[02/27/07] MST Informa #128 Campaign for the Demarcation of Indigenous Territories

We of the movements that make up La Via Campesina are joining the groups allied with the indigenous struggles to gather signatures in a petition for the Demarcation of Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous lands that are owned by the Aracruz Cellulose company in Espírito Santo. The goal of the MST is to collect 100,000 signatures of workers throughout Brazil to pressure the Ministry of Justice to mediate and to immediately return the lands to the indigenous peoples.

A total of 11,000 hectares are still in the hands of Aracruz, which has not held back from trying to criminalize the indigenous and the social movements that support them. Among the criminal acts carried out by the corporation is the coercion of its workers, who in 2006 were required to demonstrate, in the streets of the city of Aracruz, in defense of the corporation, under penalty of losing their jobs.

In the same period, the corporation determined that each one of its 2500 employees should collect signatures against the presence of the indigenous peoples in the region. Seventy-eight thousand signatures were collected. The corporation also distributed flyers with offensive content against the historical legitimacy of the indigenous peoples of the region.

In 2006, FUNAI finished a new study that identifies the lands as belonging to the indigenous peoples and the corporation has no way to appeal that decision. In the meanwhile, Aracruz Cellulose has brought enormous pressure to bear on the Minister of Justice Márcio Thomaz Bastos to prevent him from signing the homologation of the lands.

History of devastation

The 18,000 hectares were appropriated by the Aracrus Cellulose corporation during the 70’s. These lands were identified by a study carried out by a FUNAI work group in 1997. Of this total, 4500 hectares were reincorporated by the indigenous in 1979 – after a long struggle against the corporation, and another 3,000 were reincorporated in 1998. Even after the evidence provided by the FUNAI studies, the corporation insists in the illegal appropriation of the remaining 11,000 hectares, identified as lands belonging to the Tupinikim and Guarani.

Besides the indigenous lands, the Aracruz Cellulose corporation is also responsible for the expulsion of more than 8,000 afro-descendant families from the north of Espírito Santo. The majority lost their lands through lack of documentation or through agreements manipulated by the corporation and its regional allies.

The corporation is also accused of occupying public lands and of causing irreversible damage to the environment with the monoculture of eucalyptus.

News Briefs

Landless occupy latifúndio in Promissão, São Paulo

Last weekend, around 400 families occupied an area of 700 alqueires in the region of Promissão (SP). The ranch is called Santa Marina and is located on highway BR 153, between the towns of Lins and Getulina. The area belongs to the Bertim cold-storage company and is used for raising cattle and for planting eucalyptus, adding to the expansion of agribusiness in the state of São Paulo. The occupation of the Santa Marina ranch is part of a campaign against agribusiness and to call attention to the situation of agrarian reform in the region of Promissão.

MST participates in the Forum for Food Sovereignty in