Ocupaçãoda Amazónia


At the first global gathering of Indigenous Peoples on climate change, participants were outraged at the intensifying rate of destruction the climate crisis is having on the Earth and all peoples.

Participants reaffirmed that Indigenous Peoples are most impacted by climate change and called for support and funding for Indigenous Peoples to create adaptation and mitigation plans for themselves, based on their own Traditional Knowledge and practices. Indigenous Peoples also took a strong position on emission reduction targets of industrialized countries and against false solutions.

The majority of those attending looked towards addressing the root problem – the burning of fossil fuels – and demanded an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel development and called for a swift and just transition away from fossil fuels.

“While the arctic is melting, Africa is suffering from drought and many Pacific Islands are in danger of disappearing.  Indigenous Peoples are locked out of national and international negotiations,” stated Jihan Gearon, Native energy and climate campaigner of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We’re sending a strong message to the next UN Framework Convention on Climate Change this December in Copenhagen, Denmark that business as usual must end, because business as usual is killing us.  Participants at the summit stood united on sending a message to the world leaders in Copenhagen calling for a binding emission reduction target for developed countries of at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 95% by 2050.”

“In Alaska, my people are on the front lines of climate change and are devastated by the fossil fuel industry,” related Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL).  “Alaska natives network and we are fighting back.  We recently won a major battle last week as the District Court of Columbia threw out a plan to access 83 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf that was driven by Shell Oil. Shell has a long history of human rights violations, for which many have suffered and died, like Ken Saro-Wiwa of the Ogoni People in the Niger Delta of Africa.”

Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network’s Executive Director, commented, “We want real solutions to climate chaos and not the false solutions like forest carbon offsets and other market based mechanisms that will benefit only those who are making money on those outrageous schemes ”  He added, “For example one the solutions to mitigate climate change is an initiative by the World Bank to protect forests in developing countries through a carbon market regime called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation or REDD.”  He concluded, “Don’t be fooled, REDD does nothing to address the underlying drivers of deforestation.”

At a World Bank presentation at the global summit, Egberto Tabo, General Secretary of COICA, the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations in the Amazon Basin denounced “the genocide caused by the World Bank in the Amazon.” Mr. Tabo also categorically rejected the inclusion of forests in the carbon market and the Bank’s funding of REDD. The World Bank’s representative, Navin Rai admitted that “the Bank has made mistakes in the past..We know that there were problems with projects like the trans-amazon highway.” But REDD, he argued would not be more of the same. However, indigenous leaders at the global summit were unconvinced by his assurances and the Work Bank presentation ended with a Western Shoshone women’s passionate appeal to the Bank to stop funding projects that endanger the survival of indigenous peoples.
Source: Global Justice Ecology
Published Monday, 27 April, 2009 – 13:19

Anúncios

A disputa pela terra e pelos recursos naturais em Carajás é marcada pela assimetria de forças e está encharcada de sangue dos pobres. Ninguém ousou imaginar que o camponês se fixaria em 478 assentamentos na região

Por Rogério Almeida*

Houve um tempo em que as terras do Araguaia-Tocantins eram livres, os rios formavam as principais vias de circulação e os povos indígenas compunham a diversidade social e ambiental do lugar. Eram dias de floresta frondosa.
A rica sociobiodiversidade, no entanto, não mereceu reconhecimento dos planejadores da ditadura militar – que, no apagar das luzes da década de 1960, decidiram “integrar” a região e ocupar o que consideravam como “vazio demográfico”.

No papel de indutor do processo, o Estado fez par com o capital nacional e internacional. Amparadas em políticas de renúncia fiscal e financiamentos públicos, empresas e bancos do Centro-Sul do país passaram a dominar grandes extensões de terra. As rodovias passaram assim a cortar territórios e incentivar a “conquista” da fronteira agromineral.

Como nos tempos de Cabral, a matriz desenvolvimentista ancorada no uso intensivo dos recursos naturais estabeleceu a escalada predatória. Institucionalidades ganharam corpo com a criação da Superintendência de Desenvolvimento da Amazônia (Sudam) e o Banco da Amazônia (Basa), verdadeiras “mães” numa ordem marcada pelo patrimonialismo.

A extração de madeira, a pecuária e a mineração consistiram nas atividades econômicas centrais para a “ocupação” da região. Eixos de integração para facilitar a circulação de mercadorias, em particular grãos (com ênfase na soja), são prioridades até hoje. Uma rede multimodal de transportes (rodovias, ferrovias e hidrovias) desponta dos croquis do Plano de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC), que em nada destoa de planos pretéritos.

A lógica dos planos socializa chagas como a miséria, a destruição da natureza, o trabalho escravo e outras ilegalidades – representadas pelo vasto rosário de casos de violência e de crimes impunes contra trabalhadores rurais, advogados, religiosos, ambientalistas, militantes da reforma agrária. Um lugar tão rico e tão pobre, que vê a riqueza se esvaindo todos os dias para ser usufruída por outros. Não há nada de novo front além da chancela do enclave. A Vale, que abandonou a sigla da Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), é a grande empresa que traduz o poder econômico e político da região.

Carajás reúne um mundaréu de gente – índios, camponeses, assentados da reforma agrária, garimpeiros, madeireiros, guseiros e pecuaristas. Pesquisadores e jornalistas se fartam e produzem estudos e panoramas de variados ângulos sobre a dinâmica de redes econômicas, políticas e sociais da região.

A disputa pela terra e pelos recursos naturais é marcada pela assimetria de forças e está encharcada de sangue dos pobres. Só na década de 1980, tombaram muitos como Expedito Ribeiro e João Canuto. Houve chacinas nas fazendas Ubá e Princesa, entre tantas. Ainda hoje vivas sob o manto da impunidade.

Ninguém ousou imaginar que o camponês se fixaria na região. Foi a partir do massacre de Eldorado dos Carajás, em 17 de abril de 1996, que inúmeras áreas ocupadas passaram a ser homologadas como projetos de assentamento rural. Lá estão hoje mais de 80 mil famílias distribuídas em 478 projetos de assentamento que, somados, resultam em porcentagem significativa de toda a região. Parte dessa gente está organizada em frentes sociais como o Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) e a Federação dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura do Pará (Fetagri).

Não são poucas as organizações que questionam o modelo de desenvolvimento ora desenhado. Os dias são delicados, marcados por uma agenda de grandes obras, como a construção de hidrelétricas para a garantia de fornecimento de energia das empresas do setor de alumínio no Maranhão (Alumar/Alcoa) e no Pará (Albras/Alunorte/Vale). Há ainda a tentativa de efetivação do Distrito Florestal Sustentável (DFS) de Carajás, que abre espaço para a expansão da monocultura de eucalipto com o intuito de alimentar o Pólo Siderúrgico de Carajás. Isso sem citar várias frentes de mineração da CVRD.

Os trabalhadores rurais e suas famílias permanecem em Carajás, sem saber ao certo se vão ficar. Sabem que é muito difícil inverter a agenda dos grandes projetos e reivindicam ações do Estado para reduzir o hiato entre ricos e pobres. A agenda dos centros de pesquisa ainda não foi redirecionada, e no horizonte, não existe um projeto de desenvolvimento alternativo que se apresenta com nitidez a essa população excluída e pressionada.

Eles lutam dia após dia enfrentando as intempéries do que restou de floresta e batendo de frente com os projetos homogeneizantes de desenvolvimento. Feito bambu, que verga, mas não quebra. Estão ali para desafinar o coro dos contentes.

*mestre em Planejamento do Desenvolvimento Regional e colaborador do Fórum Carajás, do Ecodebate e do Ibase, entre outros. É autor do livro Araguaia-Tocantins: fios de uma História camponesa.

Brazilian Indians About 300 young people from the Tupinambá, Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe, Pataxó and Tuxá (state of Bahia), Tupinikim (state of Espírito Santo) and Xukuru (state of Pernambuco) peoples gathered at the 3rd seminar of Tupinambá young people at Serra do Padeiro in the state of Bahia from August 31 to September 2.

 

The Tupinambá people have strengthened their struggle and have been encouraging its young people to organize themselves.

 

Based on the theme “Organized Youth, Strengthened Community,” the meeting discussed the following topics: organization of young people, demarcation of indigenous territories, public policies and challenges faced by the indigenous young people.

 

“The seminar was successful. Young people participated in it actively and contributed to discussions on topics related to the daily reality faced in the villages,” evaluated Magno Santos, a young Tupinambá, one of the event organizers.

 

As a result of this articulation, a committee made up of nine young people from three villages located in the south region of the state of Bahia was created.

 

The first activity of this committee will take place on September 21 at Monte Pascoal, when a “Letter of Young Indigenous People” will be drawn up to be sent to both state governments and to the federal government with proposals and claims from young people of the region.

 

One of the most discussed topics in the seminar and which will be included in the letter is the demarcation of the Tupinambá land.

 

“We decided that if Funai doesn’t solve this problem, indigenous young people will demarcate the territory themselves,” declared Magno.

 

Challenges faced by these  young people today, such as pregnancy during adolescence, sexually transmitted diseases, and drug and alcohol abuse also drew the attention of the participants.

 

“We want the government to take a policy position in relation to these issues,” said the Tupinambá youth.

 

An important victory of the youth organization was a proposal to set up a committee of young indigenous people to join the Apoinme (Cooperation of Indigenous Peoples from the Northeast region, the state of Minas Gerais and the state of Espírito Santos.)

 

Representatives from Apoinme who were present at the seminar said that, from next year on, this committee will become part of the entity.

 

CIMI – Indianist Missionary Council

yanomami-land.png

Indian leaders in Brazil are voicing their opposition to a draft law which if approved will allow mining in indigenous territories.

Davi Yanomami spoke recently to a Survival researcher by telephone from the Yanomami organisation, Hutukara.

 

‘I am very worried about the mining law. It will destroy our heartland. We use the water that flows through Yanomami land for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing.

 

‘I want to publicise this more and let everyone know what we are up against.

 

‘They offer us a bit of money but this is a sop. The Brazilian government will not help us. Once again they want to finish with my people, because they think mining is king. But mining will bring us disease, alcohol and pollution.

‘You who live far away please spread our message – there is another fight going on for our Yanomami land. Our land is recognised – the whole world knows this and the name Yanomami. But now the Lula government is ruining our land once again, even though it’s demarcated. The miners are being encouraged to invade and this is a crime.’

in Survival International

Autorizar soja transgênica só pode trazer prejuízo ao Brasil. Contas mirabolantes e dados confusos: este é o balanço da argumentação favorável à liberação do produto no Brasil. Nada autoriza a pensar que ela seja mais produtiva ou econômica do que a soja tradiiconal.

 

 

O jornal “O Estado de São Paulo” publicou há algumas semanas, com grande destaque, matéria onde afirmava que o Brasil perdeu 26 bilhões de reais desde 1996 por não ter liberado a produção comercial de transgênicos já a partir daquele ano. A matéria está baseada em estudo da empresa de consultoria econômica Céleres, de Minas Gerais, e causou total incredulidade a quem acompanha o tema, pois nem os propagandistas mais ferrenhos ousaram, até então, afirmar cifras tão gigantescas.

O estudo não só foi amplamente divulgado pela mídia como valeu aos seus autores convites para exporem seus resultados em palestras no Congresso Nacional, transformando-se em importante argumento na campanha em curso para pressionar o governo do presidente Lula a acelerar as liberações de cultivos comerciais dos transgênicos, atropelando as avaliações de impacto ambiental e de riscos para a saúde dos consumidores.

A análise detalhada das informações apresentadas no estudo, entretanto, mostra a sua inconsistência e a leviandade de se dar publicidade a tais argumentos. Se esta é a base sobre a qual se apóia a pressão para a liberação dos transgênicos é melhor, definitivamente, não liberá-los.

O cálculo das alegadas “perdas” indicadas pela Céleres tem como premissa básica que os produtos transgênicos têm custo de produção mais baixo que os convencionais e aplica este princípio à produção de soja, milho e algodão, quer resistentes ao herbicida glifosato ou tendo um poder tóxico capaz de matar lagartas (e outras espécies não-alvo).

Dos três produtos, a soja resistente ao glifosato, conhecida como soja RR, da multinacional Monsanto, é o único produto transgênico cultivado no Brasil desde 1996 sendo, portanto, o único sobre o qual é possível avaliar os resultados práticos a partir de dados empíricos e não de especulações. Por esta razão vamos analisar apenas as afirmações da Céleres sobre as “perdas” derivadas da não liberação da soja RR em 1996, que eles dizem ser da ordem de 4,6 bilhões de dólares.

Em primeiro lugar, o estudo diz que a produtividade das variedades de soja transgênica importadas clandestinamente da Argentina e reproduzidas nas propriedades dos agricultores é “elevada, o que potencializou a vantagem quantitativa da semente geneticamente modificada”.

Esta linguagem enrolada parece indicar que a produtividade foi mais alta do que nas variedades convencionais o que não se verificou em nenhum lugar do mundo. Os únicos testes comparativos de que se tem notícia no Brasil foram realizados pela Fundacep, do Rio Grande do Sul. Em todos os testes de campo, tanto as sementes de variedades transgênicas produzidas ilegalmente como as fornecidas pelas empresas tiveram resultados piores do que os das variedades convencionais, com uma diferença média da ordem de 13%. Os testes realizados nos Estados Unidos confirmam esta verdade com um diferencial de produtividade da ordem de 6,0% em média contra as variedades de soja transgênica no conjunto do país[ii].

Apesar deste comentário sobre a produtividade, o estudo da Céleres não atribui qualquer ganho de produtividade na soja RR quando faz seus cálculos sobre as “perdas”. Esta é apenas uma dentre as muitas inconsistências do estudo.

A Céleres cita uma empresa inglesa de consultoria, a PG Economics, como fonte para afirmar que existe redução nos custos de produção da soja RR devido a uma diminuição da ordem de 53% no uso de herbicidas; de 3,06 kg/ha para 1,44 kg/ha. No estudo da PG Economics encontrado no seu site estes números simplesmente não existem. Ao contrário, na página 7 do mesmo se lê: “deve-se notar que em alguns países, como na América do Sul, a adoção da soja RR coincidiu com aumentos no volume de herbicidas empregados em relação aos seus níveis históricos”.

Apesar da indicação acima sobre o aumento do uso dos herbicidas na América do Sul a PG Economics afirma que houve uma redução nos custos do uso de herbicidas no Brasil com a entrada da soja RR, redução de 73 dólares por hectare. Esta contradição não é explicada no texto, mas talvez os ingleses não saibam que o Brasil fica na América do Sul. Mas de onde tiraram esse dado?

A PG Economics não fez qualquer pesquisa no Brasil, ao contrário do que aparece no estudo da Céleres. Sua fonte de informação é uma publicação do Departamento de Agricultura dos Estados Unidos, o USDA. O Gain Report Br4629, de novembro de 2004, apresenta uma tabela comparativa entre os custos de produção da soja transgênica e da soja convencional apenas para a safra 2004/2005 e apenas para a região de Cascavel, no Paraná. Com base em dados tão parciais a consultora inglesa extrapola as supostas economias de 73 dólares por hectare para todo o Brasil e para todo o período de 1996 a 2006.

Mas de onde o USDA tirou o seu dado? A publicação americana cita o Deral, Departamento de Estudos rurais da Secretaria de Agricultura do Estado do Paraná, mas a tabela em questão simplesmente não existe no site do Deral.

Contas mirabolantes
Para confundir ainda mais o leitor é preciso dizer que o estudo da Céleres apresenta uma tabela onde a economia de custos conseguida com o uso de soja RR é de 35 dólares por hectare, em média, para todo o Brasil de 1996 a 2006, mais uma vez devida a uma redução de 50% na quantidade de herbicidas utilizada. A fonte é uma outra empresa, Arcádia Internacional, de origem belga. Nenhum dos textos obtidos no site da dita empresa, entretanto, permitiu identificar qual a fonte de informação utilizada para esta suposta redução do uso de herbicidas.

A Céleres não teve sequer o cuidado de incluir nas suas contas o custo da tecnologia transgênica, observação que a Arcádia faz na sua tabela. A Monsanto cobra 2% sobre o valor da saca de 60kg de soja entregue pelo agricultor. Hoje a saca tem um valor médio de 25 reais e a parte da Monsanto seria de 50 centavos por saca. Calculando uma produtividade de 50 sacas por hectare, o custo da tecnologia seria de 25 reais por hectare. Este valor é de aproximadamente 12,5 dólares por hectare, ou seja, no balanço entre a suposta economia de 35 dólares no uso de herbicidas e o aumento de custo de 12,5 dólares pelo uso da tecnologia, o resultado é uma redução no custo de produção da ordem de 22,5 dólares apenas, menos do que o mercado está pagando de prêmio de qualidade para a soja não transgênica _ 30 dólares por hectare para uma produtividade de 3000 kg/ha.

Em outras palavras, o que queremos dizer é que o estudo da Céleres não se sustenta porque está baseado no estudo da PG Economics que está baseado no boletim do USDA que está baseado em um estudo atribuído equivocadamente ao Deral e cujos critérios e fontes não podem ser verificados. Por outro lado, a citada tabela da Arcádia Internacional também não dá a fonte dos dados e a Céleres esqueceu de incluir o custo da tecnologia nas suas contas. O que temos aqui são puras especulações de “pesquisadores internacionais” que são citados pelos pesquisadores nacionais como fontes sérias e seguras e, com isso, busca-se impressionar o público leitor.

A notória inconsistência dos dados apresentados é perceptível para qualquer um que esteja familiarizado com o uso de herbicidas na agricultura. A mera idéia de que o dado de uso de herbicidas em um determinado ano possa ser extrapolado para dez anos já é um absurdo total.

O caso dos EUA
Na falta de qualquer estudo minimamente sério sobre a cultura de transgênicos no Brasil, penso que podemos olhar para os estudos realizados nos Estados Unidos e que cobrem quase o mesmo período daquele da consultora inglesa, nove anos desde 1996. Estes estudos, realizados pelo pesquisador norte americano Charles Benbrook usam dados oficiais do governo daquele país e uma metodologia que é apresentada de forma transparente em seus estudos[iii].

O estudo de Benbrook prova que o uso de soja RR nos Estados Unidos desde 1996 fez crescer e não diminuir o consumo de herbicidas em comparação com os cultivos de soja convencional. Trabalhando com médias nacionais, Benbrook mostra que em 1996, o primeiro ano de cultivo de soja RR nos EUA, a redução do uso de herbicidas foi da ordem de 30% enquanto no segundo ano a redução foi de 23% em comparação com a soja convencional. Em 1998, a comparação entre a soja RR e a soja convencional resultou em um consumo de herbicidas 6% maior para a primeira. Deste ano em diante, as diferenças de uso de herbicidas vão ficando cada vez maiores, chegando a soja RR a consumir 86% mais herbicidas do que a convencional no nono ano do cultivo, 2005.

O estudo de Benbrook sobre milho e algodão resistentes a herbicidas segue o mesmo padrão, com 20% e 56% de uso de herbicidas a mais nos produtos transgênicos ao final de nove anos de cultivos.

Como é possível que os dados sejam tão discrepantes? Haverá realmente ou terá havido uma redução no uso de herbicidas pelo emprego de soja transgênica no Brasil? Pelo padrão exposto pelo pesquisador americano é provável que no início tenha havido uma redução de uso que, junto com a maior facilidade na aplicação dos herbicidas, tenha provocado o entusiasmo dos agricultores do Rio Grande do Sul em relação a esta tecnologia. Mas é impossível que os dados econômicos e agronômicos tenham se mantidos neste patamar ótimo entra ano e sai ano desde 1996. Já se fala em resistência das ervas invasoras ao uso do Roundup crescendo no RS há alguns anos. As estatísticas sobre o uso de herbicidas no RS, embora não detalhadas por cultura apontam para um forte crescimento no consumo que coincide com a expansão da área com cultura de soja RR naquele estado.

A hipótese mais provável é que a forte redução nos preços do glifosato, com o fim da patente da Monsanto junto com a súbita queda no valor do real em 1999, tenha mascarado as contas dos agricultores. Com o glifosato até 50% mais barato de um ano para outro, usar mais herbicida não aumentou os custos de produção quando comparados com os anos anteriores. Com o dólar quase dobrando também de um ano para outro, os sojicultores do RS tiveram ganhos tão significativos que certamente lhes pareceu justificar até um uso maior de herbicida para ter mais facilidade no controle de invasoras. Daí a se afirmar que o país perdeu bilhões por não ter usado soja RR mais cedo vai uma leviandade que beira a má fé.

Se as tendências constatadas por Benbrook para os Estados Unidos se confirmam para o Brasil _ e não há porque haver diferenças significativas entre os dois casos _ o “atraso” na regulamentação da soja RR em nosso país representou uma forte economia de custos, de cerca de dois bilhões de dólares, e não uma perda de 4,6 bilhões como especula o estudo da Céleres.

Está na hora de se fazer um estudo a sério sobre os custos de produção da soja RR no Brasil e suspender as operações de marketing com cálculos mirabolantes sem base na realidade após dez anos de produção no Rio Grande do Sul. O estudo da Céleres, assim como o da inglesa PG Economics ou o da belga Arcádia em que o primeiro se baseia, é totalmente inconsistente.

* Jean Marc von der Weid é economista e coordenador da AS-PTA (Assessoria e Serviços a Projetos em Agricultura Alternativa) aspta@aspta.org.br

——————————————————————————–

Informativo Fundacep. ANO XI, nº 14, Agosto/2004.

[ii] ELMORE, R.W. et al. Glyphosate-resistant soybean cultivar yields compared with sister lines. Agronomy Journal, 93408-412, 2001.

[iii] Genetically Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Nine Years. Charles M. Benbrook, BioTech InfoNet, Technical Paper Number 7, October 2004. Disponível em: http://www.biotech-info.net/Full_version_first_nine.pdf

 

A Bolivarian Coordinate?

By CLIFTON ROSS

 

Back in 1989 or 1990, as I watched, along with the rest of the world, the collapse of the “Evil Empire,” I remember thinking to myself, “one down, one to go.” I knew, and all the imperial hubris of Fukyama’s “end of history” just made me that much more certain, that the time would soon come for Evil Empire II. “Soon” is a relative term. Here we are, a mere seventeen or eighteen years later and Evil Empire II is on its way down, as historical events go, at super action speed.

 

What I didn’t expect was that new empires would emerge, or attempt to do so, in the wake of the collapse of the two empires that jostled for position throughout the Cold War years. Brazilian revolutionary theorist Ruy Mauro Marini would dub these rising empires, “sub-empires,” and he claimed that the seeds of sub-empires are already visible in Latin America. Of course that’s what we USAmericans were back in the early 19th century, an ex-colony aspiring to sub-imperial status, mingling with the full-fledged, grown up empires of Britain, France and Spain and hoping one day to play in the Major League ourselves.

 

I muse on all of this as I wait in my hotel room in Quito, Ecuador, for Napoleon Saltos Galazara to arrive. I had just finished reading his article, “UNASUR: la coordenada bolivariana” published in the extraordinary Ecuadoran review, “La Tendencia,” in which he considers sub-empires, dying empires and what he calls “the Bolivarian Coordinate” (1) with the skill of a scientist. He is, after all, a scientist, among many other things.

 

Dr. Napoleon Saltos and I have in common our passage through Liberation Theology into socialism, although I’m not familiar with his mentor, the widely admired Ecuadoran Liberation theologian, Fr. Leonidas Proaño. But Napoleon, rather than following in his mentor’s footsteps, seems to have flown over them. In addition to his work as professor and former director of the School of Sociology at the Central University of Ecuador, Dr. Saltos was founder of Pachakutik, the indigenous organization which, along with CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador) led the spectacular rebellions in Ecuador throughout the ’90s. He then served in Parliament as a member of that party but left when it allied itself with the traitorous President Lucio Gutierrez, who rode the social and indigenous movements to power and then turned on them within days of becoming president. Saltos went on to work within the social movements and held the post of “Coodinator of Social Movements.” He also writes and publishes what has become a yearly handbook on Ecuadoran reality entitled “Ecuador: su realidad” (Ecuador: Its Reality), a hefty tome full of current statistics on employment, imports and exports, data from census and an all around round-up of everything you ever wanted to know about Ecuador but were too ignorant to even know how to ask. Let me put that in the first person. This is, after all, my first visit to the country and I have very little prior knowledge of “its reality.” But I’m confident, weighing his yearbook of information in my hands, that Napoleon is the man to ask.

 

He has graciously agreed to a spur-of-the-minute interview and has squeezed me into the space between a meeting an a press conference: Napoleon is also running for the Constituent Assembly on the Polo Democrático slate, a united front of fifty-two left groups, parties and organizations.

 

He arrives quickly with a man name Guillermo and when I ask about Guillermo, Saltos explains, “Guillermo always accompanies me. It’s, well, safer that way.” I can almost forget that I’m in a part of the world where politics can often get you in big trouble, even as much as getting you killed, especially if you organize the kinds of subversive circles that Napoleon does. Neither of the two ruling oligarchies of Ecuador are particularly well-known for their kindness.

 

I hadn’t had enough time to prepare for the interview since I’d only finished reading his article a little over an hour ago. But that doesn’t matter. Napoleon quickly takes control when I explain that I was fascinated by his analysis of the numerous potential power struggles emerging from the vacuum the collapse of U.S. imperial power in the region is leaving in its wake, assuming, as nearly everyone down here is so doing, that the U.S. empire is in collapse.

 

“The struggle is much more complex now,” he says. “On one side you have the North-South Axis with the neoliberal project based in the United States and Europe.” But this axis is a waning economic power, with ties to the local Ecuadoran oligarchies, of which there are two: the financial business oligarchy of the mountain region, predominantly Quito, and the financial, agricultural oligarchy of Guayaquil. This North-South Axis, U.S/Europe-Local Oligarchy, is the traditional enemy of the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic left in Ecuador, as in all of Latin America. This is the axis of power that has received the most attention from political and social scientists, economists and activists worldwide. It has also been the object of most resentment and attacks by the latter.

 

But Saltos wants to explain why Correa, a university professor, backed largely by the middle class, and not the social and indigenous movements, is leading the anti-imperialist struggle on these three fronts: against Oxy Petroleum, the FTAA and the U.S. military base at Manta. And why there may be more to Correa’s opposition to this three-fold struggle against the North-South Axis than immediately meets the eye.

 

He talks about the rebellion of 2000, which included social movements, the indigenous movement and progressive military. Though that movement brought Lucio Gutierrez to power, “we in the movement didn’t manage that well. Lucio Gutierrez was an historical error,” Saltos says, “We were wrong. And he cost us; he weakened us.”

 

“This current [anti-imperialist] struggle should have been organized and led by the social movements, as in Bolivia. I speak of Bolivia as the process from below; Venezuela is a little more a process from above. We should have undertaken this current phase of the process as a social movement but we were too weak to carry it forth, too weak as a result of our errors.”

 

I ask him to explain more precisely what these “errors” were. He nods and unhesitatingly explains. “We gathered great strength in the ’90s as we united the urban social movements and the workers’ movements, with the indigenous movement and we struggled together all the way up to the elections of 1996. And that’s where you can see two key errors. First, we always select someone as our national representative from outside our ranks. So, in 1996 and 1998 we called on a journalist, Freddy Ehlers… who is Secretary General of CAN, Andean Community of Nations. He was our national representative, and then we parted ways and he cut off our route. Then we returned to the struggle and in 2000, not in an election, but rather in a rebellion, we took power with the military and, once again, we chose someone from outside of our ranks to represent us: Lucio Gutierrez. We repeated the error. “

 

The Ecuadoran revolutionary movement also erred in its understanding of the military. “The military can’t be viewed as an institution that, as a whole, would move toward social change,” Saltos explains. “There are always internal distinctions, as in Venezuela where Chavez also had problems with his military: there were sectors that were with Chavez, but others carried out the coup.”

 

In the 2000 coup in Ecuador in which the social/indigenous movements allied with the military, they were turned back out of power within 24 hours. Lucio Gutierrez seized control and was supported by sectors of the social/indigenous movement, most notably Pachakutik. Saltos continued to serve in the Parliament until he left Pachakutik in 2002 in disagreement over its support for Gutierrez.

 

“Nevertheless, that desire for change has continued to the present. It’s a volcanic force that continues to grow, not only in Ecuador, but in all Latin America. But we, as a social movement weakened due to our errors, haven’t been able to represent it. And so it has fallen to Correa to gather all this energy together. He says, ‘we’re going to confront imperialism and the oligarchy; we’re going to take on the right wing, down with partyocracy!’ And he won the election. However, even though Correa confronts this sector, he’s allied with the second axis, the Manta-Manaus axis, or the China-Brazil, East-West axis.”

 

Here Napoleon mentions the theories of Theotonio Dos Santos Ruy Mauro Marini who worked on the theory of sub-empires from the Brazilian context. Marini defines subimperialism as “the form that the dependent economy assumes on arriving at the stage of the monopolies and finance capital.” It is characterized by “the exercise of an autonomous expansionist policy” and he added that “only Brazil, in Latin America, fully expresses a phenomenon of this nature,” although he goes on to add both Mexico and Argentina as countries having “sub-imperialist characteristics.” One must keep in mind, however, that Marini wrote this well before Argentina’s economic implosion in 2001 and that would leave only Mexico and Brazil as countries in Latin America displaying such “sub-imperialist characteristics.” (2)

 

Meanwhile, Venezuela continues to promote its “counterhegemonic” and anti-imperialist project of regional unity, what Saltos calls “la coordenada bolivariana” (the Bolivarian Coordinate). In April of this year, President Chavez proposed UNASUR during an energy summit of the Americas on the island of Margarita. In addition to coining the name and calling for a Secretariat of the organization to be located in Quito, Ecuador, Chavez pushed the idea of regional unity a little farther in the process, but some analysts think that Brazil may not be amused, much less interested in playing ball, even though both Chavez and Lula deny any sort of rivalry. At least one analyst thinks that Brazil prefers Mercosur to UNASUR “because it is a forum that cannot do anything without its approval. But Brazil’s leadership might be diluted if UNASUR gets off the ground — in fact that is what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is counting on. UNASUR would have to function by unanimous agreement, which would probably paralyze it, or by majority, to which Brazil is unlikely to submit.” (3)

 

This division between Brazil and Venezuela was best symbolized by the brand of energy each country promotes, ethanol and petroleum, respectively, but there is much more to the story than what goes into the gas tank of a car. And Ecuador may be the key chess piece in the regional Great Game. Among others, Ecuadoran writer Kintto Lucas in his book on recent Ecuadoran history, “Un pais entrampado,” sees Ecuador as an integral part of Brazil’s aspiration to carve a path to the Pacific, using what is called the “Manaos-Manta multi-modal corridor.”

 

Both Lucas and Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi quote General Golbery do Couto e Silva, author of “Brazil’s Geopolitics,” in which that Brazilian strategist stated flatly that “Brazil must not dwell on what it has already accomplished; it must arrive hegemonically to the Pacific.”(4) Zibechi in his article on the subject goes on to discuss the frontier expansionism of Brazil, using the contemporary example of Brazil’s leadership of the occupation of Haiti under the auspices of the U.N. as a point of departure to discuss historical examples of Brazil’s occupation and conquest of neighboring territory. “Between 1850 and 1950,” Zibechi tells us, “Brazil’s ‘Amazonian territory’ doubled at the cost of its neighbors; Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela lost portions of their land during that timeframe.” Indeed, “Brazil’s consolidation as a regional and world power -though it champions multilateralism- is leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of those who feel Brazil’s steamroller-like advances are creating a new disequilibrium on the subcontinent.”(4)

 

The struggle between Venezuela and Brazil potentially represents a much deeper division emerging in Latin America today as the U.S. empire tanks and digs its way deeper into the morass it has created for itself in the Middle East. The U.S., in its National Security Strategy of September 17, 2002, proposed to prevent any possible players from challenging its supremacy, stating that “America (sic) will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.” On the American continent it hoped to contain such “emerging threats” as Brazil by means of walling it in along the Pacific by means of “free trade” agreements with Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. The 2006 election of Correa to the Presidency of Ecuador just as the nation considered such a treaty changed all that. Since that time, Ecuador has effectively broken the US-imposed barrier to the Pacific and now clears the way for the Brazilian dreams of empire, or at the very least, the further strengthening of a great regional power.

 

Nevertheless, the struggle to contain Brazil continues to be part of the greater problem of constructing a regional unity that will enable the southern nations to contend with their more immediate concern, and that is the still-present threat of the U.S. empire. Ecuador’s current strategy seems to be to build alliances with Venezuela, Brazil and whatever other potential allies may offer to consolidate a block of power against U.S. hegemony.

 

Tomás Peribonio, ex-Minister of Foreign Trade under President Alfred Palacio, is now working as a contractor for the current Correa government designing the Manaos-Manta multi-modal corridor. He’s a handsome, friendly fellow who has also granted me a spur of the moment interview when I showed up at his penthouse office in the Ministry of Public Works building. He offers to do the interview in his excellent English, but quickly slips into Spanish as he emphasizes that “the most important thing is regional unity.” The construction of this multi-modal corridor, he describes as a “mega-project” that would be constructed “over the course of years and perhaps even decades.” The aim, he says, is to unite “Pacific Asia, which, from my point of view, is the area of major world commerce, managing about fifty percent of world trade” with the Atlantic, specifically Brazil, which is increasing its cultivation of soy and other grains with an eye on exports.

 

For Peribonio regional integration begins at home, with Ecuador, a country that commonly characterizes itself as the “nation of four regions,” which are the Amazon, the mountains, the plains and coast, and the Galapagos. These regions have experienced strong tensions and this fact has often been posed as a primary problem confronting national leaders as they attempted to unite the country. This multi-modal corridor, Peribonio hopes, will serve to first unite the country and then go on to unite Ecuador with Peru and Brazil, since the corridor would also go through Peru. Finally, says Peribonio, the corridor would integrate Ecuador more firmly into the world economy.

 

Will that be Venezuela or Brazil, the plan of Chavez for what Napoleon calls the “Bolivarian Coordinate” as embodied in ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or will it be the model defined by Brazil’s need for growth, or an alliance between these two models? Is there another option? Peribonio shrugs. “Our countries have to unite in order to grow and develop. Europe, for instance, has grown enormously as a result of a complete integration. The model which has the greatest support will be the one that wins. But we can learn a lot from Europe and the approach it has taken toward integrating the smaller, poorer countries into its Union. But what’s most important is convincing our people, the workers, indigenous people and people in the neighborhoods that alone we’re small and weak, but that it’s only through regional integration and unity that we’ll become strong.”

 

Clifton Ross is the co-editor of Voice of Fire: Communiques and Interviews of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (1994, New Earth Publications). His book, Fables for an Open Field (1994, Trombone Press, New Earth Publications), has just been released in Spanish by La Casa Tomada of Venezuela. His forthcoming book of poems in translation, Traducir el Silencio, will be published later this year by Venezuela´s Ministry of Culture editorial, Perro y Rana. Ross teaches English at Berkeley City College, Berkeley, California. He can be reached at clifross@gmail.com .

 

Notes

 

1. “UNASUR: la coordenada bolivariana”, La Tendencia, May, 2007

 

2, Marini, Ruy Mauro, in “La acumulación capitalista mundial _y el subimperialismo,

 

3. http://www.stratfor.com/products/premium/read_article.php?id=287656

 

4. Zibechi, Raúl, “Brazil and the Difficult Path to Multilateralism,”

 

5. http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html

in Counter Punch 

 

This video is a little long, but it is an amazing view of the dangers faced by activists working in places like this.

 

From the Guardian’s website:

Paulo Adário, the coordinator of Greenpeace’s Amazonia campaign, who led the mission subsequently complained that ‘We heard from the Mayor and all of the others that the Constitution does not exist in Juína, there is no right to go and see, no freedom of the press. It is completely unacceptable that ranchers, with the support of the local authorities, can violate our freedom of movement and freedom of expression in this way.’Unfortunately such threats are both very real and very common in Brazil today. Over the past 30 years, 1,237 rural workers, union leaders and activist have been killed in Brazilian land disputes and only a tiny handful people have ever been convicted as a result.

I have huge respect for journalists and activist who put their lives on the line to get the truth out. But as Paulo reminded me by email:

We could leave the region with our plane and – that Tuesday – remove the two Opan guys. But the Enawene will stay there forever, and Opan needs to come back to help them. They are under threat, not us.

He’s right. They’ve asked for our help, and brave people like that deserve it. One way we can help to keep them safe is to spread the word. So please forward this video around.

 

Survival International is also calling on people to write emails and letters. Also see the OPAN website.

 

post do Andrew no Blog Making Waves

 

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August 30, 2007

 

Threats and intimidation down Amazon way

 

As the narrator of this startling video states, “working in the Amazon forest is not for the faint of heart.” In the past, people from campaigning organisations have been bullied by land owners and workers, facing intimidation, violence, death threats and even murder. The most recent example, documented in the video from Greenpeace Brazil, happened just last week and seeing footage of a situation verging on outright violence, I’ve found a new level of respect for the men and women who put themselves in the firing line.

 

 

The trouble began when a group of representatives from Greenpeace and Operation Native Amazon (an organisation working with forest communities), along with two French journalists, went to visit the indigenous Enawene-Nawe people near the town of Juina in Mato Grosso state. All they wanted to do was document their way of life in the forest, but were prevented from doing so by an angry mob of farmers and local officials.

 

Attempts to negotiate failed as it became clear that the farmers considered themselves as owners of not just the land and roads, but also the Enawene-Nawe as well. As the group are escorted away by a convoy of Jeeps and pick-up trucks, this appalling affront to civil liberties in a democratic country is a shock to the system, particularly as the town mayor was helping to run them out of town. At least they could leave, but the Enawene-Nawe’s lands are surrounded by farms which are continually encroaching on the forest.

 

When it comes down to it, the rights of a community who have lived there for generations are being challenged by the commercial ambitions of farmers who have been cutting down the forest for perhaps 20 years. I know who I’m backing.

 

post do Jamie no Blog Making Waves

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