpeace press release, in Portugese], and state prosecutors, had argued unjustly rewarded illegal land grabs and failed to distinguish between small farmers and large corporate and absentee landlords. Under the bill, plots over 1,500 hectares would be auctioned off, with a 20-year repayment schedule, while smaller areas would be transferred at little or no cost.
The measure is the latest in Brazilian initiatives that attempt to find a balance between economic development and environmental concerns over Amazon deforestation. Last week, the government announced [Reuters report] a program to pay farmers in the Amazon to reforest cleared land. Last year, Brazil set a goal to reduce Amazon deforestation by 70 percent [BBC report] over the next 10 years.