On UN Human Rights Day, 10 Dec 2010, Survival International released two videos highlighting the plight of the Guarani Indians in Brazil. In One must have courage they ask return of their lands, stolen for ranches, soya and sugarcane plantations.
The Gunmen expresses their anger at landgrabbers and fear of hired pistoleros.
Further north in Pará, Amazonian peoples protest huge hydro dams that destroy forest and river ecosystems, polluting their water and dispossessing them. In June and August, in the city of Altamira, hundreds demonstrated against the huge Belo Monte dam."The forest is our grocery, the river is our market. We want strangers to leave the rivers of the Xingu alone," say chiefs quoted by the church organization CIMI. 300 more dams are planned, say the protesters.
The NGO Amazonia has reported illegal pipeline construction, land grabs by ranchers, Indian children sold as slaves, vigilante murders, fullscale military attacks, corrupt state governments and judges -- all in the name of "development". Even REDD is "short-sighted and deadly" to indigenous peoples, the NGO adds.
There is blood on the organic soya (or hamburgers) you eat, the "green" biofuels you use. More than 1,400 rural poor in Pará have been killed by illegal logger-ranchers over the last 35 years, according to the Catholic Pastoral da Terra. Witnesses die mysteriously. This year, a long-standing court case marked by corrupt decisions ended; a rancher who ordered the assassination of a white Catholic human rights activist, Sister Dorothy Stang, was finally imprisoned after strong US diplomatic pressure. See the 2008 film They Killed Sister Dorothy and the 2009 opera Angel of the Amazon. Land grabs, deforestation, and near-slavery to big landowners continue. A fifth of Amazon forests have been clear-cut in 40 years, exceeding losses in the previous five centuries. Brazil has become one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases.
The price of development? A Time article "Brazil's Land-Reform Murders" points out that Brazil has become the world's biggest producer of sugar, soy beans, coffee, orange juice, beef and chicken. Father Edilberto Senna, an activist priest, says clear-cuts, jobs, and cash are motivating factors behind the bloodshed. Despite free elections, "nothing changes," he says. "Brazil will soon be the fifth biggest economy in the world... But who pays for these ambitious goals? Amazonia, the home of the biggest reserves of minerals and timber." A geographer, Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, has produced a map of the violence. Worst murder rates are in the frontier provinces, and cities where police death squads operate. See also National Geographic's eyewitness reports from the Amazon.
Thanks to Margaret Kidd's blogs on QEWnet for these references.