[03/14/06] MST Informa #111 - Research for life, not for death!

On March 8, two thousand women from La Via Campesina Brazil occupied an area belonging to the Aracruz Cellulose Corporation in Barra do Ribeiro (RS). The date (International Women’s Day) and the place (close to where the Second International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development was taking place) was symbolically chosen to demonstrate the anger of these farm women with the commodification of agriculture that is going on today.

The land, the waters, the seeds, the air, and the forests are today considered resources that must be exploited to further the economic interests of the big multinational corporations. Under the guise of “reforestation‿, green deserts of lumber production for cellulose factories have been created. Eucalyptus is the main species in this strategy and damages the soil irreparably--once it is planted, it is not possible to return fertility to the land and its minerals. Besides this, eucalyptus roots penetrate the water table, damaging the supply of water in the region. Each foot of eucalyptus is capable of consuming 30 liters of water per day. The major owner of this takeover is the Aracruz Cellulose corporation, which has 250,000 hectares planted on its own lands, 50,000 in Rio Grande do Sul alone. Its factories produce 2.4 million tons of bleached cellulose per year, contaminating the air and the water besides damaging human health.

Despite the fact that the action carried out last week got a lot of coverage in the media, the reasons that led the women of La Via Campesina to occupy the business did not receive coverage. Only Aracruz Cellulose could put out its opinions, transforming a political action into a personal drama of the researcher responsible for the eucalyptus saplings. Workers were interviewed who deplored the event, but at no time was it said that Aracruz creates only one job for each 185 acres planted, while the small rural farm creates one job per hectare.

In Espirito Santo and in Bahia, places where the corporation does business, at least 88,000 jobs are going to disappear this year because of a loan of $R297 thousand from the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), with resources from the Workers Assistance Fund and the Fund of Participation/PIS/PASEP, for the corporation’s eucalyptus plantations. The total area that has been financed will be over 90,000 hectares. The grace period for these BNDES credits is 21 months. Only after 21 months will payments be due for the loan and the stated period of amortization is 84 months. All this at an incredibly low interest rate of 2%! The interest rates used in the National Program for Family Farming (PRONAF) vary up to 8.75% per year.

In the last three years, the corporation received $R2 billion from the public coffers. Fifty six percent of the money, according to the corporation’s 2005 balance sheet, was destined to the exterior, where a good part of its properties are located: the Norwegian corporation Lorena (whose major stockholder is the brother-in law of the King of Norway) holds 28%. The other 28% are of the Safra Bank, an international bank based in Monaco, 28% is of Votorantim Corporation, and 12.5% of BNDES. The British American Tobacco group Souza Cruz, also has stockholders but in a smaller percentage.

“We could be proud because Aracruz belongs to a Norwegian who is successful abroad and earns a lot of money. But no. We are not proud. Aracruz is robbing or occupying indigenous territory and our people reacted strongly. There are many forests in Norway, as there are in Sweden and Finland. Those countries form Scandinavia where the Stora Enso corporation was founded, which also produces cellulose in Brazil. Why not produce cellulose right there in Europe? Scandinavian trees have to grow for 10 to 30 years before they can be used for cellulose. Instead, eucalyptus can be used after 7 years. It’s much cheaper to produce in Brazil because the labor is cheaper.‿ This is the accusation made by Ingeborg Tangeraas, a Norwegian activist from the Norwegian Farmers and Smallholders Union.

The Swedish royal family also had stock but sold it in January, after people repudiated the action carried out by the corporation against the Guarani indigenous people in Espirito Santo. Around 120 Federal policemen used helicopters, bombs, arms, and munitions, besides Aracruz Cellulose’s own equipment, to knock over plantations and houses and expel 50 Guarani from land that belongs to them. The area, illegally invaded by the corporation to plant cellulose, is still in discussion with public authorities. That was not sufficient to avoid the jailing of eight indigenous and dozens of wounded.

In an international conference on Agrarian Reform, the action carried out by the women of La Via Campesina Brazil puts in question why a government that wants to end hunger continues to sponsor and legitimize companies such as these, which only multiply the green desert, cause unemployment and still violate the rights of the Brazilian people. We are not opposed to research. On the contrary, we want even more research. But we want research into solutions for the people’s problems and not only how to increase productivity for the greater profit of the multinationals. Those who invented the atomic bomb were also great researchers. The investments in these companies, nine times inferior to employment in family farming, can only lead to one conclusion: the idea that within 20 years, food in Brazil will be based on cellulose!

A warm embrace,
National Secretariat of the MST
Mobilizations to demand Agrarian Reform

News Briefs

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Landless occupy Arena Theater for the second time

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