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IW 06

Brazil

THERE ARE 5 MILLION SQUARE KILOMETERS OF AMAZONIC FOREST

Lula declared 59% of Brazilian territory privatizable

When in the 70's he laid cornerstone of the Trans-Amazon highway for the benefit of the lumber industry, the dictator Garrastazu Medici called the Amazon “a land without men”. For that racist definition, he had to obviate the imprecise number of native communities that inhabit it. Lula made a qualitative leap: in February, Congress approved his privatizing law for the Amazon, which in the future will be able to be called “a forest without trees” and “a land of men without land”.

The law represents the privatization of the so-called Legal Amazon: it open the concession of public forest to private initiative, in spite of which it conserves title in the hands of State” (Clarin,March 3). The 5 million square kilometers that would be auctioned off, — the Amazon basin — contains half the world's botanic species (anywhere from 20 to 30 million), and half the world's tropical rainforest. Botanists estimate there are more than 125 thousand plants, indispensable to medical industries. This forest, in its interchange of gases with the atmosphere, liberates 50% of the oxygen necessary for life, and generates the heat currents that temple the planet's climate.

The privatization law is in line with the “change debt for nature” projects, promoted by the IMF, the WB and the IDB, that foresee a release of debt in exchange for the transfer of wealth in the form of natural resources. This plan obliges ”the states subscribing to the FTAA to put all their public utilities and those connected to the exploitation of natural resources, at the service of private exploitation. In the same way, states may give rise to environmental policies only to the extent that they not be an impediment to foreign investments, in water as in biodiversity. In Brazil this could mean the transferral of land to provincial and municipal governments closely linked to private corporations of the United States and the European Union” (Argenpress, September 27, 2004). Lula entered the FTAA without signing the FTAA. Lula’s excuse for his “productive rainforest” policies is that in this way he will avoid the illegal appropriation of land, whose emblematic case is that of Cecilio do Rego Almeida, owner of a construction company that appropriated 5 million hectares in the state of Parara. If the lands are given up in concession for the benefit of the lumbering, pharmaceutical, chemical, etc., industries, the state will collect a canon!

There are three concessionary levels: small and medium industries, big national companies and multinationals, of whom “it is only required that they have a branch office in Brazil” (Clarin, March 3). The Brazilian Environmental Law Commission coordinator, Marcos Montenegro, said that “to make the Amazon privatization viable represents submitting it to foreign capital.” The concessions of up to and including 40 years have a guarantee of “supportable use”: every three years there will be auditing…from the very government that cannot prevent the occupation of the land by big capital, but has a record of evicting MST peasants from their land.

In April, 2004, the Brazilian Ministry of Environment sent to Australia a group of experts to analyze the experience of concessions in the New South Wales forest, similar to that planned for the Amazon. The trip was financed by the American Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Forest Service (USDA), (www.radiomundoreal.fm). Lula had already surrendered monitoring of the Amazon to foreign capital through a satellite owned by the Hispamar company, of Brazilian origin, but controlled by the Spanish Hispasat, breaking the monopoly exercised until then by the Star One satellite, of the state-owned corporation Embratel. The PT government has hung a “for sale” sign on more than half the country.

by Olga Cristóbal