Defenders of the Earth in Brazil: “The soy that Europe imports is stained with blood”

The deforestation of the Amazon and the forest masses of Brazil does not stop. The felling of trees in the so-called lung of the planet reached record figures in 2021, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), and the loss suffered by this ecosystem has risen 62% compared to last year. This catastrophic curve of environmental destruction is directly related to the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro to the Government, but also with the consumption cycles of Europe, a continent that demands more and more resources and raw materials what, such as soybeans, contribute to the loss of natural areas in the Global South.

A delegation of indigenous people affected by deforestation and members of Brazilian civil society have landed this week in Spain, precisely to denounce the fatality of illegal logging and to ask European leaders to be held accountable. “The soy that Europe is importing from Brazil is stained with blood,” says Valéria Pereira Santos, representative of the Pastoral Land Commission and member of the Executive Coordination of the National Campaign in Defense of the Cerrado, the Brazilian territory where the largest soybean production is concentrated for the manufacture, mostly, of livestock feed. “The communities are being expelled and the Government allows it. There has been a relaxation of environmental legislation in recent years that has led to the fact that, when all the countries were protecting themselves from the pandemic, Brazil was promoting agribusiness. In 2020, the Most of the country’s sectors were in crisis, but these companies continued to grow and profit,” he says.

“Bolsonaro has fulfilled what he promised when he came to power: not to protect even one more indigenous land”

The search for benefits at the expense of the country’s natural resources also leaves an escalation of violence directed against traditional communities and indigenous peoples. Jabson Nagelo da Silvaindigenous macuxi of the territory Serra da Moca, points out that the persecution comes from the hand of the companies, from “gunmen” hired as assassins to silence critical voices, but also from the public powers that legitimize these behaviors and support the large companies that operate the territories. “Bolsonaro has fulfilled what he promised when he came to power: not to protect or demarcate a single indigenous land,” he denounces, to recall that the institutions responsible for ensuring the rights of communities have been dismantled since the far-right came to power. .

The cruelty is reflected in the territory in the form of threats towards local leaders, but it also extends to the rest of the population who see their way of life gradually disappear. “Around the demarcations there is nothing, everything is already deforested and without resources. In addition, there is great concern about the use of agrochemicals for soybean crops. There are more than 500 harmful fertilizers and pesticides that contaminate the waters used for irrigate and for consumption,” details the indigenous.

A business violence that emanates from the State

In the delegation that arrived in Madrid on Wednesday is André Campos, a journalist specialized in investigating the social and environmental damage behind supply chains and a member of Reporter Brazil. “I have been working on human rights and environmental issues for 15 years and it has never been as difficult for me to practice my profession as it is now,” she says. Inform or try to find out about the soybean sector and the new agricultural industries that arrive in the Latin American country is an act of risk. The gunmen are trying to silence not only the local leaders who raise their voices, but also those who try to shed light with their cameras and their reports.

“Recently, a colleague from my organization was arrested in Matopiba for recording soybean plantations. Private security arrested him and tried to seize the recordings and everything he had. But it was not just the gunmen from the companies, they also received the help of the Police who responded to his call” complaint. The State Forces are involved in this process, but other times it is not even necessary. “There is a climate of impunity generated by the government itself, which, by publicly pointing fingers at activists and journalists, allows other social actors to feel empowered to exercise violence,” he warns.

“The Military Police, instead of watching over people, is in charge of protecting the big producers”

“Violence is both private and public,” adds Pereira. “In fact, when the violence is private there is always a public component, Bolsonaro is supporting with his speech and financing the large corporations that deforest and persecute the territorial leaders. The large landowners are being armed and in addition the Military Police has recently created a group called Rural Patrol that, instead of watching over people, is in charge of protecting large producers”, denounces the representative of the Pastoral Commission of the Land. “The doors are open so that violence can roam freely.”

Europe looks the other way

Much of the environmental destruction generated in the Brazilian ecosystems of the Amazon or the Cerrado is directly linked to the imports that Europe makes from Brazil. So much so that a recent investigation published by the group of journalists Chariot showed how Spanish meat companies are fattening their pigs with feed made from raw materials linked to illegal logging. The report cited some multinationals such as Cargill either bungeewhich operate in the old continent and certify their products with sustainability criteria.

“Solutions cannot be proposed without thinking about or involving the European Union”

“There is a direct relationship between the violence that is unleashed in Brazil and the pattern of consumption in Europe, which continues to increase,” says Pereira. “Solutions cannot be proposed without thinking about or involving the European Union“warns the defender of the Earth.

Campos, for his part, recalls that Brussels’ own environmental standards and policies against the climate crisis are encouraging massive logging in Brazil and in other areas of the world. “We are betting on the search for alternative fuels to oil and that are renewable. Here come biofuels that are made from soybeans grown on land that is devastated. How do you combat climate change if you are encouraging a supply chain that is directly linked to deforestation?” he asks. “Here, in Spain, there are biofuel plants that import raw materials tainted by these practices.”


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