Category Archives: Brazil

Brazil opens vast Amazon reserve to mining

BBC News/World/Latin America
(24 August 2017)

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The reserve was created in 1984 by the then-military government. (Gerry Images/BBC)

Brazil’s government has abolished a vast national reserve in the Amazon to open up the area to mining.

The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para, and is thought to be rich in gold, and other minerals.

The government said nine conservation and indigenous land areas within it would continue to be legally protected.

But activists have voiced concern that these areas could be badly compromised.

A decree from President Michel Temer abolished a protected area known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca).

Its size is larger than Denmark and about 30% of it will be open to mining.

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The mining and energy ministry says protected forest areas and indigenous reserves will not be affected.

“The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability,” the ministry said in a statement.

But opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues denounced the move as “the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years,” O Globo newspaper reported (in Portuguese).

Maurício Voivodic, head of the conservation body WWF in Brazil, warned last month that mining in the area would lead to “demographic explosion, deforestation, the destruction of water resources, the loss of biodiversity and the creation of land conflict.”

According to the WWF report, the main area of interest for copper and gold exploration is in one of the protected areas, the Biological Reserve of Maicuru.

There is also said to be gold in the Para State forest, which lies within the area.

The WWF says there is potential for conflict too in two indigenous reserves that are home to various ethnic communities living in relative isolation.

WWF’s report said that a “gold rush in the region could create irreversible damage to these cultures.”

“If the government insisted on opening up these areas for mining without discussing environmental safeguards it will have to deal with an international outcry.”

Brazil Supreme Court backs indigenous land demarcation in long running case

Chris Arsenault
Thomson Reuters Foundation

August 17, 2017 | TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Land rights campaigners have hailed a decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court to rule against a state seeking compensation for land declared indigenous territory by the national government.

Mato Grosso, a central Brazilian state with a powerful agriculture industry and simmering land-related violence, said the national government had illegally given away state land to indigenous people.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled unanimously against Mato Grosso, ordering the western state to respect territory demarcation for indigenous people, in a case followed closely by land rights activists and Brazil’s farm lobby.

“The lands were not owned by the state of Mato Grosso because they were traditionally occupied by indigenous peoples,” Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurélio Mello wrote in the ruling.

Mato Grosso sought about $2 billion reais ($635 million) in compensation from Brazil’s authorities.

Litigation over demarcation of the land, including territory around the Xingu National Park, had been ongoing for more than twenty years.

A decision in the state’s favor would have reverberated far beyond Mato Grosso, activists said, leading other state governments to try and weaken indigenous land rights.

“It is a very important victory for our people, our family that is there in Mato Grosso suffering and fighting for health and territory,” indigenous activist Adilio Benites told the Brazilian web portal G1 after the court’s decision.

Mato Grosso was ordered to pay the federal government’s legal bill of about 100,000 reais, local media reported.

About 13 percent of Brazil’s land has been set aside for the country’s 900,000 indigenous people based on the territories they historically occupied.

Brazil is the world’s top exporter of coffee, sugar and soy and deadly conflicts over land between farmers and indigenous groups are common.


Reporting by Chris Arsenault @chrisarsenaul, Editing by Astrid Zweynert.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

Brazilian Campesino Leader Killed in the State of Pará

telSURetv
Published 9 July 2017

https://videosenglish.telesurtv.net/player/610027/brazilian-police-storm-mst-school/?aspectratio=auto

Almeida helped to reorganize an encampment on the Santa Lucia farm only days after the May 24 massacre of 10 campesinos.

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Líder Rosenildo Pereira de Almeida assassinado no Pará. (novonoticias.com) Felipe Pontes/Agencia Brasil Photo

Just over a month after the massacre of 10 campesinos in Pau D’arco in the Brazilian state of Para, yet another rural worker has been killed in the same region.

On Friday, 44-year-old Rosenildo Pereira de Almeida was shot and killed as he left a church in Rio Maria which is located 43 miles away from the Santa Lucia farm. According to police investigations, two masked suspects on a motorcycle fired four shots at Almeida at around 10 p.m.

Almeida was a member of the League of Poor Campesinos, according to Diario Online. He helped to reorganize an encampment on the Santa Lucia farm only days after the May 24 massacre of the campesinos.

Jose Vargas Junior, lawyer for the 10 Santa Lucia victims, stressed that Almeida was a leader of the families who returned to set up another encampment. Their aim was to force the government to include the property as part of its agrarian reform program.

Justice Global reported that Almeida, along with three other leaders of the new encampment, were marked for death.

Ten campesinos — nine men and one woman — were killed by Brazil’s military and civilian police as part of an eviction order led by state forces.

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Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

Pará is the same state where Dorothy Stang, a U.S. born, Brazilian-naturalized nun was murdered in 2005 by armed gunmen who were contracted by ranchers. For decades, Stang worked alongside and as an advocate for campesino farmers.

In April, 10 more campesinos, including elders and young people, were murdered in an encampment situated in Colniza in the state of Mato Grosso. According to Mato Grosso’s Department of Public Safety, the massacre was committed by “hooded” gunmen.

Brazil police killing of 10 Amazon regional land activists under probe

Reuters: World News
Friday May 26, 2017

Brazilian authorities said on Thursday they were investigating a police raid that ended with 10 land activists killed in the Amazon region, the deadliest such conflict in over two decades.

(Use link for photo) Forensic police work in the Santa Lucia farm, where a group of landless activists were killed in the municipality of Pau D’Arco, Para state, Brazil, May 25, 2017. Picture taken on May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Nine men and one woman were killed when police arrived at the Santa Lucia farm on Wednesday, which a group of landless activists that included 150 families had invaded two years ago.

Para state security officials said in a statement the police were fired upon as soon as they arrived. No officers sustained any injuries during the conflict. Leaders of the land activists were not immediately reachable for comment.

Para state police said in a statement that they were acting on a local judge’s order to remove the families from the private land, and also carry out 14 arrest warrants in connection to the murder last month of a security guard employed by the ranch owner.

Federal and state prosecutors said they were investigating the killings. Police said they, too, had started an inquiry into the officers’ actions.

Landless activists routinely invade massive ranches and farms in Latin America’s largest nation, where there is deep inequality in land distribution. Brazilian law allows for landless activists to occupy and eventually take ownership of land determined to be not actively used for agricultural purposes.

For decades, the fight over Brazil’s vast tracts of land have repeatedly led to murders, most often by rich ranchers and farmers’ hired gunmen, federal prosecutors have said.

The Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission, which tracks the conflicts, said in an emailed statement on Thursday that 61 people were killed in such rural conflicts last year, the most since 2003. The group said 26 people have been killed in such conflicts this year.

Wednesday’s deaths were the most in a land conflict since 1996, when Para state police shot and killed 19 land activists who had blocked a highway to protest their right to remain on a ranch that 3,000 families had occupied.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Richard Chang)

New scandal erupts that threatens to force out Brazilian President Temer

May 18 at 3:07 PM
 Brazilian President Michel Temer defied calls for his resignation Thursday, a day after a bombshell report alleged that he had been secretly recorded discussing bribe payments during an investigation into a sprawling corruption probe that has shredded the country’s political class.
Speculation that Temer would step down intensified throughout the day, with Brazil’s highest court ordering an investigation and two members of Temer’s cabinet abruptly quitting. Prominent leaders of Temer’s centrist PMDB party also distanced themselves from him, leaving the unpopular leader looking more and more isolated.But Temer refused to fold. Speaking on national television, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong and would not step down. “In no moment did I authorize a payment to anyone for their silence,” he said. “I have nothing to hide.”In a brief statement, Temer said his government had just started pulling Brazil out of its prolonged economic slump, the worst in 80 years. “We cannot throw so much progress into the bin of history,” he said.

But with Temer girding for a fight and the possibility that explosive new allegations could surface at any time, the chances of a return to economic and political stability looked even more remote for South America’s largest nation, which was rocked less than a year ago by the impeachment of the previous president in a ­different scandal.

Brazil’s financial markets plunged Thursday amid concerns that the political crisis would derail economic reforms that Temer had championed to boost the economy. The country’s currency, the real, closed down 8 percent, erasing its gains this year, and the Brazilian stock market fell 9 percent, its worst daily loss in nine years. State-controlled companies lost about 20 percent of their value.

“I don’t see how Temer survives more than a few weeks,” said Brian Winter, a Brazil expert and the editor of the New York-based Americas Quarterly journal, adding that Temer appears to be “in denial,” given the evidence against him and his evaporating political support.

Through plea bargains, in which defendants provided prosecutors with information in exchange for more-lenient sentences, authorities have been able to trace a major kickback scheme from a Brasilia carwash to the highest echelons of the ­government.

Temer had managed to mostly avoid being tainted by the probe. But the spotlight fell on him Wednesday, after Brazil’s O Globo reported that Temer had been the target of a police sting operation in which he was allegedly recorded condoning a hush-money payment by a Brazilian business tycoon to the jailed former leader of congress, Eduardo Cuhna, who is serving a 15-year term for negotiating millions in bribes.

Cunha had been one of the country’s most powerful men, and is believed to have compromising information on several top politicians who have not been formally accused.

 When the executive told Temer that he was paying the former politician a monthly stipend to keep him quiet, the president allegedly said, “You need to keep that up, okay?” according to the newspaper, citing the recording. The recording was made public by O Globo late Thursday.

Temer has acknowledged meeting with the executive who is the alleged source of the recordings, meatpacking tycoon Joesley Batista. But the president insisted Thursday he hadn’t broken the law and the investigation would exonerate him.

Opposition lawmakers attempted Thursday to open impeachment proceedings against Temer, which may increase pressure on authorities to release the allegedly incriminating tapes.

A new impeachment push would come less than a year after the last president, Dilma Rousseff, was forced out on charges of violating budget laws, bringing Temer to power through a process that many Brazilians view as ­politicized

Temer’s ministers of culture and city planning resigned Thursday, but the president was reportedly encouraged to hold onto power by his closest allies and key members of his inner circle.

Continue reading New scandal erupts that threatens to force out Brazilian President Temer

Naomi Klein, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Others Condemn ‘Coup’ in Brazil

Common Dreams
“Brazil has only emerged from dictatorship some 30 years ago and these events could set back the country’s progress towards social and economic inclusion by decades”
Nika Knight, staff writer

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Naomi Klein, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky. Twenty-two public intellectuals, writers, actors, and activists sent a letter to Brazilian government roundly condemning the impeachment of leftist President Dilma Rousseff. (Photos: Adolfo Lujan/flickr/cc, Matt Sayles/AP, Andrew Rusk/flickr/cc)

Naomi Klein, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon, Arundhati Roy, and 17 other human rights activists, intellectuals, and public figures on Wednesday sent a letter to the Brazilian government condemning the impeachment of the country’s President Dilma Rousseff, and demanding that Brazil’s senate “respect the October 2014 electoral process which over 100 million people took part in.”

In the letter, which was published by the U.K.-based group No Coup in Brazil, the luminaries argue that “Brazil is a major regional power and has the largest economy in Latin America. If this sustained attack on its democratic institutions is successful, the negative shock waves will reverberate throughout the region.”

Rousseff’s impeachment trial began on Thursday, and was suspended briefly on Friday when the proceedings devolved into a shouting match.

“It is widely expected that, within a few days, senators will vote to definitively remove [Rousseff] from office,” notes Maria Luisa Mendonça, director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights.

“The impeachment—labeled a coup by many Brazilians—has generated outrage and frequent protests in Brazil,” Mendonça adds.

“We stand in solidarity with our fellow artists and with all those fighting for democracy and justice throughout Brazil,” the letter says, adding that “Brazil has only emerged from dictatorship some 30 years ago and these events could set back the country’s progress towards social and economic inclusion by decades.”

Rousseff’s removal would end 13 years of Workers’ Party rule, as Common Dreams reported, and bring about the confirmation of “the unelected, right-of-center Temer” as president until 2018, the rest of Rousseff’s term.

“We are concerned about the politically motivated impeachment of the president, which has installed an unelected interim government,” the letter writers say. “The legal basis for the ongoing impeachment is widely contested and there is compelling evidence showing that key promoters of the impeachment campaign are seeking to remove the president to stop the corruption investigations that they themselves are implicated in.”

Prominent organizations have also joined in the condemnation of Rousseff’s impeachment. On Tuesday, 43 grassroots environmental, labor, and religious groups in the U.S. issued a statement decrying the “legislative coup.”

“We join social movements and millions of people in Brazil and worldwide calling for a return to democracy and the rule of law in Brazil, the return of the legitimately-elected President Rousseff to office, the reinstatement of Brazil’s critical social programs, and the recognition of human rights,” the groups declared.

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For the displaced of Rio, ‘The Olympics has nothing to do with our story’

Washington Post
By Sally Jenkins

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An estimated 60,000 people who lost homes to the Rio Games; this man refused to allow his to be one of them.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Just over there, the dolphin-backed Michael Phelps glides through another heat. Over here, a lone ramshackle favela house practically leans against the Olympic Park where Phelps swims. Just over there, Simone Biles does a breathtaking handspring. Over here, the sodium stadium lights glint on the scarred hardpan that was once a vibrant community before it was bulldozed to make room for the Rio Games.

Just over there, the International Broadcast Center rises like a monolith, while over here it casts a shadow over the listing sheet metal roof of Delmo de Oliveira’s favela house, which sits directly across the parking lot. Just over there, Katie Ledecky lashes through the water, but over here there is no crowd noise, just a young man playing guitar for a handful of residents who refused to be evicted even as the Games begin.

Just over there, International Olympic Committee members enjoy prime seating and dine on a per diem of $450 a day, while over here, the Brazilian minimum wage amounts to $228 a month, and nobody has a ticket to the Olympics, even though it’s just 50 yards away, “If they didn’t want us to stay here, I don’t imagine they’ll invite us inside,” says Maria Da Penha Macena, 51.

The extent to which the Olympic “movement” has become a destructive force, driven by an officialdom whose signature is indifference, can be seen just outside the Olympic Park fences, and I mean just outside. The Vila Autodromo favela was once a working-class neighborhood of 3,000 residents curling around a lagoon and the perimeter of the park. Now all that’s left is Olympic parking lot tarmac, raw dirt and 20 tiny white utilitarian cottages, built grudgingly by the city as a concession to a core of families who refused to leave even as their homes were demolished. For a while, some of them lived in converted shipping containers. One of the new cottages bears a sign: “Museum of the Evicted,” it reads.