Agriculture minister Capoulas Santos has made a desperate bid over national radio ahead of a key vote in parliament on Friday paving the way to the compulsory seizure of up to half a million hectares of apparently ownerless land.
According to the minister, it is in the national interest for the government to get hold of these unmanaged hectares, in order to ‘clear them of combustible material’ and reduce the country’s endemic fire risk.
But the opposition PSD (centre-right) has teamed up with PCP communists and the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda) and is blocking the draft law that would authorise the move.
In fact, the PSD and PCP – parties that rarely see eye-to-eye on any issue – are both calling for a 10-year suspension of the draft law.
In Capoulas Santos’ eyes, this is “incomprehensible”.
He told TSF radio that the proposed legal change that would see ‘ownerless lands’ put in control of the State for 15 years is a “fundamental measure” to ensure populations’ safety and ‘produce wealth’.
If, at the end of 15 years, no legal owners have been discovered, the idea is that the land would remain in State ownership, managed accordingly.
PCP communists’ objections stem from fears that the lands could, in the end, be sold to pulping companies (in other words, increasing the risk of wildfires, not reducing it).
But Capoulas Santos has said this is a “completely absurd” notion.
His appeal however is more focused on the PSD.
He told TSF: “The PSD has once again teamed up with the PCP and BE to compromise a measure that is undeniably in the national interest, without presenting an understandable argument”.