Crónicas e Narrativas


“Nuevos abusos con los pobres índios:
quieren desalojarlos de sus tierras
de las últimas tierras que les quedan!
Siendo que son hijos de la tierra.
(Nicanor Parra)
Patricia Troncoso, conhecida como “La Chepa”, é auxiliar de uma escola de crianças, no sul do Chile. Estudou teologia no Instituto de Ciências Religiosas da Universidade Católica de Valparaiso. Por suas origens mapuches, aproximou-se dessas comunidades, buscando suas próprias raízes, primeiro na zona do Alto Bío-Bío e depois fazendo parte da Coordenadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM), na cidade de Traiguén.

Sofreu o primeiro processo em outubro de 2002, acusada, juntos com dois outros dirigentes mapuches, de incêndio de uma fazenda, tendo sido absolvida. Dois meses depois, sofreu um novo processo, acusada de ser membro da CAM, organização mapuche colocada na ilegalidade – em pleno regime “democrático” pós-pinochetista -, por ser considerada uma “associação ilícita terrorista”. Depois de dois outros processos, Patricia foi novamente declarada inocente, além de que houve retratação por ter sido perseguida como membro da CAM. Mas um novo processo, em 2004, condenou-a por “incêndio terrorista” da fazenda Poluco Pidenco da Forestal Mininco, a 10 anos de prisão junto a outros seis dirigentes mapuches, pela Lei de Segurança Interior do Estado e pela Lei Antiterrorista, criada pela ditadura de Pinochet e retomada pelo governo socialista de Ricardo Lagos.

Foram também condenados a pagar 420 milhões de pesos (cerca de 840 mil dólares) à empresa florestal, de propriedade do grupo Matte, dos mais privilegiados durante a ditadura pinochetista e que aufere lucros colossais na exploração de madeira nas reservas mapuches. “…os lucros da indústria florestal aumentaram na proporção direta da criminalização das reivindicações mapuches por parte do Estado e das próprias empresas florestais”, como afirma Mauricio Buendia em artigo publicado este mês em Punto Final.

Esses lucros subiram de um bilhão, oitocentos e vinte e nove mil dólares em 1997 para quatro bilhões e oitocentos milhões de dólares em 2007, coincidindo com a política de criminalização dos mapuches e os processos conforme a Lei de Segurança Interior do Estado e a Lei Anti-terrorista.

Patricia concluiu vitoriosamente uma greve de fome de 112 dias, simplesmente para ter o direito de, após cumprir 5 anos da condenação – por, sendo mapuche, povo originário do Chile, defender as suas terras da invasão de empresas transnacionais, que lhes expropriam as terras, a água, a vida – cumprir o resto da sentença em regime semi-aberto. Foi a segunda greve de fome, a anterior durou 63 dias. Nesta, ela emagreceu 25 quilos, mas não abandonou-a – demonstrando a convicção que todos os que apelam a esse método de luta deveriam ter – até conseguir o reconhecimento pleno das suas reivindicações pelos governo chileno.

O que ela conseguiu foi simplesmente que possam os presos mapuches seguir cumprindo suas penas em regime semi-aberto e outros direitos mínimos. Eles sofrem penas e condições de prisão a que não estariam submetidos se tivessem sido processados pelas leis normais do Chile e não pela legislação ressuscitada do pinochetismo.

A Igreja chilena fez a mediação para que se chegasse à solução de aceitação das demandas de Patricia, quando o governo chileno sentiu a grande mobilização nacional e internacional de solidariedade com a líder mapuche. Porém, o temor de Patricia é que, tal como na greve de fome anterior, o governo não cumpra os compromissos assumidos. Assim que uma Comissão de organizações internacionais visitará proximamente o Chile para, junto com representante da Igreja chilena, controlar se o governo estará cumprindo desta vez com sua palavra.

A dignidade mapuche saiu vitoriosa da greve de fome, como maneira de chamar a atenção sobre a militarização de algumas comunidades mapuches, de invasões sistemáticas de suas terras, de agressões e assassinatos, além da expropriação de suas fontes de água. Tudo para viabilizar a exploração dessas zonas por empresas transnacionais, privilegiadas no modelo econômico neoliberal chileno.

por Emir Sader
6 de Fevereiro de 2008

Anúncios

Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo There is an old adage your mother may once have taught you about the neighborhood weirdo – commonly referred to in English Literature as the “village idiot” – which goes something like this: “poor people are crazy, rich people are eccentric.”

 

For the purposes of this discussion, though, we should add the following caveat: “local people have good ideas they never seem to act on, while outsiders all have crazy ideas they always act on.”

 

Remarkably, most times we remember the crazy ideas best – and, equally remarkable, they’re usually the ones that “work out” in the end.

 

One of many such ideas is the focus of German director, writer and producer Werner Herzog’s fantastic jungle opus Fitzcarraldo (1982). Fantastic, that is, in the dictionary sense of the word, as in “strange,” “freakish,” “odd,” and totally “farfetched.” Webster’s New World Thesaurus even lists “foreign” as a plausible substitute.

 

We also have “absurd” and “futile,” both synonymous with the writings of French philosopher Albert Camus,* in particular the essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” based on his existential analysis of the tragic Greek figure of the same name, condemned, in the afterlife, to roll a huge rock up a hill, only to see it slide back towards the ground upon reaching the summit.

 

Yes, all these descriptions are fine and accurate and certainly help to convey the surreal atmosphere that surrounds this mesmerizing adventure flick at times, yet none of them truly suffice as much as the term “madness” does.

 

Madness in the way the director eschewed special effects for larger-than-life realism in his grueling account of Irish entrepreneur (and resident outsider) Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, transformed by the natives into the more euphemistic sounding “Fitzcarraldo,” and his cockeyed scheme to provide opera to the isolated Peruvian village of Iquitos.

 

Madness in Herzog’s use of authentic Amazonian locales, despite the inherent difficulties and insurmountable obstacles that shooting in that part of the world entailed for him and his long-suffering cast and crew.

 

Madness in his insistence on a real 340-ton steam vessel, to be hauled, by real Indians, first up, then down a real mountain slope – never mind the fact that the real Fitzcarraldo, a 19th-century, devil-may-care businessman, had chosen to dismantle his vessel before actually transporting it.

 

And madness in his employment of unruly screen veteran Klaus Kinski (Aguirre, The Wrath of God, 1972; Nosferatu, The Vampyre, 1978) – the epitome of erratic behavior both on and off the set – in place of the previously announced Jason Robards (who came down with amoebic dysentery only four months into shooting) and rock star Mick Jagger (who left soon after to join a Rolling Stones concert tour). They both got off easy as a result.

 

That the film was completed at all after having suffered through these and countless other ignominious torments – and went on to become a hallmark of the epic-movie genre as well – is the unlikeliest (and likewise maddest) concept of all.

 

Still, the sheer thought of bringing grand opera to the tropical forest area was not as improbable as it might first have appeared, even for a work of pure fiction.

 

Indeed, for all its vaunted inaccessibility and vastness, the Amazon has historically been the site of not one but several elaborately furnished opera houses bankrolled by the rich and powerful rubber barons of the period – the most famous of which, the pink-marbled Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, makes an eerie nocturnal appearance early on in Herzog’s accident-prone production.

 

Opera à la Carte (and in Your Face)

 

Relative to this is Fitzcarraldo’s openly mad obsession with the operatic art (shared fully by the movie’s obsessive-minded director), made apparent by his constant playing of scratchy old 78’s on a dilapidated Victrola – a lifesaver, it turns out, for him and his steamboat’s motley crew; and in the fantasy-like opening sequence, a harbinger of greater “eccentricity” to come.

 

In it, we glimpse the disheveled Irishman, in his trademark white planter’s suit and wide-brimmed hat, alongside his bordello-owner mistress Molly (played by Italian actress Claudia Cardinale), exhausted after a 1200-mile trek down the Amazon River, feverishly paddling away in an open-air motorboat, as he tries to catch what remains of Verdi’s four-act opera Ernani, starring his favorite singer, the fabled Enrico Caruso (voiced by real-life tenor Veriano Luchetti).

 

At first blocked from crashing the black-tie event by the persistent black doorman (an uncomfortably bedecked Milton Nascimento, in his foreign-picture debut, who was ludicrously dubbed into German by another actor), the mismatched pair nonetheless manages to sweet-talk their way into the auditorium, as the frazzled doorman looks on with a good deal of skepticism if not outright concern for the safety of the patrons ensconced within.

 

No sooner has the couple taken up its position at the back of the theater, than the lead soprano begins the final trio, with the great Caruso, at one point, extending his hand into the audience in a spontaneous gesture the manic adventurer conveniently mistakes as a sign of his impending good fortune: “He pointed to you,” Molly excitedly tells him.

 

“Yes,” cries Fitzcarraldo in acknowledgment. “He pointed to me. You see…he means me.” (Of course he does – in his mind’s eye, at any rate.)

 

With this fortuitous bit of self-justification, our accidental “tourist” hits upon his life’s chief purpose: he vows, then and there, to replicate his thrilling experience in Manaus in his own backwater’s main square, as evidenced by the rollicking scene in which he plants himself atop the local parish, ringing its bells and shouting to the populace below, “This church remains closed until this town has an opera house! I will build my opera house! I want to have my opera!”

 

This begs the question, then, of whether the belligerent actions of a desperate, turn-of-the-century music buff are, in reality, the ravings of a reckless and misguided lunatic (see Hector Babenco’s At Play in the Fields of the Lord, from 1991, for another view of this issue, this time involving born-again Christian missionaries let loose in the wilds of the Brazilian rainforest).

 

For non-lovers of the form, however, it can prove exceedingly difficult to grasp, let alone appreciate, where enthusiasm for opera ends and madness begins.

 

Having myself been a lifelong guild member of the Metropolitan Opera, along with expressing a keen interest in classic films, musical theater, and the plastic and performing arts (with “fan,” in this case, representing the shortened version of the word “fanatic”), I can readily attest to that misconception.

 

On a more positive note, not since the premiere of French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Beneix’s wickedly creative Diva (1981), with its stylish décor and cinematography, smart-ass urban attitude, and post-Nouvelle Vague production values, has there been a protagonist as enthralled with the lyric art, or as enamored of its infinite possibilities, as the one embodied in Herzog’s pet project Fitzcarraldo.

 

Even still, such unbridled “passion” (for what it’s worth) can be off-putting to those insensitive to the title character’s needs or to his peculiar brand of exuberance – his modus operandi, if you will.

 

More to the point, even time spent in jail does not thwart him from his self-appointed task of harvesting latex in a remote region of the Amazon too impractical for rubber-tapping, hence his use of a steamboat over that precipitous incline; then, once on the other side, shipping the raw material out and selling it for a quick profit, thus providing him with enough of a return to build his longed-for opera house.

 

But where would he find the outlay for such an outrageous endeavor? Fortunately for Fitzcarraldo, aid comes in the aesthetically pleasing shape of the sympathetic Molly, who decides to part with her brothel’s “hard-earned” cash – in a seriocomic episode that has her and her “girls” attempting to fleece the required funds from the all-too accommodating rubber barons – for the sake of her lover’s bold plan.

 

For her efforts, Fitzcarraldo christens his steamer, the Molly Aida, after her – and well he should, since it was her belief in his questionable abilities that helped finance the dubious venture in the first place – and in deference to his all-consuming interest in opera.

 

Whistle While You Work

 

This brings the main section of the story into play, wherein Fitzcarraldo’s doggedly determined vision for making his impossible dream come true – the long and deliberately agonizing climb up the treacherous hill, with a thousand-and-one native extras pulling, tugging and coaxing the huge vessel along – takes on the truly quixotic proportions of an old Cecil B. DeMille spectacle.

 

“This is a film that challenges the most basic laws of nature,” Herzog explained at the outset. “Boats are just not meant to fly over mountains.”

 

No, they’re not. Nor were they meant to be hurled down the raging Pongo das Mortes (“Rapids of Death”), either – which is exactly what happens next: loosening the ship from its moorings, the inscrutable tribesmen (called, disparagingly, the “bare-asses” in the movie’s script) offer the Molly Aida up as a symbolic gesture to their river god.

 

Miraculously, the tempest-tossed steamer, with Fitzcarraldo and his waterlogged crewmates still on board, withstands the rocky onslaught, but with his hopes for bringing opera to his village seemingly shattered by this harrowing experience, in a manner not unlike that of his mythological counterpart Sisyphus and that backsliding rock of his.

 

Waxing philosophical for the moment, let us turn now to Camus’ musings on the nature of the absurd, for a more discerning look into Sisyphus’ fate and, by implication and association, Fitzcarraldo’s own future:

 

“From the moment absurdity is recognized, it becomes a passion, the most harrowing of all…[Sisyphus’] passion for life won that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of the earth…Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd. It happens as well that the feeling of the absurd springs from happiness…

 

“[T]he absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols…There is no sun without the shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says ‘yes’ and his efforts will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny…but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable…

 

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile…The struggle toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

 

That last line is especially noteworthy, to be sure, since it should remind attentive viewers of a similar piece of dialog, delivered by sadistic Japanese Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) to the brutalized British prisoners of war, in the WWII action-adventure drama The Bridge on the River Kwai: “Be happy in your work,” he grudgingly informs them, as they prepare to take part in the back-breaking building of that fatal span.

 

Noteworthy, too, is the last line of the picture (“Madness, madness”) uttered by the uncomprehending Major Clipton (James Donald), upon witnessing the destruction of the very same Kwai Bridge that the by-the-book British commander, Colonel Nicholson (Oscar-winner Alec Guinness), had ordered put up to boost his men’s sagging morale.

 

Ah, the abounding absurdities of life! So where did we leave off, and how does Fitzcarraldo fit into all this?

 

For one, the two films share many cinematic elements in common, among them impressive location footage and realistic props and sets (a real bridge and train, for instance, in Bridge on the River Kwai); and for another, they’re both one-of-a-kind classics of their respective movie types. Need we say more?

 

Having His Cake – and Eating It, Too

 

Though none the worse for wear (one presumes), Fitzcarraldo finally returns to his town’s homeport, but immediately experiences another of those blinding flashes of “inspiration.”

 

This time, however, it pays off handsomely for him, and for all concerned: he sells the Molly Aida in exchange for sufficient earnings to rent out the entire opera company for a day.

 

We next see the makeshift ensemble, being floated down the river on small barges, with all the participants therein clothed, in 17th-century English garb, as pilgrims in Vincenzo Bellini’s I Puritani, singing their hearts out in the act-one bel canto number, “A te, o cara” (“To you, my beloved”), accompanied by several more barges replete with the remaining orchestra members. But where is Fitzcarraldo?

 

There he is, floating right beside the others – smoking an enormously fat cigar, it would seem – as happy and contented in his work, and in his achievement, as was Dr. Seuss’ red-eyed foe, the evil Mr. Grinch, in bringing Christmas back to Whoville.

 

And speaking of cartoon creations, it all seems so silly, really, when one stops to think about how much consternation our hero has caused for the folks around him, and for something so alien and mundane to the locals as opera. Yet there is (you’ll pardon the expression) method to Fitzcarraldo’s madness: after all, he did do exactly what he set out to do – he brought opera to the town of Iquitos. It’s only his bizarre execution of that incredible feat that left everyone slack-jawed and bewildered, that’s all.

 

Nevertheless, he showed them, all right. And things did “work out” in the end, though, didn’t they? No longer the brunt of cruel jokes, nor the laughingstock of his community, this “village idiot,” at least, has succeeded in his prime objective, while enjoying the fruits of his labors – as well as his flotilla’s victory display.

 

We realize now, of course, that he’s not really mad, nor even crazy. He’s just a little bit…well, you know…eccentric.

 

* Another Frenchman with the surname of Camus – the director Marcel Camus – had himself, in fact, exploited the rich font of Greek myths, specifically the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, by placing it in the context of a Rio de Janeiro Carnival parade and celebration, in the ward-winning Orfeu Negro, or Black Orpheus.

 

Joe Lopes, a naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. He is a lover of all types of music, especially opera and jazz, as well as an incurable fan of classic and contemporary films. You can email your comments to <!– var prefix = ‘ma’ + ‘il’ + ‘to’; var path = ‘hr’ + ‘ef’ + ‘=’; var addy26582 = ‘JosmarLopes’ + ‘@’; addy26582 = addy26582 + ‘msn’ + ‘.’ + ‘com’; document.write( ‘‘ ); document.write( addy26582 ); document.write( ” ); //–>\n JosmarLopes@msn.com <!– document.write( ‘‘ ); //–> This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it <!– document.write( ” ); //–> .

in BrazzilMag 

Kaiowa Indians in Mato Grosso do Sul The genocide that occurs in a continuous and silent manner in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, against the Kaiowá people is a reality constantly denounced by indigenous leaders, by representatives of movements in defense of human rights, by popular militants, by Indigenist supporters working in that region.

 

Repeatedly, the lines of communication present a cruel situation lived by Kaiowá communities, noting assassinations, deaths by malnutrition, suicides, aggressions of all orders.

 

How is it possible we wonder, that in the present day, a people are confined and condemned to death through absolute omission by the State and by lack of political initiative that assures their lands, as this right is made explicit in Brazilian legislation?

 

The Kaiowá population exceeds 30,000 people, the majority of whom live confined to small reserves or camps at the sides of roads and the edges of large cattle ranches , soy and / or sugar cane plantations.

 

And the most serious occurs in the reserve of Dourados, with less than 3,000 hectares, where there lives a population over 13,000 inhabitants, an inconceivable reality that resembles concentration camps.

 

In this reserve they are submitted to a systematic, quotidian violence that effects the social relations and the most elementary rights of human life. There are numerous assassinations, beating, alcoholism, drug traffic, malnutrition, impossibility of sustainability and starvation, the most cruel of all violence.

 

The indigenous families survive in this area in subhuman conditions, without land, without adequate and differentiated assistance, without the protection of the State and consequently without perspectives of the future.

 

The indigenous lands, that need to be demarcated in order to assure conditions for the physical and cultural survival of this people, are the object of negotiations of the federal government with the local and regional oligarchs.

 

A consequence of this is the disrespect to the Federal Constitution, to the international treaties and accords – such as the ILO Convention 169, to the Declaration of Human Rights and to the Indigenist legislation that determines that the lands of the Indigenous peoples are assured to make possible the dignity of the individual, the living of their cultures, customs, traditions and style of life.

 

But, the priorities assumed by federal and state governments privileging large investments, large profits, large businesses, result in the indigenous peoples being treated as indigents in their own territories and, as a function of this, are regarded as marginal, drinkers, violent, dangerous and dispossessed of rights.

 

The omissions of the public powers and the refusal of assurance of rights of the Kaiowá is justified by old development arguments, utilized largely in the media and by authorities as obstacles to progress.

 

In the presence of discovery of the legal determinations and the absence of the State in the defense and protection of life it is affirmed that the public power is not only in omission, but promoting the death of the Kaiowá people, being participant in this slow and distressing process of exclusion and of genocide.

 

Nothing justifies the submission of a people to conditions of servitude and of violence such as is occurring in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

 

The indigenous lands were illegally occupied, and occupied by estates where today they develop agribusiness activities and sugar cane plantations. The cattle destined for export or serve to feed the large packing house freezers in programs to strengthen agribusiness.

 

On the cattle ranches the indigenous men work as peons in cleaning the pastures and receive for their work an amount that hardly helps a family escape starvation. The sugar cane  serves as food to the large alcohol processing plants, today also inserted into the programs of the federal government for the “development” of fuel for export.

 

In the sugar cane plantations the labor is almost exclusively indigenous, a cheap work force, exploited, submitted to a regime of semi-slavery, without working documents, without adequate food, without accommodations of dignity and are expected to meet exorbitant demands, such as cutting twelve tons of cane per day, the intent to assure the minimum resources of a day’s work.

 

This picture of injustice has been denounced by organizations in defense of Human Rights as a situation that impacts not only the workers in Mato Grosso do Sul, but throughout Brazil.

 

The Kaiowá, who have had their territories divided and handed over to estates are obliged to work for others within those lands that constitute part of their space of traditional occupation.

 

The federal government needs to demarcate, protect, guarantee these lands, assuring a differentiated assistance, capacity to collaborate in the promotion of life, as well as designating programs of self-sustainability by which the Kaiowá are able to envision alternatives and viable projects for the future.

 

However, what assists this is the total negligence of the Brazilian state, which is present is violence and the enslavement as forms of relationship to this population.  The communities and leaders that revolt and question this reality are persecuted and assassinated by gunmen contracted by the ranchers, under the negligent eye of the public power.

 

A study by Brazil’s Indianist Missionary Council (CIMI) shows that of a total of 41 assassinations of indigenous persons occurred as of August 2007 throughout the entire country, 26 took place in Mato Grosso do Sul, or 63% of the cases. Scores of indigenous leaders were jailed or are sentenced to prison terms because they struggle for the defense of their rights.

 

The confinement in small reserves or in encampments at the side of the road have a hard reality of starvation, that has as a consequence the dependency on food rations. The infant mortality is five times greater than the national average, or – of every thousand live births 50 die of starvation or suffer from lack of food and will have had an infancy vulnerable to disease and premature death.

 

The confinement further generates a breakdown of solidarity networks among the families and impedes the functioning of traditional forms of control of this society. Why do they register growing indices of aggressions practiced within these reserves?

 

Certainly because, submitted to the most absolute lack of conditions of life and deprived of the possibility to maintain and reproduce their traditional cultural practices, this people launch their cry of pain, an interminable agony manifested in brutal aggressions, practiced in a recurrent manner.

 

The situation of violence will not be resolved with the installation of repressive apparatus, of ostensible policing  or with a militarization, as has been proposed in municipalities of large urban centers.

 

The grave situation to which the Kaiowá families are submitted will only be solved if the concrete situation of life is altered, with the demarcation of lands, in a manner commensurate with the culture of this people and assuring them specific actions and efficacy of assistance in health, in sustainability projects and in recuperation of environmentally degraded areas.

 

That is, a conjunction of governmental measures that are nothing more than the full realization of rights assured to all the indigenous peoples in the Federal Constitution and in scores of other laws and international declarations ratified by the Brazilian State.

 

Roberto Antonio Liebgott is vice president of CIMI (Indianist Missionary Council).

The chattering classes are heading to the Amazon in search of esoteric highs. Are shamans the new shrinks?

At a dinner party in Gloucestershire, Lucy, a mother of three, is regaling her guests with details of her last trip abroad. She has honeyed limbs and high-maintenance hair, suggestive of regular villa breaks in Ibiza or Tuscany. But earlier this year, as a 40th-birthday present to herself, she went to Brazil for a 10-day guided retreat in the Amazon, where she underwent a series of plant rituals involving the powerful hallucinogen ayahuasca. “It was as far removed from taking normal party drugs as you can imagine,” she says, eyes glittering. “It was frightening and extraordinary.”

Lucy’s experience is symptomatic of a collective search for a complete wilderness experience as a panacea for our troubled souls. “I went to the Amazon because I felt my whole life needed shaking up, and I just didn’t know how to do that in England. I had everything I wanted, in terms of a stable marriage, lovely kids and a nice home, and although I knew I shouldn’t feel dissatisfied, I did. I wanted to reconnect with myself and the way I live before I got much older.”

Deep immersion in a faraway jungle is the latest fix for those stuck in the cultural, spiritual or personal malaise that besets many in the 21st century. Having an extreme psychological experience such as ayahuasca at the same time makes it all the more desirable. The Brighton-based writer and therapist Ross Heaven, author of Plant Spirit Shamanism, has been leading trips into the Amazon for 10 years. “In the 1990s, only real new-age devotees had heard of ayahuasca, but the sort of person going on retreats has changed dramatically,” she says. “I’m taking a trip in October that will include account managers, business professionals, a media figure, a conventional doctor and a nurse. People are getting turned on to the fact that in the Amazon we can learn something about the wisdom of native culture and the psychological healing aspects of the plants there, while also gaining from personal exploration and creativity.”

It was inevitable that we would find a faster, harder, more esoteric replacement for yoga. As eastern mysticism starts to look a bit, well, passé, people are looking elsewhere for their spiritual kicks. They now have a desire to immerse themselves in an extreme environment, which is why the Amazon has never been as hot as it is now. Sting and Madonna first swung our global eyes to the rainforest in the 1980s. But then we forgot about it as we turned our gaze back to organic vegetable boxes and carbon footprints.

Now, once more, the Amazon is gripping our attention: the interest in ayahuasca is emblematic of a growing fascination with tribal life. A rumbling collective disquiet suggests that we’ve got it all wrong, and that it is those naked men in the jungle – whom we might once have dismissed as savages, or patronised by buying their handcrafted tables for our fashionable lofts – who have actually got it all right. Could it be that such tribes might hold a key to global salvation? Shamanism and ayahuasca are slipping into the spiritual dialogue of the chattering classes where once there was ashtanga and kabbalah.

Bruce Parry has done a brilliant job of bringing these wild worlds into our sitting rooms, and in doing so has scored a hit for the notion of the noble savage who can teach us how to coexist with the planet. “We shouldn’t romanticise these tribes, but they do have a great way of living with the environment, which we can learn from,” he says. “This is all in vogue because we are so worried about the way our individual morality is going. They have a much more sharing community.”

It is clear that these tribes, living in genuine harmony with their environment, possess a spiritual enlightenment that we, watching Big Brother in our centrally heated houses, can only dream of. And the growth in the psycho-spiritual healing industry suggests there is a huge market for lost souls in need of spiritual TLC. Going to the jungle to reconnect with the natural world is an obvious extension of this, but it’s hardly new. Ayahuasca has been used by Amazonian tribes for 10,000 years. It is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, which means it causes your body to receive a chemical compound it would normally screen out. It is prepared – ideally by a friendly indigenous shaman – by boiling and blessing the stems of Banisteriopsis caapi with the leaves of Psychotria viridis, which is rich in the hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine, to produce a bitter-tasting liquid that induces a trip lasting several hours.

The clinical psychologist and shamanic healer Silvia Polivoy established Ayahuasca Healing, her retreat in the Amazon, in 1997, when only a handful of companies offered such services. Now, there are more than 40. She moved into transpersonal therapy after becoming frustrated by the limitations of conventional psychotherapy. In some circumstances, she says, a session of ayahuasca can have the same effect as years of therapy.

There is a romance to the idea of the wild, exotic spiritual healer, but the practice of shamanism is not confined to the Amazon. Google “shaman” and you’ll probably find there’s one living next door to you, or running a workshop in your local community centre. In America, there’s even an International School of Shamanism, with a decidedly western-sounding board of directors and a trademarked name.

Inevitably, with increasing numbers of people travelling to the Amazon to experience ayahuasca and find the shaman to guide them, a new tourist industry is forming around the cult of the noble savage who can hold our hand as we hurtle towards environmental and psychological meltdown. Isn’t there a danger that in attempting to connect with the mystical, we will destroy it? And isn’t there something patronising about using our wealth to purchase the secrets of indigenous tribes, belching out tons of carbon as we go?

Genuinely losing it in the jungle is a pretty terrifying thought. But if there’s hot and cold running water and a masseur and chef on hand, well, that’s a different matter entirely. However, according to Tahir Shah, who experienced the plant in decidedly nonluxurious circumstances in Peru while researching his book Trail of Feathers: In Search of the Birdmen of Peru, you can’t really have a chichi ayahuasca experience. “The point of ayahuasca is that it completely undoes you. I was in total darkness in a longhouse in the deep jungle, and had to crawl through mud to the water’s edge, slipping and sliding like a pig in filth. I crapped and threw up at the same time, my eyes blinded by colours. I thought I was dying. And that’s the whole point.”

But practitioners argue that the growing interest in shamans and the plants they work with is symptomatic of the fact that a collective consciousness is working together to seek out a redemptive future for the planet and mankind. They claim that the spirit of ayahuasca is so strong, so extraordinary, it is creating its own calling – just don’t mention carbon footprints.

Polivoy is philosophical about the environmental damage caused by flights to her retreat, but admits that western culture could be as well served by using its own rituals and working with its native plants. Maybe we would be better off drinking a potion made from tree bark and magic mushrooms and taking part in a Morris dance, which, after all, is closer to our spiritual roots. It’s unlikely, though, that Lucy would want to entertain her dinner party guests with details of that trip, isn’t it?

in Times Online 

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Brazilian army engineers prepare to pave a stretch of Highway BR-163, which becomes a red dirt road about 60 miles south of the Amazonian city of Santarém. Debate rages about the possible environmental effects of plans to pave the 1,100-mile road, which turns into impassable mud much of the year.

 

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Luciano Costa came to the jungle 34 years ago and has been waiting ever since for electricity and a paved highway.

 

Texto e Fotos: JACK CHANG / MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

KILOMETER 129, HIGHWAY BR-163, Brazil — When the rains come to this patch of the Amazon forest, the bright-red dirt road that passes farmer Luciano Costa’s house dissolves into a sticky mush so thick that neither cars nor people can pass.

 

Costa and his family often are stranded for days. In the case of emergencies, seeking help means risking getting stuck in the mud with no one but the monkeys and jaguars for company.

 

“We’re cut off from the rest of the world, and that’s the truth,” Costa said recently outside his house. “It’s like how people lived 50 years ago. We don’t have electricity. Sometimes, we don’t have a road. We’ve been forgotten.”

 

Costa and thousands of other Amazon residents would like to see the government finish paving the 1,100-mile road, known as Highway BR-163. The Brazilian government has been promising to do so for more than 30 years.

 

Yet others oppose paving the more than 500 miles of BR-163 that are unfinished. They fear that a reliable road would spark a land rush and lead to the destruction of more of Brazil’s environmentally sensitive rain forest.

 

The debate symbolizes the dilemma facing Brazilian Amazonia, as the zeal for economic development in the region butts up against worries that the world’s largest rain forest is rapidly disappearing.

 

The rhetoric intensified this year, when Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva earmarked about $800 million to pave the entire highway by 2010. So far, work has gone slowly, and Brazilian army engineers said they were paving only 12 miles of road a year.

 

Pressure is growing, however, to finish the project. Soybean production is booming in Brazil, and a paved BR-163 would connect soy growers near Cuiabá in central-western Brazil to a port that the U.S. agricultural giant Cargill opened four years ago in the northern, Amazonian city of Santarém. Already, tons of soy are loaded at the port bound for U.S. and European markets.

 

Many fear that paving the highway will encourage farmers to clear more forest in favor of greater soy production.

 

Since the country’s military government opened the Amazon for development in the 1960s, new highways have without fail brought slash-and-burn farmers, illegal wood merchants and agro-industry into previously isolated parts of the jungle.

 

Brazil’s government estimates that about a fifth of the Brazilian Amazon, or 227,000 square miles, has been burned or cleared, mostly after 1970. That’s a bit smaller than the state of Texas.

 

The Brazilian environmental group Amazon Institute of People and the Environment found that the toll is even higher, with about half of the Amazon’s ecosystem destroyed or threatened by human activity.

The institute also found that 80 percent of deforestation occurred within 19 miles of official highways.

 

Environmentalists argue that the cost of deforestation is global. Greenhouse gases once trapped by Amazon vegetation now are released, contributing to global warming. Gone are uncounted plant and animal species. Indigenous tribes have been pushed from their native lands.

 

“A lot of people are rooting for this project although they don’t understand what the consequences will be,” said Maria Rosa Almeida, head of a farmers union in Santarém. “We believe it will bring more bad things than good.”

 

Farmers, politicians and businesspeople in the region said they share such concerns but insisted that this time around they would prove that economic development is compatible with protecting the environment.

 

To that end, the federal government has released what it calls Sustainable Plan BR-163, which sets up protected forest areas along the highway and strengthens enforcement of environmental laws in the region, among other measures.

 

“We’re defending a model that restores biological diversity but has man at the center,” said Santarém Mayor Maria do Carmo Martins Lima. “Here, we have 20 million people in Amazonia, and they’re people with a right to be part of the country’s development project.”

 

Residents who have scratched out a living along the dirt road for decades have no doubt that the highway should be paved. The lack of a reliable road has blocked them from selling their crops in Santarém and forced them into a subsistence lifestyle.

 

“This road is a national shame!” ranted 53-year-old Jorge Luiz Calvacanti, who raises crops and cattle on 494 acres about 115 miles down the road from Santarém. “How could they be so irresponsible as to ignore the country’s main artery that connects its north to its south?”

Adding to their anger, many said the unpaved road represented a long-standing betrayal by Brazil’s government, which lured hundreds of thousands of people to the Amazon during the 1960s and 1970s with promises of land and infrastructure.

 

Costa, the farmer, and his family left industrial southeastern Brazil in 1973 with the belief that they were the vanguard of a new wave of development. BR-163 and other highways would help settlers reach into the heart of the Amazon and build new lives, the government had said.

 

But the plan was abandoned in the 1980s when Brazil’s economy collapsed, and people such as Costa were left to fend for themselves. To this day, electrical and telephone lines stop with the asphalt 60 miles outside Santarém.

 

Such stories make for a strong case for paving the road, even to environmental advocates such as Fernanda Ferreira, a Santarém-based activist at the nonprofit Amazon Institute for Environmental Research, who said she believed the asphalt would come sooner or later.

 

“It’s a historic demand of everyone who lives here,” Ferreira said. “I see it as almost certain. The money is already there, and with this Cargill port, so is the incentive. All we can do now is hope some good planning can stop the worst from happening.”

 

in Seattle Times

Em entrevista ao jornal O Estado de São Paulo, o presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva fez um balanço de seu governo, rejeitou possibilidade de mudança constitucional para disputar novo mandato, defendeu a política econômica e entendimento entre partidos da coalizão para eleições de 2008 e 2010.

 

 

 

O jornal O Estado de São Paulo publicou, neste domingo (26), uma entrevista de quatro páginas com o presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Na entrevista, Lula rejeita a possibilidade de uma mudança constitucional para disputar um terceiro mandato em 2010, fala sobre seu governo, a política econômica, o PT e a crise do mensalão, entre outros temas. A agenda eleitoral é um dos temas centrais da entrevista. Pragmático, Lula defende um entendimento entre os partidos que compõem a coalizão que o apóia no Congresso, visando às eleições municipais de 2008 e a sucessão presidencial, em 2010. “Tenho ponderado aos presidentes dos partidos da base que seria importante que eles conversassem e começassem a mapear a possibilidade de alianças políticas nas prefeituras das capitais e das cidades mais importantes do País”. Para ele, esse entendimento facilitaria a construção de uma candidatura em 2010:

“Se as direções não conversam antecipadamente, permitem que o jogo eleitoral e o interesse eminentemente municipal determinem a política local e o conflito nacional. Onde é possível construir aliança política para disputar, por exemplo, 2008? Onde é possível ter candidaturas próprias? Esse gesto pode facilitar a candidatura em 2010”. Lula diz que esse candidato não precisa ser, necessariamente, do PT: “Se a gente tiver juízo, a gente constrói essa candidatura única. Ser do PT ou não ser do PT é um problema que o partido vai ter de decidir”. E faz uma defesa da adaptação na política: “Você está lembrado de quantas vezes eu disse que era uma metamorfose ambulante. Mas, se o político não vai se adaptando ao mundo em que ele vive, ele vira um principista. Na hora do discurso, à frente de um partido, você pode ser principista, mas na hora de governar você precisa saber que tem um jogo que tem de ser jogado”.

O futuro do PT
Indagado sobre se, ao final de seu segundo mandato, o PT não ficará com a cara do PMDB, Lula diz que “não é possível que as pessoas queiram que o partido de 2007 seja o mesmo de 1989”. Segundo ele, a diversidade no interior do PT é que permite que o partido não vá nem para a ultra-esquerda nem para a direita. “Que você fique em uma posição intermediária daquilo que é a política possível de ser colocada em prática daquilo que é possível estar de acordo com a realidade”, resume. Além disso, defende o papel que a Carta ao Povo Brasileiro teve na eleição de 2002: “foi aquela carta que me deu a vitória em 2002. Eu sempre tinha 35% dos votos, e me faltavam 15% para ganhar as eleições. Aquela carta, a composição com José Alencar de vice, eram os ingredientes de que nós precisávamos para fazer com que a gente pudesse ter os outros 15%. Isso aconteceu, nós fomos a 61%”.

Indagado pelos jornalistas do Estadão sobre a possibilidade de uma mudança constitucional que permitisse uma nova tentativa de reeleição, Lula rejeitou categoricamente a idéia: “Quando um dirigente político começa a pensar que é imprescindível, que ele é insubstituível, começa a nascer um ditadorzinho”. E garantiu que nada o fará mudar de posição: “Não tem essa de o povo pedir. Meu mandato termina no dia 31 de dezembro de 2010. Passo a faixa para outro presidente da República em 1° de janeiro de 2011, e vou fazer meu coelhinho assado, que faz uns cinco anos que eu não faço”. Sobre o julgamento do mensalão no Supremo Tribunal Federal, Lula disse que, quem errou deve pagar, que as denúncias devem ser apuradas e que cabe ao Supremo decidir se acata ou não os indiciamentos. “O PT não errou. Eu acho que pessoas do PT podem ter errado”, afirmou, recusando-se, porém, a citar nomes.

Lula defendeu a política econômica de seu governo, classificou-a como um grande acerto e negou que ela seja uma continuidade dos anos FHC. “Se eu continuasse com a política, o país tinha quebrado. Mudou tudo. Mudou a nossa relação internacional”. Questionado sobre quais as diferenças em relação à política do governo anterior, respondeu: “O ajuste fiscal que nós fizemos em 2003. Você acha que não contou nada para a gente poder garantir a economia? A nossa política de crédito, a nossa política de transferência de renda? A nossa política de inovação tecnológica, a quantidade de desoneração que nós fizemos? Não mudou nada neste país?”. Citou o Bolsa Família e o Pró-Uni como exemplos de programas que estão mudando a vida de milhões de brasileiros. E elogiou a atuação do presidente do Banco Central, Henrique Meirelles, concordando que foi “um grande achado na administração da economia”.

Gasoduto e Banco do Sul
No terreno da política internacional, destacou a abertura para a América Latina, África e Oriente Médio, que fizeram com que o Brasil não ficasse mais dependente de um único país. “Embora a nossa exportação continue crescendo 20% para os EUA e 20% para Europa, ela cresceu 100% com a África, 70% com o Oriente Médio e cresceu 50% com a América Latina”, exemplificou. Lula negou a existência de uma disputa com a Venezuela e a Argentina. “O Brasil tem US$ 4 bilhões de investimentos na Venezuela. O Brasil tem interesse em fazer parceria entre Petrobrás e PDVSA. Estamos muito bem relacionados na América do Sul, temos e tivemos esses problemas com a Bolívia, que são problemas naturais. O Brasil, com a maior economia, tem de ser sempre mais generoso com a Bolívia, o Paraguai, o Uruguai, porque são países menores, que precisam ter oportunidade de crescimento”.

Especificamente sobre os temas do Gasoduto e do Banco do Sul, propostos pelo presidente da Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, Lula mostrou mais interesse no primeiro do que no segundo. Segundo ele, o gasoduto interessa ao Brasil e há mais de 50 técnicos da Petrobrás discutindo com a PDVSA para verificar a viabilidade econômica e ambiental do projeto. “Se ficar comprovada toda a reserva de gás na faixa do Orinoco, nós temos um potencial extraordinário para desenvolver a América do Sul”, afirmou. Quanto ao Banco do Sul (que serviria como agente de financiamento de projetos de desenvolvimento na América Latina), o presidente brasileiro disse que, a priori, não é contra, mas que é preciso definir antes qual seria a característica do mesmo. “Nós já temos o CAF (Corporação Andina de Fomento”, que funciona bem. Então o pessoal está discutindo”.

Aberta corrida presidencial?
O Estadão destacou as afirmações relativas à sucessão de 2010. Na noite de domingo, uma matéria repercutiu o conteúdo da entrevista, afirmando: “Entrevista de Lula abriu corrida presidencial, dizem aliados”. O PMDB de (Michel) Temer teria reagido com euforia. “O presidente Lula tem nos ouvido com freqüência, portanto, não nos surpreendeu. Ele tem nos tratado como os integrantes da coalizão esperavam”, declarou Temer ao jornal. Já o deputado José Eduardo Cardozo (PT-SP) disse que uma candidatura única dos partidos da base do governo “é o caminho mais sensato a seguir”, mas que esse é um processo difícil, entre outras razões, por disputas regionais difíceis de serem superadas. Cardozo admitiu a possibilidade de o PT não ter candidato, dizendo que o partido precisará ter grandeza caso apareça um nome de outro partido “que corresponda às expectativas e tenha mais chances de vitória”.

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