By Gabriel Duenhas and João Negrão

Mayor of Sorriso, Ari Lafin, tells in this interview about how it is to manage the “Capital of Agribusiness”, talks about elections and his political future

Mayor Ari Genésio Lafin was born in Santa Rosa, Paraná, on October 29, 1972, arrived in Sorriso when it was still a district of Nobres, aged 13 in 1985. The city was emancipated a year later, in 1986.

Ari Genésio Lafin is the son of Artur Lafin and Alcôndia Lafin, brother of Maria Aparecida Lafin, married to Jucélia Gonçalves Ferro and father of Gabriel Lafin. He started working very early, already in Sorriso, as an office boy. He holds a degree in accounting and is studying Marketing and Advertising at Universidade Centro-Sul de Maringá.

The mayor manages one of the most important cities in Brazilian agribusiness, and one of the most important in Mato Grosso. Sorriso is considered the National Capital of Agribusiness, with a large production of soy, corn and cotton, also standing out in family farming.

In this interview, Lafin takes stock of his administration, talks about his investments in public policies in the city, especially Education (a topic in which he opens a parenthesis to talk about the city hall’s prevention against attacks on schools) and Health. He also mentions the resumption of the Intermunicipal Consortium for Economic and Socio-environmental Development of Alto do Teles Pires, comments on agribusiness and family farming, and talks about elections and his political future.

Gabriel Duenhas – You are in your second term. How do you balance the first four years and these almost two and a half years in office?

Ari Lafin – When we took office in 2017, it was a year in which I sought to study and understand the complexity of the Executive branch. I was councilor in the municipality for three terms, eight years as a legislator, I was invited at the time by the former mayor to be Secretary of Government, where I had a very great opportunity to learn, also studying all the methods of applying the LDO, the LOA, of the PPA itself. Of course, the Legislative power teaches us, but the practice in the Executive is very different. So, in 2017 it was a year that I tried to understand all the complexity of the local Executive branch, seeking to apply the multi-year plan that was approved by the Chamber in 2017; in 2018 we started to implement actions that we were designing through these studies, which I can say, which gave me a very clear diagnosis in 2017 that Sorriso, the Capital of Agribusiness until then had only the title. However, industrialization was the main challenge that I would have as a management challenge in the first four years, in addition to maintaining the city, building works for schools, kindergartens, health centers, that is part of it. But the challenge of managing Ari and Gerson in the first four years was to make sure that we could also industrialize our municipality.

Lucas do Rio Verde, which is a very close city and had already started this process through the management of Otaviano Pivetta, who is now deputy governor of the state; and Sinop, 80 km away, was already recognized as the Capital of the North of Mato Grosso, attracting medical schools, centers specializing in the hospital area, and we were in the middle of these cities without focusing on industrialization. So, in 2018, we started a work to present the municipality to local businessmen and offer it to other capitals in Brazil. Since then, we have started to have the industrial factor as one of our hallmarks, so that what is produced in our municipality can also reach other people through the generation of jobs. Sorriso's wealth can also be distributed through industrialization, which is one of the factors that was a very important brand in the early years. We left the fifth economy in 2017 and arrived in 2022 with the third economy in the state of Mato Grosso, passing the city of Várzea Grande and Sinop, through the added value of ICMS that is now being collected for the state government through industry that also arrived in our municipality and that we, defending everything we are producing. We need to add, giving opportunities to create jobs and obviously trade becomes much stronger, lawyers can have more clients, doctors can have more patients, dentists, gas station attendants, tire repair workers, the economy is getting stronger and stronger. In addition to seeking to make Sorriso the Capital of Agribusiness, we are also looking for an interesting city to generate jobs through industry.

João Negrão – The result of this industrialization actually has a bias towards agro-industrialization. How is this result in terms of revenue and development of the city's productive forces?

Ari Lafin – A very clear example is the transformation of our soy. We have a company here, known and recognized, which is Caramuru. It extracts eight products from soybeans: the bran is highly productive for animal feed; fine bran, which is a more refined product, is exported to Norway, for salmon production; lecithin is sent to Switzerland to make chocolates; soy alcohol is an example of how, when we add value to what we produce, we generate jobs and income. Caramuru, in 2017, generated 400 jobs. Today, with the expansion of its internal plant, it should generate approximately 1.100 direct jobs. We also make it possible for everyone to earn money in the city, because when it is taken by train or truck – here the train has not yet arrived, here it is still a truck -, leaving an added value to the rural producer, who deserves it, because he was the trailblazer of these lands, more than ever. Now, to ensure that taxes can be raised with the State Government through the ICMS and so that more people can earn their daily bread, and this, be distributed within the municipality, where industry is the big discussion at the moment .

I believe that, not only for Sorriso, industry is a factor that must be discussed throughout Brazil so that we can strengthen income distribution throughout our national territory. Mato Grosso is very focused on this theme and here in Sorriso we have this as the main agenda of our government: to industrialize and train the workforce, which has also been a challenge, through the professional training courses launched by the Social Assistance Secretariat. We launched 800 vacancies at SENAI paid by the municipality to offer free training to our citizens.

Gabriel Duenhas – Comment on the technological development within this industrialization.

Ari Lafin – Here we have an area of ​​80 hectares intended for the implementation of our technology park, because we believe that having the title of Capital of Agro we also need to be a reference in the area of ​​technology and we are seeking to ensure that by next year we can inaugurate our park technology, allowing us to be a reference too, such as São Paulo, Piracicaba, São José dos Campos, Cascavel, Londrina. We are looking for some external examples to be able to apply here as well.

Allied to this, we are also working very hard to present everything we produce in the municipality. In addition to technology, our environmental responsibility is one of the issues that Brazil and the world demand of us. We are prepared to make it clear that here we produce with a lot of environmental responsibility. Some topics that will be included in our management from now until 2024 are the technological factor through our technology park and the environmental factor as the Rural Union here in the municipality is a great partner of ours, rural producers as well. We want to make it clear to the world that we are looking for it, and that we apply agriculture here with great responsibility, also in terms of the environment.

João Negrão – Agribusiness is undeniably important, but the mayor is also concerned about family farming, which plays an important role in the municipality.

Ari Lafin – The Capital of Agribusiness is recognized for its high productivity with medium and high production capacity rural producers. Our municipality also has the strength of family farming and last year, with the support of the City Council, we created the Secretariat of Family Agriculture in the municipality of Sorriso, understanding that our rural producer already receives great support from our Secretariat of Agriculture and Environment that takes care of medium and high complexity causes – and through the Department of Transport we give full support to the farmer for the removal of soy and corn, with good roads, bridges and infrastructure that is also coming now through the State government . But we understand that the Agribusiness Capital also has to set an example for the small rural producer and here we are working with technical assistance in the field, machines and a team that provides daily support to the Green Belt and also to the settlement.

We have the Jonas Pinheiro settlement with 220 families and the cocoon project with 20 families. We have implanted family farming projects, where we are producing vegetables and fruits that serve our school meals, the municipality buys all the production from our family farming, not least because the law is very clear: up to 30% the municipality must buy from local family farming and we are making the most of it, today we are able to buy bananas, passion fruit, among other fruits that are produced here, in production, for lunch.

Family farming in the municipality of Sorriso gives an important seal to medium and large rural producers, because last year alone we produced tons of honey. This is important because, where we produce soy, corn and cotton and which today we are very opposed by some – it is natural that this is a questioning around the world, about how these products that arrive in Europe, China, in short, all countries are produced , including in the Brazilian domestic market. The good news is that, where honey is produced and there are bees, the air is clean and we are the second largest producer of freshwater fish in the state, through production in dams. This shows that our waters are also clean.

Today, family farming in Sorriso has our support and we are very connected. We defend the small, medium and large, with policies aimed at food sustainability and environmental sustainability. I believe we are on the way: working and supporting everyone. The settlement here is a model for Brazil in every sense. There is a school there, there is health and we give all the support to those settled there.

Gabriel Duenhas – Talk about the city's public policies, Health, Education and Social Assistance. Recently, schools in several states have been targets of criminal attacks. What actions has the city taken and is taking in relation to the subject?

Ari Lafin – We started the work right after the facts that happened in São Paulo with the teacher and unfortunately with what happened in Blumenau in Santa Catarina. We brought together the technical teams of the Military Police, Civil Police, our Secretary of Education, invited the City Council, the Public Prosecutor's Office and formed a great team. We created a permanent committee to discuss the applicability of actions aimed at safety in schools, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Botelho, who is director of Escola Tiradentes, which is a military school of the State Government.

We are working with this commission almost daily and we immediately implanted guards in the schools for the entry and exit of students and during the day, he goes around the entire school yard observing what kind of movement may be happening, including externally, in the adjacent streets, immediately informing the school director, and activates the patrol of the Military Police or the Municipal Guard who received extra reinforcements in our municipality.

In addition, we are purchasing metal identification equipment so that these guards can approach adults, students, and they are advised not to bring any type of equipment other than school supplies to the school and classroom.

We are also observing, through the very teachers who are very close to their students, altered psychological behaviors and automatically our Health Department has a team of psychologists to also give this support to this factor, students and parents. Then, automatically, some behavioral alteration factor is analyzed, a very confidential work is done so as not to expose the student and we offer psychological treatment for him, we also identify his origin at home, if he is raised by his father, mother, grandparents, all monitoring to see what the problem is, sometimes in the behavioral change. Now, more than ever, we have to observe this, because there are children who are very calm, others are more agitated and some even end up with some kind of aggression at school. We have to understand why this is happening. Maybe some kind of support is missing.

All schools have 24-hour video monitoring at the Municipal Security Department. These are some actions that we have already applied and this is a subject that will not leave the curriculum anymore.

We are going to keep up this work, training principals for any kind of strange movement in the schools, the guards will continue to work, we are going to hold more meetings with the PM, bringing parents into the schools, trying to understand what happens there in that school environment on a daily basis and other ideas that are emerging we will apply over time.

Emergency measures have already been taken and the committee will decide on others for the medium and long term. We need to form strength and also take care of the behavior of these children, because bullying cannot be treated as something that does not exist. Unfortunately bullying exists and we need to fight it with great intelligence, and on social media when any movement is launched, we cannot ignore it. The Civil Police has a team investigating here in Sorriso and in less than 24 hours they are approaching children, young people and teenagers inside their homes with their parents to find out why this type of joke is being launched.

Gabriel Duenhas – We are going through a coronavirus pandemic that claimed more than 700 lives, so I would like to know about the issue of health, education and social assistance in the municipality of Sorriso.

Ari Lafin – Health was a great challenge for the world. In 2020, when the pandemic came, it was torture for everyone, loss of life, disconnection of information, there were times when I didn't know what to do. We also created a large committee at the time, which met practically twice a day to discuss important topics to be dealt with, with the clinical teams, always respecting the doctors, but also listening to organized society, through the financial movement of the economy which was a major concern of everyone and at that time. We faced it by giving all the structure, we set up a field hospital, we hired 10 ICUs with resources from the municipality and with the support of the Public Prosecutor's Office, we did a CT scan for 6 months within the UPA itself, we hired specialized doctors. When Manaus discussed cylinders, we had an oxygen base of 50 liters every week, a White Martins truck arrived to supply it, but all this because we were concerned when the pandemic was arriving in Brazil and that many treated it as a lie announced in Europe and unfortunately entered the country by the coast. Practically for 15 or 20 days until this disease arrives with force here, but I said: let's get ready. Thanks to the good Lord that we had the structure prepared and we started to face the disease. The patient arrived with a cough, we performed X-rays to see the degree of lung infection and the stain. The patient with 5% went home with medication, but was monitored 24 hours a day; the patient with 10 to 15% of the spot in the lung, we already put him in the outpatient clinic with medication, even intravenous medication, to fight the disease. Unfortunately, we lost lives here too, but we managed to greatly reduce fatalities due to the technical and immediate confrontation. We work together, the forces of the Chamber, Shopkeepers, sectors of industry, agro, maintaining open door protocols in our municipality, but with ventilation, restaurants with 50% capacity, we reinvent ourselves.

Today we have 28 basic health units that cover our municipality with top-notch care, which is the entrance to health. We have 100% basic health coverage, including units in the districts of Boa Esperança, Caravágio, Primavera and in the Jonas Pinheiro Settlement to serve the 20 families settled with a doctor in the units. Our emergency care unit (UPA) is serving an average of 650 people per day.

In addition, we have a UPA in the East region, which is a very large housing region of 25 people. We also opened a 24-hour service in the Rota do Sol region, which is the southern region of our municipality, to alleviate the impact of the emergency service unit, which we are also increasing capacity. The building is being refurbished from 15 stabilization beds until the regulation opens for regional hospitals to 36 beds until July.

We are giving greater capacity in our UPA and distribution of medicine at home for bedridden seniors and those with diabetes. We have a system that takes the medicine to the citizen's house and a 24-hour pharmacy next to the UPA, the citizen is attended at 03:00 in the morning, on holidays, Saturdays, Sundays, he leaves the UPA with the prescription and gets it at any time of the day. pick up your medicine at the pharmacy.

We always have to overcome obstacles, because politics is very dynamic. A traffic accident, for example: the citizen breaks a femur, he is admitted to the UPA, we stabilize the patient until the regulation opens at the Regional Hospital, because, that's how it works. The Regional Hospital in Sorriso serves 15 municipalities. But we are working on health with a lot of attention, a lot of training and health agents covering the whole city on a daily basis to help fight dengue, zika virus, chikungunya, because health is a very complex job that has to start there in base, to try to avoid medium and high complexity as much as possible.

Education in our municipality serves all students from nursery to sixth grade. Our difficulty at the moment, our deficit, is in day care centers because our city is growing by 20 percentage points a year. There are 70 vacancies per month that are sought after by new students. The city is receiving a very large demand from people outside, and, of course, also from the children who are born here.

Our schools are working, there is no shortage of vacancies for high school students, we are studying the bidding process for five new day care centers to try to make us have a shorter queue on the waiting list.

Our challenge, through the Department of Education, is illiterate adults. Sorriso must have approximately 1.200 illiterates. We are seeking, through a program with the State Government, to bring them into the classroom, to give them the minimum of teaching, reading and writing. This illiteracy rate worries me. I believe that all municipalities, like ours, need to combat this situation of illiteracy. These are realities that we are trying to face with everyone at our disposal, but we are launching programs to be able to balance this here in our municipality.

Our schools even, with robotics as well, the technology in schools has computer labs with fiber internet, because a lab is useless if the child cannot connect. Teachers are able to teach with fiber connection in schools, good computers, some have robotics implanted, and the trend from now on is that, in addition to traditional teaching, it is to provoke and make all young children and adolescents , mainly from the poorest neighborhoods, can have access to technology.

João Negrão – The Intermunicipal Consortium for Economic and Socio-environmental Development of Alto do Teles Pires was resumed. How was that process? Who is the current president of the consortium?

Ari Lafin – The president is Miguel Vaz, from Lucas do Rio Verde. The consortium was resumed two years ago, because we have a Health Consortium here that is the model of the 15 municipalities and has made a difference in people's lives through the purchase of medicines. Through the consortium, we manage to lower the price in the bidding process and even purchase surgeries.

When we united in 15 municipalities, we became much stronger and ended up buying surgeries at much lower prices through joint efforts. The Health Consortium is already a model and we reactivated the Alto Teles Pires Economic, Social and Environmental Development Consortium (Cidesa) so that together with the mayors we could discuss the region's problems. I took office in (2021-2022), we seek as the main theme the unity and effort of all mayors with work commissions.

Cidesa's great success, the BR-163. In 2021, I, then president of the consortium, together with the mayors, made a proposal, we created a letter of intent for the Ministry of Infrastructure in Brasília and for the Governor of the State of Mato Grosso that we intended to take over the management of BR -163 from Sonora to Sinop. Everyone said: “What do you mean, mayor? What madness is this?” I said: “Look, in Mato Grosso, we already have models of rural PPPs that worked. For example, the MT-242, from Sorriso to Boa Esperança, connecting Nova Ubiratã. It is run by an association of farmers.

The MT-242, from Sorriso to Ipiranga, is managed by a consortium of farmers, who at the time formed associations and when the tenders for these two stretches were launched, the farmers themselves organized and won the concessions. If we have this model in Mato Grosso why do we, with Cidesa, with our own CNPJ, being a non-profit institution, want to enter to duplicate and maintain. How about this idea?” Mayors complied. When we launched this idea, we were even interviewed by the media in the state of Mato Grosso and I said: “Look, we are open to this debate”. And they asked us: “But, mayor, isn’t this crazy?” I replied: “It could be, but if we don't take action, Odebrecht will stay until the end and won't give any response”.

The governor of the state of Mato Grosso called us at the time, and said ““Explain your idea better. Mayors, I'm going to make an agreement, I'm going to handle this through a state-owned company, we just need to handle this very intelligently, without political fuss, because I'm going to have to consult with the Federal Audit Court, with the Ministry of Infrastructure and I believe that MT PAR can be the big play of this. What do you guys think?”. We replied: “Governor, no problem, we have no vanity”. And from there we stayed for almost six months and gave our consent to everything that the State Government had been building silently without much fuss so that everything worked out, letters of support from the consortium came out, the OAB was very important in this process, because the OAB already We had been in this debate for many years, the City Councils and councilors, the rural unions, Aprosoja, we all came together to support this idea of ​​the governor of the state of Mato Grosso.

Only then did the consortium show that resuming the great discussions was worth it. In December I handed over the consortium to Miguel, who was my deputy and Leandro de Nova Mutum is now Miguel's deputy and I'm in to collaborate. I believe that two years is interesting for us to collaborate, then the alternation of power in the consortia shows that we don't need to perpetuate. We can use our experience every two years, then collaborate with other mayors. When everyone speaks the same language, the result appears.

Gabriel Duenhas – In 2024 we will have municipal elections, you were re-elected in 2020, therefore, you will not be able to run for mayoralty again. Would you like to know if you will support any candidate, and what will be the political future of the mayor of Sorriso?

Ari Lafin – I'm listening to all those who have their political will, especially the allies. Today I have our Secretary of Administration, Doctor Estevam Hungaro Kal Filho, who is affiliated with the PSDB, he was the coordinator of my two campaigns, a great lawyer friend who put his name as a pre-candidate for a popular analysis without any problem. Democracy gives us the right for those who have their will to be able to launch their name.

Deputy Mayor Gerson Bicego, my ally too, my great companion in the first and second elections, extremely loyal, is making his name available through the PL. Secretary of Government Hilton Polesello, who is currently looking for a political party, was already a candidate for deputy mayor with Rossato in 2016, when we won the elections for Rossato and Polesello. Today he is in government, he was a former councilor and is a very serious person, he is asking for the opportunity to make his name available. Leandro Damiani, candidate for state deputy and PSDB alternate, is one of the names being considered as well. Acácio Ambrozini was a candidate for the Republicans for federal, and he made a good vote and should put his name also for the Republicans.

These are some names that are pre-available for a candidacy for mayor next year. What am I making clear to all of them? Put the name, seek public opinion and next year we will have to do polls, which will give the north of the electoral capacity of those names mentioned by me until then. I'm going to talk to other people, there are even businessmen here from Sorriso that I've heard say they want to. I will listen to this will and I believe that people have to have the courage to put their name.

When I launched in 2016 to face the former mayor Rossato, a very serious man, very strong, including a very renowned businessman, I was a printing salesman, I had a printing company, I sold printed stickers and signs. In 2015 I started my work in society by putting my name, my PSDB party gave me this condition and I started. I think it's cool that those who have the courage to look for me and make their name available. With a lot of maturity next year in May, we will define the candidate and vice-president through numbers. I'm going to look at numbers, yes, but I'm also going to look at loyalty behavior. I need at least to be respected, because I'm going to the street, I'm going to give election conditions.

Today we have an acceptance of 86% of public opinion, through surveys. It is a management that is on the rise and that the respondent himself says that the candidate I support will be elected. Will I take the surveys into account? Yes, but I will also take into account the behavior of these pre-candidates from now until next year, at least out of respect for me. Because helping someone get to be in charge of a city and then not generating expectations or even listening to my opinion, that will bring a very big loss to me. The behavior of these released personalities will be something I will also be analyzing very carefully until next year.

I intend to deliver Sorriso on December 31, 2024 with quality services for the population and I intend to leave my city with a very good evaluation. If I manage to maintain the acceptance level of 86% today, it is obvious that I will be prepared for a scenario at the state or federal level. In 2025 I will analyze my eight-year curriculum at the head of the municipality and try to talk to leaders in Cuiabá, because Mato Grosso policy must always be discussed with leaders who are already in charge, the governor himself, state deputies, not only the Avallone of my party, but those of the others. I want to talk with Jayme Campos, with Carlos Bezerra; I want to talk to several leaders to understand better. I'm going to study the scenario and I'll make myself available for sure in 2026. I can say that Mato Grosso will probably have a candidate for some position with a very good resume, I'll be able to help Mato Grosso in some sphere. Now at this point I couldn't say. We need to debate, because what I always say and repeat, that democracy and parties must offer candidates to the population. Provide conditions to have more candidates prepared for Mato Grosso, with great debates. It's my thinking, it's not an attack on the opponent. I will present myself in 2026 with a good curriculum, with good proposals without attacking anyone, making myself available, as in 2016, I did not attack former mayor Rossato. I even had difficulty, because many voters asked for it. No, I am being one more option for Sorriso, because I had, incredible as it may seem, a great deal of respect for the former mayor, but I wanted to be an alternative for Sorriso with other proposals.

I will be a soldier for Mato Grosso. I'm in love with Sorriso, I'm in love with Mato Grosso and I'm in love with Brazil. I believe we need great leadership, less attacks and more proposals, because throwing stones is easy, I want to see who has the legs and body to carry stones every day. I think this is the great debate that we need for Brazil.

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