Curuaúna: on one side, soy. And on the other? Also soy

Above Tiningu and Bom Jardim communities, one reaches the Curuaúna region. Poison oozes from the vast soy fields towards the quilombos and the waters of the Maicá River.

Driving and walking around the region, Francinaldo Miranda, member of the Union of Rural Workers and Family Farmers of Santarém (STTR-STM), shows the skillful architecture of soybean farmers, or perhaps the skill in design of environments – This is thepuxadinho”, which comes down to a small advance – no more than two or three meters – from the soybean field towards the standing forest; then the forest is burned little by little year by year as if nothing is happening. Slowly soy takes up all the available space – as if it needed to grow more: today, it can be said that in the middle of the soy field there’s a forest (there’s a forest in the middle of the soybean field) – And they build this “wall” so that the view of the road is blocked. Nobody sees anything and the forest seems to be alright. The wall in question is a thin strip of trees that does fulfill its role: it is only by going around it that one can contemplate the immensity of soy – soy to be lost sight of, on one side, on the other side, ahead and behind. However, from the road, it is as if the trees were still standing tall.

This is one of the stories of “What really happens in the Amazon Forest”. Browse content:

Part 1 (central page): What really happens in the Amazon Forest
Part 2: Who is favored by Bolsonaro’s responses to the fires?
Part 3: The “win-win” of companies with the financialization of nature
Part 4: But after all, who is behind these crimes?

1) The siege explained on a map
2) A port stuck in the “mouth” of the river
3) Before the port arrives (if it does), the impacts already did
4) Health center and quilombola school: the struggle changes life
5) [you are here] Curuaúna: on one side, soy. On the other? Soy also
6) A face printed on a T-shirt

The impacts on the forest and on local communities are tremendous: soy represents land grabbing, fires, deforestation, vast use of pesticides, in addition to needing an entire infrastructure for its transport and export, which also impacts the peoples of the region. But some cases reach the absurd: as the situation of a small school in the community of Boa Sorte (and the name seems a sadistic irony of life: Boa Sorte means “good luck” in English). The distance between the classroom window and the soybean field does not reach two meters, and the most serious: the use of pesticides does not respect school hours and is repeated several times a year. Contamination of children is direct and repeated.

The Curuaúna region is so impacted by the use of pesticides (the main one is glyphosateMonsanto’s Round-Up) that blood has been collected from residents and studies are being carried out to measure the size of the damage to people’s health. The results of this research have not yet been released. Other studies, however, are available: this is the case of the dissertation by Nayara Luiz Pires, from the University of Brasília, who in 2015 researched the expansion of the agricultural frontier in the Amazon and the contamination by glyphosate in the Santarém region. In it, the researcher states “a probable risk of human exposure to pesticides, mainly through the respiratory tract“.

Castanheira, a tree protected by law, survives alone in the middle of mocultures fields. Photo: Carol Ferraz / Amigos da Terra Brasil
School surrounded by soy: use of poison does not respect school hours and children are directly affected. Photograph: Carol Ferraz / Amigos da Terra Brasil
Burnt area for the expansion of soy cultivation: the practice of “puxadinho” is widely used in the Amazon region, and consists of gradually increasing the size of the land, meter by meter. Photo: Carol Ferraz / Amigos da Terra Brasil
With the advance of monocultures in the Amazon, the forest turns to ashes. Photo: Carol Ferraz / Friends of the Earth Brazil
With the constant use of pesticides, few things grow on a land that was once fertile. Photo: Carol Ferraz / Amigos da Terra Brasil

Soy “ghost-towns”
Many families do not wait to find out how harmful pesticides are and how fast they are killing them. Thus, communities are gradually being abandoned, disappearing from the map, ceasing to exist – There was a football field here, – There were a lot of houses there, – Here was a school, shows Francinaldo as you go along the road that cuts through the fields of soy.

Even the traditional football matches between neighboring communities are in danger of not happening anymore, simply because ghost towns do not have football teams: no one else will be able to challenge the feared São Jorge, the team to be beaten in the region. Francinaldo, a native of the Curuaúna area, was a goalkeeper and tells when – The striker was just a few meters from me and was one of those who kicked hard, my friend even, but he kicked with anger, and the ball was so fast, but so fast, that it tore Francinaldo’s belly, what he only discovered later, after the match, as he dragged himself with the bike home so as not to accuse the pain in front of the opponent. It even required surgery and it took years to fully recover. Most importantly, however, he succeeded: he defended the kick.

Thay’s what the advance of agribusinness and monocultives mean: in addition to death and contamination and land grabbing, the end of culture and local life.

Return to the central page “What really happens in the Amazon Forest

Also read parts 2, 3 and 4 of the introduction:
Who is favored with Bolsonaro’s responses to the fires?
The “win-win” of companies with the financialization of nature
But after all, who is behind these crimes?

And the stories:
The siege explained on a map
A port stuck in the “mouth” of the river
Before the port arrives (if it does), the impacts already did
Health center and quilombola school: the struggle changes life
– [you are here] Curuaúna: on one side, soy. On the other? Soy also
A face printed on a T-shirt

A face printed on a T-shirt

The eyes pointed straight at the print on the shirt and there they got lost, taking a long time to return – Is it Maria do Espírito Santo? It’s her, isn’t it?, and the answer was “yes”.

Who asked about the image that appeared on the T-shirt of one of those present at the celebration of the 46th anniversary of the Union of Rural Workers and Family Farmers of Santarém (STTR-STM) was Maria Ivete Bastos dos Santos, 52 years old – seven of them dedicated to the presidency of the organization, between 2002 and 2008. Chico Mendes, Marielle Franco, Dorothy Stang, Berta Cáceres, among others, were also looking at her from the white fabric of the shirt, with serious look. The print was a tribute to the defenders of territories murdered in Brazil and in Latin America in recent decades, as well as a protest for the lack of solutions to these crimes.

“Who ordered the kill?” – Marielle Franco, Mestre Moa do Katendê, Berta Cáceres, Nicinha, Chico Mendes, Zé Cláudio, Maria do Espírito Santo, Dorothy Stang and Amarildo: that was the print on the T-shirt that surprised Maria Ivete. Art by Amigos da Terra Brasil

The voice trembled for a second before returning to the usual firmness: seeing the face of her friend Maria do Espírito Santo caught the other Maria, Ivete, unprepared – I wasn’t expecting to see her today, and from then on she remembered: and sometimes memories are a heavy hurtful burden.

This is one of the stories in the story “What really happens in the Amazon Forest”. Browse content:

Part 1 (central page): What really happens in the Amazon Forest
Part 2: Who is favored by Bolsonaro’s responses to the fires?
Part 3: The “win-win” of companies with the financialization of nature
Part 4: After all, who is behind these crimes?

1) The siege explained on a map
2) A port stuck in the “mouth” of the river
3) Before the port arrives (if it does), the impacts already did
4) Health center and quilombola school: the struggle changes life
5) Curuaúna: on one side, soy. On the other? Soy also
6) [you are here] A face printed on a T-shirt
7) The motorcycle night

In the state of Pará, one of the most dangerous for those who defend the rights of peoples, the two Marias fought side by side. Maria Ivete, president of STTR-STM, in addition to other positions she has held in the union over the years; and Maria do Espírito Santo, who with her husband Zé Cláudio worked and lived at Praia Alta Pirandeira Agroextractive Settlement, in Nova Ipixuna, near Marabá. Facing illegal loggers and ruralists in the region, the couple were constantly threatened. Zé Cláudio already knew about his destiny, that he was going to die, and he told the world about it – but the effort didn’t make a difference: both were murdered by gunmen in an ambush inside the reserve where they worked for 24 years.

Zé Cláudio speaks at a TEDx. Subtitles in English available.

The cowardly crime occurred in 2011. Since then it has been nine years of mourning for Maria Ivete – I told her not to take the bike that day, although she knows this is a mere detail – It is not a threat what we suffer: it is a sentence, and it is almost as if it were only a matter of time before the ordered death finds the condemned life it’s supposed to take. In the meantime, the threat is a kind of anticipation of death to life, an absurd inversion in the natural order of things. The sentence that hangs over so many heads prevents life from being lived to its fullest – although, strictly speaking, one is still alive, and the heart still beats and the lung still breathes and the brain still remembers, at hard costs.

As that case took on large proportions and had international repercussions, the two gunmen who murdered Maria do Espírito Santo and Zé Cláudio were condemned by the courts. The person who ordered the crime, after being acquitted in 2013, went to a new trial three years later and was found guilty. The penalty: 60 years in prison. However, only one of the killers is in jail. José Rodrigues Moreira (the one who gave the order) and his brother, Lindonjohnson Silva Rocha (executor), have been at large since November 2015 – I can’t speak of justice, so I speak of injustice, and that’s the reference, after all: injustice is what is known and experienced, leaving its opposite – justice – somewhere on the horizon, distant and unreal.

Maria Ivete was president of the Rural Union of Santarém between 2002 and 2008. Photo: Carol Ferraz / Amigos da Terra Brasil

Protection for defenders of peoples’ rights is still insufficient
In Pará alone – and still in 2017 – 90 people were on the list to join the Program for Protection of Human Rights Defenders (PPDDH). The state is the third with the highest number of people within the program. For Maria Ivete, it has been around ten years living with escorts, restrictions on hours and movements: today, she is accompanied by the State Program for Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Pará, which accompanies 77 people there. But it is not security what she feels, on the contrary: to live with protection is to remember the threat of death daily – I don’t go to parties, in the places we go we don’t go out to a bar, nothing.

The PPDDH – although an important advancement (it came up as a reaction to the murder of the missionary Dorothy Stang, also in Pará in 2005) – is still quite precarious. It needs articulation in the states; however, it has programs implemented through agreements in only six – Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Ceará, Minas Gerais and Maranhão. In Pará, operationalization takes place through a central in the capital Brasília.

The main question is yet another: the program proves to be useful only when the situation is already extreme – in cases of persecution and attacks. It is thought that surveillance by the State can at a minimum constrain the work of the murderers. However, ending the attacks on defenders of peoples’ rights requires a structural response: land redistribuition benefiting small farmers and landless workers; as well as the demarcation of indigenous lands and traditional communities. In its recommendations to the Brazilian State, the Brazilian Committee of Defenders of Human Rights speaks of “policies to guarantee the right to land and territory”, which include respect for ILO Convention 169 (International Labor Organization); ensuring community participation in the licensing processes for large projects; the demarcation of indigenous and quilombola lands; the restructuring of Incra and Funai (governmental institutions responsible for land and indigenous issues, respectively) to better serve the population; advancing on land reform.

With structural changes to defend peoples and their territories, fewer faces will appear on T-shirts in late tributes to those who lost their lives in the name of peoples’ rights.

Return to the central page “What really happens in the Amazon Forest

Also read parts 2, 3 and 4 of the introduction:
Who is favored by Bolsonaro’s responses to the fires?
The “win-win” of companies with the financialization of nature
But after all, who is behind these crimes?

And the stories:
The siege explained on a map
A port stuck in the “mouth” of the river
Before the port arrives (if it does), the impacts already did
Health center and quilombola school: the struggle changes life
Curuaúna: on one side, soy. On the other? Soy also
– [you are here] A face printed on a shirt
The motorcycle night

The motorcycle night

Vruuuum vruuum vruuuuuum and the noise woke José Marques da Costa, a rural worker from Alenquer, a small municipality in the state of Pará with just over 50 thousand inhabitants. Of the 53 years that José carries on his shoulders, most of it was filled with restless nights: there’s no easy sleep in the corners of Brazil for those who dare to defend the rights of small farmers and rural workers – exactly what José does, and when he heard the fourth vruuum he stood up, alert.

A few months earlier, new messages had reached him (always indirectly, cowardly warning, “send word”) – We will kill about five of you people, they will not even know and – Justice is slow, in the bullet we can solve it faster. If before José slept with one eye open he started to open them both on nights of little or no rest. And if television seemed like a good medicine to make him sleep what actually happened was the opposite: the dragging voice of the current president of the Brazilian Republic, Jair Bolsonaro, echoed from the device and only aggravated José’s insomnia by saying things like – Who should have been arrested were the MST people (Landless Workers Movement), those vagabonds. The policemen reacted so as not to die, and – Let’s shoot who is from the Labour Party in the state of Acre, huh! Hate speech that encourages and materializes violence against rural workers in the Amazon Region and in Brazil: against him, José. The first Bolsonaro’s sentence refers to the Carajás Massacre, when the police in Pará murdered 19 landless workers in cold blood; the second was said during the 2018 presidential campaign.

Vruuuum vruum followed the noise, and José Marques risked a glance out on the street.

Motorcycles. Many motorcycles – One, two, three, half a dozen, nine, ten, he was counting, but the task was hampered by the constant circular movement of the vehicles, accelerating and decelerating in front of the house. Twenty, it must have been something near that, and soon José started to focus not on the bikes but on who rode them: that was certainly a matter of greater importance. That was when he saw neighbors, friends, colleagues, and the fear that had settled in his chest gave way to a little curiosity – What are you all doing here at this hour? and then commotion took place: the circus set up there was not an ambush. On the contrary, it was an escort to protect him exactly from attack and possible murder.

Since the end of the day the rumor had run through the small town that gunmen – All very treacherous, they’ll drink a coffee at your house before killing you, these treacherous gunmen were lurking on the road, ready to attack José Marques when he left home. Death ordered by the big farmers in the region. The twenty or so motorcycles would serve – and did serve – as a shield to take José Marques to a safe place. That was how he got on his motorcycle, in the middle of the night of little Alenquer, took off and lived to fight another day among and for his people.

At the top, José Marques; in the other images, a map of the region in conflict and records of irregularities and violations of rights committed by land grabbers, who took down trees and destroyed the only access bridge to the site. Photos: Carol Ferraz / Amigos da Terra Brasil

Land grabbing: overlapped CAR and “Four Years of Storm”
What led gunmen to pursue José Marques is related to the long-named position he carries: president of the Community Association of Residents and Small Farmers of the Limão Grande Community, located in Alenquer. There, 86 families lived and worked in an area of around ten thousand hectares – until, in 2016, what José called “Four Years of Storm” began.

First, there was the requisition – by farmers – of three thousand hectares of the area where the families lived. In consultation with Incra (National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform, in English), with the support of the Union of Rural Workers and Family Farmers of Alenquer (STTR-ALQ), it was shown that the request was fair: the families accepted to leave that area, redistributing themselves in the seven thousand remaining hectares. In the meantime, the land was georeferenced, a necessary step for the community to register in CAR (Rural Environmental Registry, in English).

Work done, they returned to Incra and then came the surprise: fifteen days earlier, several people had registered those areas as their own. Suddenly, the land where families have lived since 2007 had “owners” – and they were others. There was never any inspection by Incra to verify if those who registered in CAR actually occupied the self-declared land; if there were one, it would be simple to see who actually occupied the area – They didn’t even know where it is, however José does and this seems to be of no use.

The registration, based on the information provided by the applicant, has no deadline for verification by the competent public agency: some states claim that the analysis of the registrations would take from 25 to 100 years. However, contrary to the popular imaginary of slowness in justice, long before the due inspection could take place, the repossession of the site was decreed – which happened with a strong police apparatus. In short: 86 families were thrown out on the street. Everything they had was left behind – clothes, crops, houses – and what was left behind was set on fire and tored down.

The videos above were recorded by local families. The first one shows the fire consuming a building next to a plantation; the second shows the remaining ruins; the last video denounces the destruction of the only access bridge to the area, a service performed by the henchmen of the land grabbers. In the photo, also made available by residents of Limão Grande, heavily armed private security guards prohibit the movement of rural workers in the disputed territory.


Nowadays private security guards roam the territory. Rifles speak loudly and anyone who ventures to look for something that may have left behind (and sometimes despair is prone to adventures) is at serious risk of being attacked by the land grabbers’ henchmen. Well that’s the true name of what happened: land grabbing – using the overlapping of land in self-declared CAR. Different CPFs (individual registration, in English) called themselves owners of an area that they do not occupy, in anticipation of the real occupants who were preparing the procedures to register in the system. Without any inspection, the Justice determined the repossession of property in the name of the interests of the land grabbers.

One detail draws attention and highlights the intention of taking over the territory of rural workers: when carrying out the CAR on several different CPFs, an area of almost 600 hectares was not overlapped – it would therefore be the right of families to remain there. However, the entire area was evicted, with nothing and no one left behind – There was no respect for eviction protocols, complains José, but in a place where the land is owned by those who neither live nor works at it, very little is expected of a Justice and a police at service of big farmers.

Agrarian inequality and violence in the countryside
The numbers of agrarian inequality in Brazil are alarming: almost half of the country’s rural area belongs to only 1% of landowners. Data from the 2017 Agricultural Census show that large rural establishments raised the concentration of land to 47.5%, while small farmers, whose properties have up to 10 hectares of land and represent half of the country’s farms, occupied only 2, 2% of the productive territory.

Such inequality in land distribution – in addition to emphasizing the urgency of a Land Reform – generates violence: land conflicts killed 2,262 people between 1964 and 2010 in Brazil. In 2017 alone, there were 70 murders, according to data from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT). And try to guess who dies in these conflicts? Always the little ones: Brazil is at the top of the list of countries where the most defenders of the rights of peoples are killed.

And it is exactly these small farmers, persecuted for defending their territories, that produce more than 70% of the food that reaches the Brazilians family tables, since large monocultures export most of their production. However, Bolsonaro’s government chooses to privilege the interests of ruralists, intensifying attacks on native peoples and trying to legalize land grabbing with PL 2633 (Law Project, in English), the notorious PL of Land Grabbing.

(All of this information is contained in Resolution No. 10 of the National Human Rights Council, of October 17, 2018 – in Portuguese)

Return to the central page “What really happens in the Amazon Forest

Also read parts 2, 3 and 4 of the introduction:
Who is favored by Bolsonaro’s responses to fires?
The “win-win” of companies with the financialization of nature
But after all, who is behind these crimes?

And the stories:
The siege explained on a map
A port stuck in the “mouth” of the river
Before the port arrives (if it does), the impacts are already here
Health clinic and quilombola school: the struggle changes life
Curuaúna: on one side, soy. On the other? Soy also
A face printed on a T-shirt
– [you’re here] The motorcycle night
If well organized, everyone fights

If well organized, everyone fights

It was a long journey: from Santarém to Alenquer it takes two hours by ferry and another three or four hours by car, part of it off-road. So Totó – a much silent man – and Mara – a talkative woman – took the opportunity to tell some of the stories they have witnessed in the past. He as the former president and today vice-president of the Union of Rural Workers and Family Farmers of Alenquer (STTR-ALQ); she as the current president of the organization. In all stories was highlighted the importance of the workers union for the conquest and guarantee of rights, from technical assistance services to the safety of rural workers.

This is the last part in the story “What really happens in the Amazon Forest”. Browse already published content:

Part 1 (central page): What really happens in the Amazon Forest
Part 2: Who is favored by Bolsonaro’s responses to the fires?
Part 3: The “win-win” of companies with the financialization of nature
Part 4: But after all, who is behind these crimes?

1) The siege explained on a map
2) A port stuck in the “mouth” of the river
3) Before the port arrives (if it does), the impacts already did
4) Health center and quilombola school: the struggle changes life
5) Curuaúna: on one side, soy. On the other? Soy also
6) A face printed on a T-shirt
7) The motorcycle night
8) [you are here] If well organized, everyone fights

Alenquer is a small city, just over 50 thousand inhabitants. And it is unstable: mayors don’t usually complete their mandates – it has become a tradition. That same day, while Totó and Mara would tell stories, the president of the City Council took over as mayor in yet another plot-twist of local politics. Years ago in the middle of the unstability, outraged by the absence of public investment in the region…

A pause: Totó, whose real name is João Gomes da Costa and is 47 years old, looks in the rearview mirror and sees a big white truck pass by. When already in front of the car, it starts to drive really slowly – and then it accelerates sharply and disappears on the horizon. Mara, short for Aldemara Ferreira de Jesus, 37 years old, takes a note: the car license plate is from Santarém.

…outraged by the absence of public investment in the region; and also with the delayed payment of teachers and health professionals; and with the poor condition of the roads; to make it short – it was a complete package of indignations: that’s when the people from Alenquer decided to block the main road to the city. That happened after the mayor had refused on several occasions to sit down and talk – he even expelled Totó and Mara from meetings – and took his disinterest to the point that the road had to be blocked by people.

A crowd of workers from different areas gathered on the road: there were rural workers, organized by the union, and also teachers and health workers, and street sweepers, and people from the church – everybody was there – and then the mayor and his secretaries and judges appeared quickly and a meeting was arranged at the City Council later that day. It was agreed that only 50 representatives of civil society could enter and present their demands. Ok, not a problem.

Mara, president of the Rural Workers Union in Alenquer, in the state of Pará. Photo: Carol Ferraz / Amigos da Terra Brasil
Totó, former president of the union and nowadays the vice-president. Photo: Carol Ferraz / Amigos da Terra Brasil

The police “tactic group” arrived first at the City Council – an exaggeration and it was a great embarrassment when even the nuns and the priests were searched to enter the meeting room. Then people spoke – and immediately afterwards without any response or a slight indication that he paid attention the mayor left.

Mara and Totó had no choice but to go out to the front of the City Council to tell what had happened in the building. To their surprise there was a mass of people waiting for the result of the conversation – over a thousand people who obviously were not happy with the news: it started raining eggs and tomatoes on police shields and helmets. From a corner, a desperate cry was heard – Totó, control the people, to which he, Totó, thought – How? but he replied – If there’s anyone to blame here it’s you, you promised to talk and didn’t talk, and the eggs and tomatoes kept flying and exploding in the building walls and on shields, the crowd getting more and more inflamed – and then the mayor and the secretaries reappeared and this time everyone was very willing to listen. Finally agreements were made and commitments signed. Mara laughs now – If the workers understood the strength they have when united… They would never be taken for granted.

Persecution and threats
– Taking the poor people side has a consequence, says Totó, and he knows that quite well. He worries about the threats he receives, he worries about him and his daughter and son, and it took him a few seconds to say – Yes, I’m afraid, we lose our freedom. I think about mine and my children’s schedules, I keep an eye out for anything that is different, everyday I think about how it will be when I get home, if there is an ambush or not. But he sleeps peacefully, he guarantees – We have a clear conscience, although always attentive and concerned.

Concern that Mara shares, along with embarrassments such as when her daughter asks – Mom, what are they talking about you on Facebook?, and there are things that are complicated to explain to children, it’s complex and it’s exhausting and it’s serious: it is serious because sometimes the threats come from the State itself, represented in the men in uniform who should give protection to everyone. Totó reports receiving calls from police officers saying – We are with that farmer, in the intention of intimidating him. The message is very clear and Mara and Totó feels unprotected – Where you would find some protection, you have none, he complains and then prays, trusts in God: and for some of us, in face of a negligent State, only divine protection can be trusted – most useful when added to the union and strength of the workers.

This was the last part in the story “What really happens in the Amazon Forest”. Browse all published content:

Part 1 (central page): What really happens in the Amazon Forest
Part 2: Who is favored by Bolsonaro’s responses to the fires?
Part 3: The “win-win” of companies with the financialization of nature
Part 4: But after all, who is behind these crimes?

1) The siege explained on a map
2) A port stuck in the “mouth” of the river
3) Before the port arrives (if it does), the impacts are already there
4) Health center and quilombola school: the struggle changes life
5) Curuaúna: on one side, soy. On the other? Soy also
6) A face printed on a T-shirt
7) The motorcycle night
8) [you are here] If well organized, everyone fights

Quem é favorecido com as respostas de Bolsonaro às queimadas?

Adiantamos, já de início: somente o mercado, os grileiros, o agronegócio. E o PL 2633 (antiga MP 910, a famigerada MP da Grilagem), é a maior evidência disso. E bem… Ricardo Salles, ministro do Meio Ambiente, também deixou isso bem claro quando disse que a pandemia do coronavírus é uma grande oportunidade para desmantelar a regulamentação ambiental já que todo mundo está olhando para outro lado.

Frente à urgência e à crescente preocupação da comunidade internacional em relação às queimadas de 2019, a gestão Bolsonaro reagiu com saídas voltadas a interesses financeiros, que de forma alguma abrangem os problemas enfrentados pelos povos da Amazônia. Ao contrário, os colocam em risco ao privilegiar políticas favoráveis aos ruralistas e ao fortalecer medidas de financeirização da natureza. Avançaram no Congresso Nacional projetos que fortalecem medidas como o PSA (Pagamento por Serviços Ambientais), ao mesmo tempo que o governo aproveitou para avançar na proposta de anistia a grileiros de terra, expressa no PL 2633 – incentivando exatamente a prática que está por trás do aumento das queimadas.

Mesmo em meio à pandemia do coronavírus, o PL 2633 pode ser votada a qualquer momento no Congresso Nacional; se aprovado, facilitará ainda mais a ação de invasores de terras públicas. Para o Grupo Carta de Belém, ” […] a legislação permite liquidação das terras e patrimônio público a preço de banana em favor de médios e grandes grileiros” – lembrando ainda que, enquanto isso, “a reforma agrária e a titulação de territórios coletivos seguem paralisadas”.

Essa é a parte 2 da introdução da reportagem “A história do cerco à Amazônia”. Navegue pelo conteúdo voltando à página central ou clicando nos links abaixo:

Parte 1 (página central): A história do cerco à Amazônia
Parte 2: [você está aqui] Quem é favorecido com as respostas de Bolsonaro às queimadas?
Parte 3: O “ganha-ganha” das empresas com a financeirização da natureza
Parte 4: Mas afinal, quem está por trás desses crimes?

E veja também: O cerco explicado em um mapa

Para além da ameaça da grilagem de terras, surgem no horizonte como suposta solução aos problemas climáticos as medidas de “pagamento por serviços ambientais”. Em suma, são uma maneira de monetizar a relação com a natureza; a depender dos fluxos financeiros, pode ser interessante preservá-la em pé ou não. Tais medidas não enfrentam as questões estruturais da problemática do clima e muito menos protegem os povos e seus territórios: ao contrário, deixa-os à mercê das grandes indústrias poluidoras, que invadem a Amazônia para “compensar” suas violações de direitos em outros lugares e a poluição inerente a suas atividades. As comunidades perdem a autonomia sobre seus próprios territórios, transformados em ativos em bolsas de valores e em “fazendas de captura de carbono”, o que leva à criminalização de práticas e culturas ancestrais.

O documentário “Mercado verde: a financeirização da natureza” explica e denuncia as falsas soluções que o capitalismo propõe para os males que ele próprio causa.

A terra, assim, atende somente aos humores do Mercado. A ele que Bolsonaro e o ministro do Meio Ambiente, Ricardo Salles, respondem, em detrimento da agro-socio-bio-diversidade amazônica. E vejam como não é acaso a escolha das palavras: o atual governo pensa a Amazônia sob o prisma da “bioeconomia”, ou seja, com o viés da exploração dos bens comuns em nome do lucro de poucos. É explícito: para eles, a Amazônia precisa de “soluções capitalistas”. Em outras palavras: devastação, exploração, privatização.

Voltar para a página central

Continue lendo a introdução:
parte 3: O “ganha-ganha” das empresas com a financeirização da natureza
parte 4: Mas afinal, quem está por trás desses crimes?

Lá onde o sol se põe mais longe: o Pampa resiste ao Projeto Fosfato, da empresa Águia Fertilizantes

Planejado entre Lavras do Sul e Dom Pedrito, projeto prevê construção de barragem duas vezes maior que a de Brumadinho (MG). Em caso de ruptura, rejeitos atingiriam Rosário do Sul, inclusive a Praia de Areias Brancas, e poderiam chegar até mesmo ao Uruguai.

Desinformação e perseguição: assim age a Águia Fertilizantes a respeito do seu Projeto Fosfato, que pretende instalar na região das Três Estradas, entre os municípios de Lavras do Sul e Dom Pedrito, na fronteira oeste do Rio Grande do Sul. Em conversas com moradores e pecuaristas da região, muito pouco se sabe sobre os reais impactos da mineração e a dimensão do projeto que, a título de exemplo, prevê a construção de uma barragem de rejeitos duas vezes maior que a de Brumadinho, em Minas Gerais – perto de completar um ano, o crime da Vale matou mais de 300 pessoas. Em 2015, outra barragem já havia rompido, em Mariana (MG), também deixando para trás um rastro de morte e destruição. Em ambos os casos, as mineradoras seguem impunes, enquanto cabe à população atingida pagar o preço pelos crimes ambientais das empresas.

No primeiro vídeo, imagens do rompimento da barragem em Brumadinho; no segundo, pecuarista da região de Três Estradas/Lavras do Sul mostra onde seria instalada a barragem de rejeitos do Projeto Fosfato/Águia.

Pecuária familiar e cultura do Pampa: modos de vida em risco
A região das Três Estradas é ocupada especialmente pela pecuária familiar – dezenas de famílias seriam diretamente atingidas pela instalação da mina. No rastro dos impactos estão ainda toda a população de Dom Pedrito e Rosário do Sul, municípios abaixo da barragem e que, com a implementação do projeto, passariam a viver em permanente estado de alerta. O fluxo do rio Santa Maria que arrastaria os rejeitos até Rosário: no caso de Brumadinho, a lama se espalhou por 270 quilômetros; Rosário está a 220 quilômetros de onde se pretende construir a barragem com o dobro da capacidade da que estourou em janeiro desse ano em Minas Gerais.

Ao atingir a pecuária familiar, a mineração ataca também o modo de vida pampeano, tradicional marca gaúcha: o vasto horizonte dos campos e coxilhas, hoje habitado por cavalos, ovelhas e gentes, seria esburacado por cavas e explosões constantes e, onde hoje se perde o olhar na distância, subiriam pilhas de rejeitos de minérios e poluição. Ar, água, terra: a contaminação impediria qualquer forma de vida na região, gerando uma nova onda de êxodo rural, miséria e desemprego.

No vídeo acima, pecuarista da região fala sobre as ilusões de emprego e riqueza criadas pelas empresas, e como isso não passa de enganação.

Iludidas pelas falsas promessas da Águia, algumas famílias de Lavras do Sul declaram-se favoráveis ao projeto; as enganações, porém, esbarram na realidade – as primeiras desapropriações, por exemplo, ocorreram a preços bem abaixo do esperado: foi o caso de desapropriações relacionadas à construção da barragem de irrigação, quando o valor oferecido pela empresa foi três vezes mais baixo do que o valor avaliado pela terra.

E quem se opõe ao empreendimento sofre com perseguições: lideranças locais, alertas em relação aos prejuízos à vida e à agrobiodiversidade provenientes da mineração, após manifestarem-se contrárias, passaram a ser perseguidas judicialmente pela empresa. Hoje, três famílias enfrentam processos infundados por defenderem seus territórios. A violência repetiu-se em audiência pública, quando quem falava em defesa do Pampa e da vida (ou seja, contra o megaprojeto de mineração) era ameaçado de agressões e proibido de se manifestar.

Águia? Quem está por trás dos ataques aos territórios
A Águia Fertilizantes está ligada ao grupo Forbes & Manhattan, do qual faz parte, entre outros, a Golder Associates, contratada pela Samarco (BHP Billiton e Vale) após o rompimento da barragem em Mariana (MG), e depois substituída pela Fundação Renova; e também Belo Sun e Potássio, que tiveram o licenciamento ambiental suspenso devido à ausência de consulta prévia, livre e informada junto às comunidades tradicionais, além de denúncias de compra ilegal de terras públicas e de falta de transparência. Ação Civil Pública movida pelo MPF (Ministério Público Federal) menciona que a empresa Potássio revela “um modus operandi inconcebível dentro dos parâmetros da boa-fé” (trecho com informações da FLD).

Sede da Águia Fertilizantes no centro de Lavras do Sul

O fosfato serve especialmente na produção de fertilizantes para o agronegócio, ou seja: o foco está na exportação de commodities e não na produção de alimentos ou geração de riqueza para as famílias da região. Isso fica claro no percurso do fosfato extraído: ele será tratado e transformado em fertilizante em Rio Grande, próximo ao porto e a caminho do exterior. Não haverá benefício para os produtores locais, e sobre isso vale lembrar de outras promessas já feitas e não cumpridas: os monocultivos de eucalipto que surgiram na região na última década não geraram emprego algum, embora as empresas garantissem a criação de vagas. Os eucaliptos dali alimentam a fábrica da CMPC em Guaíba, criando, assim como o fosfato que vai a Rio Grande, um elo entre diferentes violações de direitos e ataques a territórios. Com a chegada da mineração, os problemas ficam, os lucros vão.

Megamineração: após destruir Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul é o novo alvo
Hoje, o Rio Grande do Sul surge como a nova fronteira minerária do Brasil: são mais de 5 mil requerimentos para pesquisa mineral em solo gaúcho. Caso avancem – e contam com todo o apoio dos governos liberais para tanto, vide a tentativa de desmonte do Código Ambiental por parte do governador do RS, Eduardo Leite (PSDB) -, o Estado se tornaria o terceiro maior minerador do país, mudando drasticamente sua vocação. O benefício, como prova o histórico da mineração no Brasil e no mundo, seria para poucos: o capital internacional, verdadeiro investidor por trás das mineradoras, ganha com as políticas extrativistas e neocoloniais dos governos liberais e privatizadores; perdem os povos, que veem atacados seus territórios, seus modos de vida e suas culturas – e ainda pagam a conta quando ocorrem os crimes que alguns insistem em chamar de “acidentes”.

Resistências e vitórias contra as mineradoras
Como uma das formas de resistência, formou-se o Comitê de Combate à Megamineração no Rio Grande do Sul, iniciativa em defesa da vida que une mais de 120 entidades – desde grupos ambientalistas e centrais sindicais até universidades e associações de trabalhadores dos mais variados campos – e opõe-se ao modelo extrativista neocolonial da megamineração. E a organização social já traz resultados: por meio de análises técnicas e difusão de informações confiáveis, contrapõe os estudos de impactos ambientais elaborados pelas próprias empresas, pressionando as instituições estatais de fiscalização e proteção dos cidadãos, como Fepam e ministérios públicos Estadual e Federal, a confrontar os ataques aos territórios e garantir os direitos das populações atingidas.

É a segurança hídrica e a soberania alimentar de milhões de pessoas, as diversas culturas que compõem o Rio Grande do Sul e o Pampa, a agrobiodiversidade de um bioma que é único no mundo que está em jogo: a luta é pelo futuro. Por isso, o debate deve ser ampliado à população de todo o estado, envolvendo, no caso do Projeto Fosfato, os habitantes de Dom Pedrito e Rosário do Sul, também diretamente atingidos pelo empreendimento. Queremos aprofundar as discussões; a Águia parece fugir ao debate – por isso, joga com desinformações e tenta silenciar seus opositores.

E não será essa a primeira vez que a resistência e a luta contra a mineração de fosfato se fortalece e alcança a vitória. Um exemplo bem próximo está no pequeno município catarinense de Anitápolis. Confere essa história aqui.

E abaixo mais fotos da visita que fizemos à região das Três Estradas e Lavras do Sul, junto com o MAM (Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração), a AMA Guaíba e o Coletivo Catarse:

Pôr do sol no Pampa: espetáculo posto em risco pela ameaça da mineração. Região de Lavras do Sul é uma das mais preservadas do Pampa gaúcho. Foto: AMA Guaíba
Pôr do sol no Pampa: espetáculo posto em risco pela ameaça da mineração. Região de Lavras do Sul é uma das mais preservadas do Pampa gaúcho [2] Foto: AMA Guaíba
Cenários do Pampa. Foto: Luna Carvalho
Pecuário familiar, prática tradicional e principal fomento da economia local, também está em risco. Foto: Luna Carvalho
Conversa com pecuaristas da região revelou os ataques da mineração. Foto: Amigos da Terra Brasil
Foto: Amigos da Terra Brasil
Região onde Águia pretende instalar barragem de rejeitos duas vezes maior que a de Brumadinho (MG). Foto: Amigos da Terra Brasil

Autonomia energética na retomada Mbya Guarani da Ponta do Arado

Instalação de placas solares é fruto da campanha de arrecadação em favor das famílias da retomada. Após ataques, iluminação representa também maior segurança para os indígenas.


Na sexta-feira passada (8/11), foi instalado na retomada Mbya Guarani da Ponta do Arado, zona sul de Porto Alegre (RS), um novo sistema de iluminação e energia, com fonte em placas solares. Estivemos lá junto ao Econsciência e ao LAE-UFRGS (Laboratório de Arqueologia e Etnologia); o trabalho resulta da campanha de arrecadação em prol das famílias indígenas, realizada nos últimos meses e que contou com uma ampla rede de apoiadores. Uma placa já havia sido instalada; agora, o potencial energético foi ampliado, com uma nova placa de maior capacidade.

Com cerca de um ano e meio de retomada de suas terras ancestrais, o grupo já foi alvo de ataques por parte da Arado Empreendimentos, que pretende construir ali condomínios e hotéis de luxo. Os indígenas hoje estão cercados por grades e são vigiados 24 horas por agentes da empresa, em permanente ameaça. O acesso por terra à retomada, mesmo após decisão judicial favorável, segue impedido; por isso, chega-se ao local apenas por barco. Em dias de chuva e de águas agitadas, as famílias ficam ilhadas.

Portanto, a autonomia energética do grupo, com iluminação e tomadas para recarregarem os celulares, serve também para a segurança das famílias e o fortalecimento da defesa do território. Abaixo, veja fotos do dia da instalação e vídeos que aprofundam a situação da retomada da Ponta do Arado:

Nota de repúdio ao desmonte ambiental no Estado do Rio Grande do Sul

Em audiência pública realizada na noite do ontem (21/10) na Assembleia Legislativa do RS, ficou evidente a contrariedade do povo gaúcho em relação ao projeto de lei que visa destruir o Código Ambiental do Estado, flexibilizando-o ao agrado do capital internacional e das grandes empresas mineradoras e do agronegócio. A proposta ataca diretamente pequenas e pequenos agricultores, a agroecologia e a soberania dos povos sobre seus territórios. Sem retirar o regime de urgência imposto por Eduardo Leite (PSDB), deputadas e deputados teriam que votar a matéria até o dia 5/11, sem nenhum tempo para debates e para a participação popular. Abaixo, confira o posicionamento da Amigos da Terra Brasil:

O Núcleo Amigos da Terra Brasil vem tornar público seu repúdio ao Projeto de Lei (PL) 431/2019, de autoria do governo de Eduardo Leite (PSDB), que visa instituir, de maneira sumária e autoritária, um novo Código Estadual de Meio Ambiental, em substituição ao atual código, expresso na Lei 11.520/2000. Exigimos a retirada total do PL 431/2019, pois entendemos que esse projeto visa enfraquecer a legislação ambiental gaúcha e inviabilizar a proteção ao nosso ambiente natural, em um evidente ataque à diversidade dos povos e culturas do RS, na contramão das necessidades atuais da sociedade gaúcha e do próprio planeta Terra. Um código ambiental, por tratar de tema tão complexo e abrangente, não pode ser construído de forma apressada e sigilosa: nesse sentido, exigimos, também, a ampla participação democrática​, popular e cidadã de todos os setores da sociedade gaúcha, desde as organizações que compõem o Movimento Ecológico Gaúcho (MEG), passando por universidades, instituições de pesquisa ambiental e técnicos ambientais do Estado, até o corpo político, a imprensa, os cidadãos e os setores produtivos da economia. Clamamos, ainda, que o Estado cumpra o papel de tutor do meio ambiente atribuído pela Constituição Federal de 1988 e, nesta rodada democrática de construção de um novo Código Ambiental, assuma como premissas basilares os princípios da prevenção, da precaução, do não-retrocesso e da progressividade em termos de direitos (socio)ambientais.

Cabe ressaltar que vivemos um momento derradeiro para enfrentamento da crise climática que assola o planeta. Essa emergência se faz sentir nos cinco anos mais quentes da Terra seguidos e no mês de julho mais quente da história, nos 17 milhões de refugiados climáticos em 2018 e na perda acelerada de biodiversidade em escala global. Os desafios para manter a temperatura global “apenas” 1,5ºC acima da média global – que foram, inclusive, evocados pelo governo de Eduardo Leite na justificativa do PL 431, de maneira habilmente retórica e praticamente mentirosa – se agigantam na medida em que as causas não são severamente enfrentadas, especialmente pelos Estados, que dispõem de meios administrativos, jurídicos e técnicos para tanto. E, nesse ponto específico, o PL 431 é totalmente omisso: não há qualquer referência no texto do projeto às mudanças climáticas, de maneira geral, ou mesmo à Política Gaúcha sobre Mudanças Climáticas, instituída pela Lei 13.594/2010.

Como se não bastasse a omissão do governo, o projeto de lei flexibiliza controles e regras ambientais e abre caminho para a entrega, de maneira criminosa, dos bens comuns para as grandes corporações, que são o cerne do sistema que causa a emergência climática que vivemos hoje. Isso pode ser verificado pelas proposições, tecnicamente infundadas e injustificadas, de permissão de exploração de unidades de conservação pela iniciativa privada, na praticamente extinção do gerenciamento costeiro, na diminuição da proteção de áreas ambientalmente significativas do estado, como as dunas frontais de nosso litoral e os banhados, a criação de mecanismos de incentivos para “bons empreendedores”, conhecida como a responsabilidade social corporativa, pagamento por serviços ambientais e incentivo às falsas soluções do capitalismo verde, a dispensa de autorização prévia dos órgãos ambientais para programas de iniciativa do Estado – e que serão executados pela iniciativa privada por meio de privatizações ou PPPs, como o Polo Carboquímico do Rio Grande do Sul –, a redução das áreas especiais de proteção ambiental ao redor de unidades de conservação e, sobretudo, as alterações no Código Florestal Estadual para permissão de corte de espécie hoje imunes – e que, por isso, barram a realização de empreendimentos de grande porte – e as mudanças no processo de licenciamento ambiental, como a instituição de Licença Única (LU) e a Licença por Adesão e Compromisso (LAC) – esta última configurando-se em um verdadeiro autolicenciamento pelas empresas –, ​além de uma série de outras medidas que não se puderam averiguar com a atenção necessária por conta do regime de urgência com que tramita o processo na Assembleia Legislativa.

Se nós perdemos, quem ganha com as mudanças?
É importante salientar que essas alterações têm alguns destinatários bastante visíveis. O setor de mineração – que tem hoje por expoente quatro megaprojetos que ameaçam a sociobiodiversidade gaúcha (Mina Guaíba/Copelmi; Lavras do Sul/Águia; Caçapava do Sul/Nexa-Votorantim; São José do Norte/Rio Grande), mas que avança com 5.192 requerimentos para pesquisa mineral por todo o estado –, o setor de infraestrutura – que tenta construir um porto privado nas proximidades de Torres, em meio a áreas indígenas, em solo, e em rota de migração de inúmeros animais marinhos, como as baleias – e o agronegócio são especialmente beneficiados pelas mudanças propostas. Seja pelas mudanças no licenciamento ambiental, seja pelo aumento do poder discricionário do órgão político nas decisões ambientais, seja ainda por retirar entraves à implementação de projetos e beneficiar infratores e criminosos ambientais, quem realmente vai ganhar com esse código, se aprovado, são as grandes multinacionais das commodities e da infraestrutura, às custas das populações humanas e não humanas que habitam esses territórios e que verão suas vidas frontalmente ameaçadas pela necessidade de lucros altos e rápidos.

O estado do Rio Grande do Sul, que uma vez foi pioneiro na criação de mecanismos de proteção ambiental, com ampla participação democrática e respeito aos critérios técnicos provenientes da prática e da pesquisa, hoje se vê na vanguarda do atraso ao insistir na reprimarização da economia, ao apostar em uma matriz energética suja e ineficiente e em restringir a conservação ambiental no estado. A postura reativa adotada no novo código proposto, de responder somente após o surgimento dos problemas, em vez de preveni-los, acabará por combalir ainda mais o meio ambiente já fragilizado do estado – trazendo consequências negativas da saúde da população até mesmo à economia gaúcha. Se hoje se verifica um tímido aumento na cobertura nativa do estado, especialmente em região de Mata Atlântica, é decorrência direta do atual Código Estadual de Meio Ambiente, bem como do esforço de milhares de pessoas​, diversas organizações e movimentos sociais que lutam todos os dias pela conservação da natureza em nosso estado. Da forma como foi proposto, o novo código ameaça diretamente esses pequenos avanços, colocando em risco concreto a atual e as futuras gerações de humanos, sem mencionar as incontáveis populações de espécies da fauna e flora, além da própria fisionomia do Rio Grande do Sul. Fica ainda uma questão a ser respondida pelo governador Eduardo Leite: se o Estado não tem condições de garantir os prazos de licenciamento por falta de recursos, financeiros e humanos, para exercer a fiscalização, como pode ser lógico, racional ou “moderno” apostar todas as fichas na fiscalização posterior dos empreendimentos?

Pela soberania dos povos sobre seus territórios!
Enfatizamos que há alternativas reais para conservar o meio ambiente garantindo dignidade e soberania para os povos. Investir na agroecologia para a Soberania Alimentar e nas energias renováveis descentralizadas para Soberania Energética; ampliar a cobertura vegetal nativa do Estado, por meio da conservação e restauração ambiental, para estabilizar o clima e recuperar a biodiversidade​, respeitando os modos de vida tradicional dos povos; retirar incentivos fiscais para poluidores ambientais e cobrar as multas e responsabilizar efetivamente os criminosos ambientais pela recuperação dos danos promovidos; recuperar e ampliar o quadro técnico dos órgãos ambientais do Estado. Todas essas são ações que, em médio e longo prazo, trarão retornos significativos em termos de qualidade de vida, saúde e mesmo desenvolvimento econômico para o Estado. É preciso, contudo, ter visão estratégica e debater com todos os setores envolvidos, com participação popular para construirmos uma sociedade com o meio ambiente equilibrado e saudável. E pra isso se necessita tempo. Retire esse PL destrutivo, retire o regime de urgência de sua tramitação e DIALOGA, EDUARDO LEITE!

Abaixo, algumas imagens de ontem, na audiência “pública” (participação limitada com a distribuição de senhas):

Fotos: Amigos da Terra Brasil / Heitor Jardim (mais aqui:

[EN] The win-win situation hidden behind the Amazonia fires – part 2

How much are preservation and “green” capitalism false solutions worth?

Tree burned by the fire alongside BR-367, between Rio Branco and Bujari. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Have you read the first part of the story? Here: The win win

As if these direct strikes against the forest and the Peoples living there were not damaging enough, it is also important to be aware of the initiatives that present themselves as “environmental” solutions in the Amazonia. It may be that they are actually more an expression of capitalism and forestry profiteering. According to a member from the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) and a researcher specialised in the financialisation of Nature, Lindomar Padilha, the fire that glows in the Amazonia constitutes a win-win logic for those who are land speculators. For Lindomar, when starting the fire, if the agribusiness agents are unable to implement the cattle raising and later soybean plantations and other commodities, they still have another possibility to make money, including through international funding, which is the discourse of environmental compensation to reforest that which they, themselves, have destroyed. And with this scheme of winning at all costs is the logic of financial capitalism. Specifically when we are talking about carbon credits and the carbon market, highlights Lindomar. He explains, “The markets linked to the Green Economy, at the heart of it all, work as a type of commodity, called ‘credits’, ‘carbon credits’. As in the case of any type of merchandise, when there is a lot, it is cheap. When it is scarce, the price climbs”. Due to this concept, it is necessary to pressure the territories, and that is where fire starts to play a role. “When the jungle burns, the market linked to the REDD+, that of the ‘carbon credits’ ‘says we are selling, we need to make more of a market for compensation, more of a REDD+ market to compensate for the threats that we see in the Amazonia”. So the fires result in an overvaluation of these credits, or shall we say the right to pollute”.

To begin to understand, REDD+ is a set of economic incentives for those who avoid greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation or forestry degradation. Broadly speaking, corporations that pollute in excess purchase REDD+ carbon credit from communities or institutions that take care of standing forests. These forests, theoretically speaking, capture carbon from the atmosphere and, supposedly, compensate the pollution caused by the polluter.

Sign found at the Chico Mendes Extractivist Reserve, Xapuri, locality of intense sustainable forestry management. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

REDD is another capitalist mechanism to appropriate and speculate upon the forest. In the Friends of the Earth publication: “REDD+, the Carbon Market and Cooperation California-Acre-Chiapas: legalising dispossession”, we describe the Acre case, which applies REDD+ through the Acre State’s Incentive System and Environmental Services (SISA), and the varied problems that the communities that have implemented the program have experienced and continue to experience. Not only is it a false environmental solution, as it does not provoke an alteration in the modes of production of the companies and countries that pollute. It also transfers to the South the responsibility to compensate for pollution caused by the North. In June 2018, Indigenous Peoples and communities that live in and work the forest came together in Sena Madureira, Acre to denounce these false solutions proposed by Green Capitalism in response to environmental and climatic depredations. You can read the declaration resulting from this encounter, here.

As one of the principal examples of how prejudicial for the communities and the territories is REDD and the carbon credit system, Lindomar highlights the complete loss of tutelage over the territory. To explain this, he compares it to what happens in the real estate market. Through his perspective, the Acre Government is offering the preservation areas as a guarantee for those who will honor the commitments made by the Californian corporations or the German public bank, KFW, owners of the credit in the region. “The State government mortgages the Amazonia forest in the Acre territory. This is a drastic step because you are blocking the process of agrarian regularization, especially for the traditional communities, such as Indigenous Peoples and Extraction reserves. It is as though we are going to say that to demarcate an indigenous territory, we need California and KFW’s authorisation. The market is voracious and there are various, gigantic international entities that are participating in the process of mortgaging off the Acre territories. And without a single explanation to the communities: ‘Look here my good friend, when you accept these REDD and REM mechanisms, you are mortgaging off your life, your own home and your land’. They are going take away your home from underneath you, all we need is a crisis in the financial market and with that they will take away your land, you can be sure”.

And to top it all off, the Federal Chamber of Deputies just approved a project to benefit ‘ruralists’ who “preserve” the primary forest, as a Payment for Environmental Service (PSA). Now does this sound interesting? Well the Apurinãs, the rubber tappers and the quilombolas who have always preserved the forest forever and all they are requesting is just the right to the consolidated land, without being invaded. Where is their valorisation? This proposed decree, made by a ‘ruralist’ deputy, would provide that rural producers will receive financial compensation for preserving primary vegetation. This could boost the number of invasions upon land that still has standing forests.

And it does not stop there, this payment system for environmental services could be paid to those who plant eucalyptus mono-cultures, with the argument that they are reforesting. Sadly, eucalyptus as a possibility for reforestation is still being discussed in the UN. “The mono-culture does not fit within the concept of an ecosystem because an ecosystem responds to a group of elements that are interrelated. So it is a deceptive idea to adopt a discourse regarding a forest where no forest exits. A forest blooms, flowers, flourishes and generates life. Mono-cultures do not generate life”, sustains Lindomar.

To better understand this issue, we continue our trip to the Chico Mendes Extractivist Reserve, in Xapuri, Acre. We went to listen to Dercy Teles, a rubber tapper and retired unionist, an amazing expert on forests and the struggles of these communities. For Dercy, the debate regarding whether the mono-cultures could substitute the forest is not only a lack of knowledge but truly disrespectful of those who live in the forest. “I challenge the human being who has the ability to create a forest equal to that which Nature created. The forest is not one specie, nor two nor three. It is thousands of species, including those invisible beings that contribute to the continuation of this forest”.

The Chico Mendes Reserve is one of the principal sources of timber from sustainably managed forests. We asked Dercy about this governmental service and illegal deforestation in the indigenous territory of the Apurinãs. This proposal will have an immeasurable impact. “there are people who live solely from selling clandestine lumber. They do not stop even at the weekend or holidays. The cattle trucks enter and load what people call the ‘fell bulls’, which refers to the logs”. For her, this proposal is a governmental policy of deforestation.

Grass burned on alongside BR-367. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

And the wrath of ‘ruralists’ does not stop there: there are ranchers and mega-business individuals who are strongly lobbying for soybean, rice and African palm plantations to be considered apt for recognition for PSA linked to the REDD due to their ‘carbon capture’. The argument is that technology such as direct planting, crop rotation and precise farming emit less carbon than other forms of cultivation. In this manner, the ranchers are signing up to sell carbon credits. Lindomar views this ploy with disgust.
“It is ridiculous. It is a criminal discourse because we know that what behind it all is acquisition purely and exclusively for profit. They make money destroying the forest, then they make money saying that we will contribute by planting soybeans, eucalyptus and African palm tree. They are committing a double crime, by destroying the forest and then lying that a mono-culture could replace the forest”. FAO legitimises their argument because according to Lindomar it could be because they do not have ability to differentiate between mono-culture and a forest, or the failure to recognise the necessity of multiple interactions or because it is not interested in this issue. “Our debate is another one, it is life, we are going to eat what Nature can provide us with the most limited impact possible. Brazil is the leader in soybean production. And when all this is calculated in scientific studies, we are increasing the food production in the world. But what importance does this actually have? Genetically altered food with toxic pesticides of all types. This goes against life, it is poison that we are eating. And we need to understand this. In reality we are precluding food production and planting venom. I want to believe that the FAO case is not a case of cruelty, pure and simple; it is so simple to see how mono-cultures are contrary to life itself. Being an erred understanding, it may change its opinion because those who think, can change their ideas. I hope that the FAO changes its opinion and stops classifying mono-cultures as having an environmental impact similar to a forest.

Lindomar and Dercy have demonstrated how vital it is for us to be aware of those proposals that arrive as saviours of the Amazonia forest. They are clear as they emphasise the funding support. Who do they benefit? How are they distributed? Who is it that promotes the discourse and generates the preservation resources for the Amazonia? Probably it could be considered another step in forestry speculation and strategies to land grab the territory. Strategies for maintaining the forest do not historically come from those who exploit it. To save the forest, we need to stop those that destroy it, namely agribusiness, mining and illegal logging agents. We need to avoid that it is “mortgaged” by the financial market, masked as the Green Economy. It is necessary to defend the territories and strengthen indigenous territories and traditional communities, who are the Peoples that have lived in harmony with the forest for generations.

Pajé Isaka Huni Kuin’s family. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

For the Paje Isaka Huni Kuin, the path to save the forest is through friendship. Which is understood as a request of respect for his People. “We are neighbors, we come from the same creator. I live here not to invade anybody else. I want to live also, just as they do…all straight up. I can work on what is mine, but what is not mine is not mine”.

Dercy embraces a rubber tree, which has been a source of sustenance for her and many families in Acre. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Dercy states that for the preservation process of the Amazonia to work it is indispensable that communities are strengthened. “The knowledge that we have is centuries-old”. For this rubber tapper, Amazonia is not just Peru’s or Bolivia’s or Brazil’s, it belongs to humanity. “As a result, it is all of our responsibility to be focused on what happens here”.

In the subterranean amidst discussions between the presidents and giant corporations, running parallel to the fake capitalistic environmental solutions, indigenous peoples, extractivists, farmers, riverside communities and quilombolas are resisting with their bodies, their spirituality and their culture against the devastation of Nature. Our responsibility is to directly strengthen these people, with respect and by focusing on their protagonism. We should contribute to the consolidation and the defense of their territories. It definitely is not through the proposals and initiatives from those who pollute and profit from the devastation of the world’s South that the forest will be saved. But yes with respect of their culture and the right to land and to life, for those who have for generations lived in harmony with the forest.

Buni Huni Kuin wraps a tambaqui (fresh water fish) with banana leaves. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Eart Brazil

In this process, international solidarity is fundamental. For Lindomar, there is no struggle in Amazonia without solidarity. The focus on solidarity is liberation, afforestation, a blossoming, it is promoting a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multilingual Carnival. This idea of mono does not work, no, it has to be plural. Our Carnival needs to be plural, and it will only be this way through solidarity. We are what we are because others contributed so that we are what we are. Our fight here in Amazonia is totally dependent upon solidarity. Solidarity is the sustenance to the struggle”.

Kaxuqui and Antonio Jose play in the Retiro Stream. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Kaxuqui is the older Cacique. According to him, his name means “The rodent monkey who saved the Amazonia”. He tells us that when the forest burned, all the animals took refuge on top of one tree. Kaxuqui gnawed at the tree so that the fire could not climb up it. The sawdust from the trees and the ashes from the fire are a hostile place that dry the tears of Caciques Kaxuqui and Antonio Jose. They transform their desolation into rage and denouncement. They re-vindicate that others should contribute to their fight. For Cacique Apurinã Antonio Jose, as his last words, the indigenous people are Nature, they are the People that preserve the flora and fauna of the Amazonia. “What we want is to have our land legalised. We are going to stay here and resist, we will perpetually preserve. While we are still alive, we are going to fight for these lands. This is not just for the Apurinã People, for Indigenous Peoples. This forest is not only good to us, it is good for the entire community, for the world. We are Nature, we are the People who preserve the Amazonia, the fauna and flora of Brazil. We are here resisting! This is the message that we want to give.”

See below more photos from the solidarity journey through Acre state:

[EN] The win-win situation hidden behind the Amazonia fires – part 1

How agribusiness and the financial markets profit from the devastation of the world’s largest tropical forest

Text and photos: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

With his feet upon the ashes where once the forest existed, the Pajé (Shaman) Isaka Huni Kuin expresses his profound sadness. “They do not know the medicine that exists inside the forest. They think it is useless, that it is only woods, but it is extremely valuable. From there, we get our hardwoods from which we construct our homes. When one of our children is sick, I know how to treat them, I know which medicine I have to look for. It is our pharmacy that is alive. If they finish off the forest, the wealth of knowledge that I have ceases with it; all of this fire makes me so very sad.”

Pajé Isaka lost his live pharmacy. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

On August 22 in a few hours, the flames blazed and burned the five hectares of forest, which corresponds to 50% of the total area of the Cultural Center of the Huwã Karu Yuxibu. Since October 2018, the Cacique Mapu family, Isaka’s son, has made this territory home for relatives that have come to the city to study and also a space to propagate the medicine of the Huni Kuin People, located 50kms from the center of Rio Branco city, capital of Acre State.

The Pajé Isaka, 80 years old, was eating lunch with his family when his wife heard the crack of the leaves burning. They started running with their machetes to try to impede the fire´s onrush upon the forest, but they were unsuccessful. With the arrival of the firefighters, they were able to save their homes. The orchards of papaya, banana, açai and other plants were consumed by the fire. The armadillos, turtles and monkeys were also affected.

They burnt the forest that was once the Huni Kuin’s pharmacy. Arson is suspected, an act that put at risk the life of Pajé Isaka and his family. For Isaka, it was an act of malice. About 250 kms from there, now in Amazonas State, in the Boca de Acre municipality, the Apurinã People´s forest also burned. On August 13, the Day of the Fire, 600 hectares of the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory were razed. In the Apurinãs´ territory, the fire is more than just malice, it is one of the many steps in a well-articulated process of land grabbing of federal lands. The Cacique Antonio Jose condemns this scheme that, in the Legal Amazonia, not only affects their territory but also impacts diverse indigenous Peoples and federal lands overall. Through a cycle of destruction and profit, the invaders deforest, sell the precious woods, set the rest of the forest on fire, fence it off, begin to raise cattle in the enclosed area, sell the meat and then finally plant soybeans, corn or rice. And if that were not enough, the agribusiness sector that profits from the international market still even has the opportunity to continue profiting with environmental campaigns where they purport to be “saving” the Amazonia.

On the Acre roads, it is common to see tractor trailers loaded with gigantic trunks of wood. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

The Apurinã Caciques’ fight against land grabbing and in favour of the demarcation of their territories
There were 45,256 fires detected by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in the Amazonia from January to August 2019. 20% of the fires took place in public forests that still have not been designated as having a specific category: national parks, reserves or indigenous territories, among them, Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory. On August 13, the Day of the Fire, as denounced by Cacique Antonio Jose, a group of land grabbers burned 600 hectares that have been claimed by the Apurinãs.

Cacique Antonio Jose opens the gate which offers access to the Val Paraiso Indigneous Territory. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

After we have passed through the fifth gate, we are finally near the entrance to the forest of the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory, on the banks of the Retiro Stream. The Cacique Kaxuqui gets off his motorcycle; he is Antonio Jose’s cousin and partner in the fight to regain their lands.

Antonio invites us to get out of the car because they would like to talk. On the one side of the fence is us and on the other innumerable heads of cattle, which cover the five lots that we have just crossed through. The Caciques explain to us what they see here. “They devastated our land, things that we have been preserving for the last 100 years, where our grandfather, our
great-grandfather and uncles were born,” decries Kaxuqui, 58 year-old.

Antonio Jose continues: I am 54 years old, and I have never left here. These people, those who claim to be the owner of this land where we are standing right now, they are not from here no, they are descendants of the Portuguese. And we who are indigenous, who have lived here forever, which we have proven, we are here without our right to the land”.

Cacique Kaxuqui and Antonio Jose denounce the land grabbing of
indigenous land (in Portuguese).

The Apurinãs have demanded the demarcation of the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory since 1991. The process is in the hands of FUNAI (National Indigenous Foundation). The Indigenous People has been waiting for years for the completion of the studies to identify and delimit the area, where 46 people, consisting of seven families, live. In the beginning of the process, the Apurinãs had lodged a claim for 57 thousand hectares. Even though the area was under judicial review, their lands were invaded, forests were felled, transformed into fields and eventually became cattle ranches. Recently, they decreased the demarcation request to only 26 thousand hectares in order to facilitate the process. “We made an agreement with the plantation owners. What are fields is theirs and what is forest is ours. However, they continue to invade and bore the forest”, declares Antonio Jose. Bore is the verb that the Apurinãs use to describe the action taken by those who raze the forest. “It is not for lack of information, we have everything documented. IBAMA (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), the Attorney General and the Legalize Land Agency are all aware that this here was claimed by us while there was still forest, when it was still intact. Only this forest exists now, that in front of us on the banks of the stream, because we have been trying to preserve it from 1991 until the present.

For Lindomar Dias, from the Indigenous Missionary Council, these articulations of invading territories have happened for a long time. In the case of the First Nations, since forever. “Effectively, Brazil was born, as a country, plundering and robbing territory from the First Nations. And it treats these peoples as though they were not native Peoples. They treat them as though they were foreigners, when in actuality they are the owners. They have acquired their right to possession not by purchasing the land but by living there, melding with it, merging with it.” For Dercy Teles, a traditional rubber tree tapper from the Xapuri municipality, whom we also listened to while traveling in Acre, the attacks are movements of extinction of populations that depend upon the forest. “For those who do not produce for capitalism’s development, there is no interest in their existence on this land,” she sustains.

Outraged, the Caciques point in the direction of each deforested or grabbed area. Antonio Jose names each individual who is responsible. “Joaquim felled 500 hectares for 2 thousand reals, and another 500 for another 2 thousand reals and sold them to Brana. This is on the other side of the Preto Stream, within the area we have legally demanded. All of this, they know is Indigenous Territory. And now the owner is Brana, some guy from Rio Branco city. Bezinho deforested 392 hectares of the Riachão plantation, alongside the Cruzeiro plantation, on the banks of Preto Stream, which is also part of our claim. Junior do Betão has already purchased it. We have all of this registered on our map”.

Blatantly illegal cattle livestock on federal lands

On the cattle pastures, the remains of trees denounce the prior fires. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

There are many names on the tip of his tongue, each one connected to another. Some are responsible for having entered and cut the trees. Other for land grabbing, enclosing them and filing some ‘documents’. When the “ripple” arrives, as Antonio Jose refers to the buzz to invade land, others come and buy them up. And then the place cattle on the land, it is the most common business in the region. According to IBGE (Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics), Boca do Acre has the second largest cattle herd in Amazonas State. It comes in second to its neighbor, Labrea. Together, the two have 510 thousand heads of cattle, 38% of the Amazonas’ cattle population. That is 6.4 heads per inhabitant.

This cattle’s principal destination is the Frizam/Agropam meat processing factory in Boca do Acre. According to research by Idesam (Institute of Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Amazon) in 2013, the slaughterhouse is responsible for 31.3% of the total meat processing in Amazonas state. Boca do Acre forms part of the Deforestation Arc, the region where the agriculture frontier advances upon the Amazonia’s primary forest. There are 372 areas embargoed by IBAMA in this municipality. This occurs when the inspector shows that a rancher deforested an area without prior approval or did not respect the legal reserve required on his or her private property. With an embargoed ranch, cattle ranching is prohibited. Cattle livestock occupies 80% of the deforested areas of Legal Amazonia, according to a 2015 report by the Environmental Prosecutor’s Office of the Federal Attorney General. Almost 40% of Brazil’s 215 million heads of cattle graze in the Amazon region.

The roads from Rio Branco to Boca do Acre have been taken over by cattle ranches. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

In Boca do Acre, even though there is a significant number of embargoed properties, Frizam/Agropam’s movement has not depleted in recent years. This happens because those cattle ranches that have been legally cited arrive with false documentation. The animals are registered as originating from ranches that have not been prohibited from commercialising. According to the meat processing factory, nothing can be done to audit this fraud. It just so happens that Frizam/Agropam has as one of its principal shareholders the Amazonian cattle rancher, Jose Lopes, who owns nine embargoed ranches in Boca do Acre.

According to the journalist, Leonildo Rosas from Blog do Rosas, Jose Lopes is the biggest cattle rancher, owner of more than hundred thousand heads of cattle. The “king of cattle”, as he is known locally, has been the treasurer of electoral campaigns and public funding and has strong influence over the growth of his meat empire. Lopes worked on the campaigns for Senator Eduardo Braga (PMDB) and for the Acre governor, Omar Aziz (PSD). He also worked on the campaign for the state governor’s campaign, Amazonino Mendes (PFL), who governed the State from 1999 to 2002. During that time period, in 2000, CIAMA (Amazonas State Development Company), a publicly-owned business, which has as one of its objectives the promotion of environmental development in the State, invested more than 14 million reals in the meat processing plant, Frisam/Agropam. As a result, CIAMA became one of four shareholders in the business. And it does not stop there: in the memorandum of the Frisam/Agropa’s Annual General Meeting on 06/03/2013, to which Amazonia Real had access, it shows that the factory has four shareholders: in addition to Jose Lopes and CIAMA, the list includes Jose Lopes Junior and Alessandra Lopes. “”These last two, Jose Lopes’ children, have in their name the land with cattle, fences and gates that we passed through upon entering Apurinã People’s Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory. Jose Lopes registered a property that came from my grandfather, I was in Bom Lugar and would come all the way to here to fish in the Poção do Arroz”, remembers Antonio Jose. “It was good for fishing. In 2010, Lopes registered this area as the Porão do Arroz and became the owner. It was us who opened this up, and Kaxuqui’s grandfather lived on the riverside. Here we have been living for so many years and nobody recognizes us”. Kaxuqui adds on: “We never sold a piece of land. Quite the opposite, we want to live here, give this right to our children and our grandchildren. What we want is what is ours. All we want is that they respect our culture, our rights and our way of living. We do not want ranches, nor cattle, once we are recognized, we do not need to be a rancher”.

Cacique Antonio Jose requests the demarcation of his People’s land. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

From 2013 IBAMA data, the fines for environmental crimes issued in the name of Jose Lopes added up to more than 3 million reals, resulting from the destruction of 955.14 hectares of primary forest in the Legal Amazonia. Recently, the cattle rancher was arrested in three Federal Police operations. In May 2018, in the Ojuara operation, he was accused by the Federal Attorney General of being involved in environmental crimes, along with another 21 suspects. They are accused of invading federal land, ordering deforestation and contracting Military Police agents to protect the machinery and the deforested areas. Among the accusations, a false IBAMA proceedings from Acre in September 2017 was used to alert the ranchers regarding a national operation for the following month. During that time, the IBAMA superintendent, Carlos Gadelha, was also accused by the Federal Attorney General’s Office of having created fake companies to offer administrative and legal defenses for illegal individuals who deforest in the south of Amazonas State, against his own entity’s, IBAMA actions.

On June 25 th, , Jose Lopes was released upon bail by the judge Monica Sifuentes, from the Federal District Court, who had substituted pretrial detention for temporary measures permitting his release while awaiting trial. He was once again arrested in the Maus Caminhos operation, where he was accused of receiving 1 million reals in bribes from the Dr. Mouhamad Moustafa, who was indicted as the leader of a criminal organization that diverted resources from the Amazonas state through the Novo Caminhos Institute. In addition to these accusations, the cattle rancher has been accused of environmental crimes in illegal timber commercialisation detected during the Arquimedes operation. “This character is arrested and he still keeps every right of raising cattle and selling it, on Federal Land. And he continues to deforest and orders others to do so. And here we are preserving our land and we have no right to our land”, vents Antonio Jose.

To top it off, a large part of the beef that is processed by Frizam/Agropam is not even enjoyed by the region’s population. Factory workers reveal that every month more than 20 tractor trailers leave the factory for foreign destinations. China, Japan, the USA are a few of the countries mentioned. “Here in Amazonas State, we do not eat the bull’s beef, only the cow. The young bulls, all of the fine meat, is exported. All of this cattle that causes so much prejudice here in Amazonas State is not even for consumption by the people of Amazonas. But yes by foreigners who end up supplying the resource for this deforestation”, protests Cacique Antonio Jose.

The majority of cattle slaughtered in Boca do Acre is meat that is exported. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Jose Lopes and his family is only one of the surnames that the Apurinãs resist against. There are various others. The dispute is unfair, in addition to the ranchers, the Apurinãs also confront the State’s omission. It may be through the denial of basic rights, such as health, energy, education – one of that factors that causes relatives to not remain in the forest. It may be due to the public agencies’ ineffectiveness in impeding and fining the land invaders. It may be because of those who wrongfully use the State to promote their discourse. Or those who use their discourse to become part of the State. This is not only the case of President Jair Bolsonaro but also the case of Francisco Sales de França, known as Mapara. He is a Boca do Acre council member who is a land grabber and has deforested the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory. He ordered the deforestation of trees in 2017 and 2018. According to Antonio Jose, 200 hectares have been deforested by Mapara. He acknowledges his action. “He is fortified by his being a council member”.

Cacique Kaxuqui in front of the homes in the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

On August 19 th , the Cacique Apurinã recorded videos of condemnation on the banks of the Preto Stream. On the other side of the water, there is the noise of the chainsaw and trees falling. Antonio Jose narrates, “You can hear the buzzing of his chainsaw, I just wanted to be able to show this to the Attorney General, to FUNAI, just to show how the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory’s forest is being destroyed”.

According to the Cacique, the largest fell of the year in the Indigenous Territory was 600 hectares and was encouraged by the Boca do Acre council member. Mapara was elected based on his campaign promise to legalise invaded lands, such as Val Paraiso. “Everybody knows that the council member does not have the legal authority to legalise federal lands,”
rebuts Antonio Jose. But we also know that discourses can mold legality. Our intention in visiting the Apurinãs, in addition to listening to the Caciques and showing solidarity, was to also register this “boring” of the 600 hectares. The following day, we would depart at sunrise. Before lying down in the recently hung hammocks, Antonio Jose grabs the folder that he carried with him. In it, sheets of recent satellite images of the area claimed by the Apurinãs. He gets closer to the kerosene lamp with the maps in his hands. Cacique Antonio Jose begins to describe the locality and how many hectares were deforested in the last year, repeating the gesture from hours before, near the fence. This time he points at the deforestation on the map. He also indicates, furiously, who is responsible for each “boring”. There are now thousands of hectares felled inside of the 26 thousand hectares demanded by the Apurinãs.

The recent exploration map of the Apurinã Indigenous land. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

INPE is the map’s source of information, elaborated with FUNAI’s assistance. On the wall of the OPIAJBAM (Organization of the Apurinã and Jamamadi Indigenous Peoples of Boca do Acre), the office where we meet Antonio Jose, maps hang on the wall showing signs from a recent course. The Apurinã and Jamamadi are studying how to use a cartography software, with the objective of being able to create the maps themselves. Cartography is a tool in the struggle for their land rights and also against deforestation.

It is important to remember that when the issue of forest fires came to light, President Bolsonaro demonstrated how his government would deal with science by firing the INPE director, Ricardo Galvão, on August 2nd. When a study was released demonstrating an increase in fires in Amazonia (68% in relation to July 2018), Bolsonaro declared that the Institute may be at the service of some NGO and that the damage must be incorrect.

Following Ricardo’s refuting Bolsonaro’s declarations, he was dismissed from his position. His removal was startling for the scientific world and for those who work on the situation of fires in Amazonia. Some days later, when asked about his dismissing Galvão, he responded, “I do not ask, I give orders”.

Illegal timber commercialisation
The next day we start out on our three hour hike. Our destination: the 600 hectares burned down on the Day of the Fire, August 13 th .

In three places in the forest, we found gallon bottles of gasoline and burnt oil used in chainsaws. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Various time we traverse the stream, we pass through places that are now fields and those that are still within the forest. In the middle of the trail, we rest upon what remains of a trunk of cedar, recently sawed down. Antonio Jose states: “on August 19 th we passed through here to see that they had felled the 600 hectares and that over there was still intact”. According to the Cacique, the loggers enter in pristine jungle, cut it down, remove the hardwoods – such as cedar and itauba. Then the loggers cut down the rest of the forest on top of the trunks, “they do this so we cannot see what type of trees they have removed”. In the following year, they will burn with the intention of clearing the area and taking advantage of the remaining trunks. After that, they start to lay the pastures for cattle raising. “This is the model that they use to invade and grab indigenous territories that we protect. Here for example, five days ago, everything had been cut down, and even with IBAMA here in Boca do Acre, they still continue cutting down”, denounces the Cacique.

Trees that have recently been cut not but not yet removed from the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

The lumber that leaves this area is cut with chainsaws in summertime, according to Antonio Jose. In wintertime, the loggers enter on the stream in barges, load it up and embark, carrying it to the Boca do Acre port at sunset. Then, as the Cacique describes the process, the criminals have a scheme to load the timber in a container on a tractor trailer that travels to Rio Branco city during the nighttime. The cargo goes on the road as though it were whatever type of freight. In the Acre capital, this wood is referred to as “heated up”. This expression is used to describe timber that has been stamped as though it originated from the Acre forestry management system. “This is how they do the removal of the indigenous timber for exportation from the indigenous territory and federal lands. All the lumber that is removed from Amazonas is illegal”.

What remains of the trees cut down in the middle of the forest within the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

The Transacrean lumber mill is one of the principal destinations for the trunks that are managed in AC-90. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Cacique Antonio Jose and Kaxuqui in one of the fields burnt that we went through on our trek. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Traversing the Retiro Stream in direction of the razing. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

Following Antonio Jose’s description, we continue through the jungle, hearing in the background the chainsaw’s roaring. We walk a little further and, with great difficulty, the felling of the forest becomes a complicated barrier to cross, we finally arrived at the burned area. As in the Huni Kuin Indigenous Territory, where there once was green, now only ashes appear. Black trunks have fallen. Standing and sawed trunks are also charred.

Some small bushes resisted the fire and the thick forest vegetation that has been felled makes it difficult to see the horizon. However, if one climbs on top of a stump, viewing from one side to another, you cannot see a tree canopy still standing in the immediate area. A tract of destruction. Antonio Jose condemns this: “They paid others for the burning, and then take up their role, following up with the removal of the logs and planting grass and raising cattle. In this manner, they grab the federal lands located in the Amazonia. Here in Boca do Acre it works this way. Nobody has INCRA (National Institute of Colonization and Agricultural Reform) documentation for a settlement. Everybody grabs the land, everyone says its theirs. They get loans, register in the Rural Environmental Land Registry and become the owners”. The Caciques speak indignantly, focused on their opportunity to denounce this reality.

Cacique Antonio Jose looks over the destruction of the 600 hectares of forest. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

As much as seen on the highway for the Huni Kuin (Highway AC-90, the Transacreana) as for the Apuinã (BR-317) and for the Xapuri (also BR-317), it is poignant the extension of cattle ranches. Where once was jungle is now pastures. An immensity of grass. Some Brazil nut trees are still standing, trees protected by the law. Some of these are splendid and still alive. While others are dead, annihilated slowly but surely by the numerous fires to which they have been exposed. They are still standing, even though they are dead, and can resist for years.

Cacique Kaxuqui sitting on one of the Brazil nut trees that once offered sustenance. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

In this last 600 hectares that were razed on the Val Paraiso Indigenous Territory, none of these trees escaped. According to Antonio Jose and Kaxuqui, more than 150 specimens were destroyed. Sitting on the what remains of a trunk that has not yet been removed, Kaxuqui tells us how the Apurinãs would collect 500 cans of Brazil nut on that site. “This here was a Brazil nut tree that we would harvest our sustenance for our family. And now here she is burnt. This here will not come back to this land. The land that we once preserved, that land that we needed is now like this, destroyed by ranchers”, laments Kaxuqui.

A Brazil nut tree fossil is a sad monument to the forest that once existed here. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

On the highway, we see carcasses being eaten by the vultures, logs with diverse metered diameters on top of tractor trailers. We hear about the threats that the Caciques confront. In the meanwhile, the Brazil nut trees, charred by fire are a symbol, the most melancholic monument of the destruction that ravages these territories.

On the AC-90, the Transacrean highway, many trucks filled with logs can be found on the road. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

The Apurinãs resist, fenced in by the henchmen, ranchers and the international market’s rapacious stare. Kaxuqui has already received offers to leave the area. Upon rejecting them, a drone flew for days in and around his home in the forest. Antonio Jose has had his home burned down once, and he is not returned there since. “I am threatened, I am frowned upon for defending my land. I no longer live as I once did. In the city, I am looked upon as if I were evil for the people, bad for the world. I do not understand this”, I have lived here in the same place for 54 years, but respect is not the case. “I was born here in Bananal, I continue to live and defend the same land. Those who I consider my good friends are 50 years old or older. These
youngsters, 20-35 years old believe that I am hindering development. Because they want to be here to cut it all down, making money. This is not what we want, we want that everybody grows while also respecting the rights of all”. I have already requested from the 6th Federal Chamber of Brasilia a police escort, which has been granted. But the local police do not have a large enough officer reserve to respond to the demand. They suggested that I leave the area. “There is no way I can leave here, all of my knowledge is here”.

Antonio Jose and Kaxuqui show the maps they use to analyse the increase in the fires and land grabbing. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

What is happening to the Apurinãs is not an isolated case. On the contrary, it is a systematic attack against Indigenous Peoples and their territories throughout the Amazonia and all of Brazil. On the offensive, there are distinct protagonists. There are those who are at the forefront, the direct exploration, through land invasions, logging extraction, cattle raising and, even, mining. As has been demonstrated in the narrative above. And then there are those in the background, those who finance these crimes. For example, European countries demonstrated in defense of the Amazonia during the recent fires, but it is an entire continent that has been buying meat and timber from these deforested areas for years. JBS and Marfig, corporations with an international profile in animal protein production, the principal meat exporters from Brazil to Europe, purchase their meat from these illegal ranchers. In 2018, the Reporter Brasil wrote an article on the sale of illegal timber to Denmark. Seven of the principal retail construction stores were unaware of the origin of the Brazilian timber that they were selling.

On the AC-90, known as the Transacrean Highway, cattle graze upon ashes. Photo: Douglas Freitas / Friends of the Earth Brazil

The authors of these attacks are or have political representatives. Starting with Brazil’s president, Bolsonaro stated, during his campaign, that he would not demarcate not even 1cm of indigenous territory. The president’s brother works with the so-called ‘ruralists’ to impede, together with government representatives, the demarcations. The demarcation process, now with Bolsonaro in power, is being threatened to be transferred to the Federal Department of Agriculture, where the ‘ruralists’ rule. A similar proposal, Proposed Decree 215, is in the Congress, suggesting that the final decision should lay with the Congress regarding the consolidation of indigenous territories, a Congress where currently the largest and most powerful caucus is that of the ‘ruralists’. This caucus, called the Agrilivestock Parliamentary Front, is also a lobbying group financially supported by agribusiness associations and corporations, and has 257 members, including federal deputies and senators. On July 4th, Bolsonaro declared, in a meeting with these politicians: “This government is yours”. As another example of this attack, the Congress recently proposed the Proposed Decree 343, which would declare that FUNAI could be granted to the power to liberate up to 50% of indigenous territories to ‘ruralists’, prospectors and other sectors without prior consultation with the traditional communities who reside there.

In this list of protagonists, we must not forget Rede Globo, the largest news and television network in Brazil, that promotes for the last two years as its main advertisement during prime time and political campaigns the following: “Agribusiness is technical, it is popular, it is everything”. There has been a publicity campaign where it glorifies and presents false information about Brazilian agribusiness, claiming for example that the majority of our food comes from agribusiness. This is a lie. The majority of Brazilian food supply is provided by family agriculture. In addition to these advertisements, Rede Globo decides what is or is not at stake in a system of promiscuity with enormous agribusiness sectors, businesses and sectors that historically attack the Peoples of Brazil.

Below are a few examples of what indigenous and traditional Peoples confront in Brazil. Here, some experiences of actual physical violence against the Peoples, are just a few of the violent incidents that have occurred in only the last couple days of September:

– Reoccupation by the Guarani Mbya of Ponto do Arado (Indigenous People from Rio Grande do Sul) suffers gunfire attack, the second this year;
– FUNAI Indigenous collaborator is assassinated in Amazonas state;
– Men claiming to be police attack the Guaranis (Indigenous People) in Terra de Areia, Rio Grande do Sul;
– Mbya Guarani receive threats by armed men in the Guadjayvi Indigenous Territory in Charqueadas RS, an Indigenous Territory directly impacted by the proposed Copelmi-Guaiba Mining project.

These attacks are historical and perpetuating, and are also more complex than they appear at first glance. Read on the second part of the story “The win-win situation hidden behind the Amazonia fires: how much are preservation and ‘green’ capitalism false solutions worth?”

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