Stop Treating Brazil as a Colony in Need of Civilization Lessons!

Farmer in the Amazon Legend has it that, while surrounding Madrid with his troops during the Spanish Civil War, General Emilio Mola Vidal, when asked which of the four columns he headed would first enter the besieged city he answered “the fifth column.” General Mola was referring to his agents, who, from within, were sabotaging the republican resistance.

During the Second World War, the term became synonymous with the struggle against allied activities in the fight to defeat the Nazi-Fascist axis. The fifth column disseminated rumors, trying to neutralize and weaken the will of the resistance and to demoralize the reaction against the enemy.

After the vote of the Forest Code, this May 24, a restaurant in Brasília, received the main “heads” of the international NGOs for a dinner that went late into the night. The House had just approved by 410 x 63 votes, the Forest Code draft and overwhelmingly defeated the attempt of the group of external pressure to prevent a decision on the matter.

The mood at the restaurant was one of shock at the defeat but there was born the modern tactic of the fifth column to push the Senate and the government against Brazil’s agriculture and farmers. The international agents would resort to the foreign media and would spread domestically the idea that the Code pardons loggers and allow new deforestation.

The succession of events illuminates the road taken by the bar plotters. Last Sunday, the daily O Estado de S. Paulo dedicated a page to an article written by journalists Afra Balazina and Andrea Vialli with the following headline: “New Code allows clearing of native forest in an area equivalent to the Paraná state.”

In the whole text of the article there is no information whatsoever that confirms the piece’s headline. It’s obvious that the bill voted in the House does not authorize any deforestation.

At issue is whether two million homeowners who occupy permanent preservation areas (river bank, slopes, hills) should be expelled from their lands or to what extent can they continue farming as they have done for centuries in Brazil, like their counterparts worldwide.

In the newspaper O Globo, the text written by Cleide Carvalho tries to link the Mato Grosso state deforestation to the debate on the Forest Code and the NGOs spread through their contacts in the media the existence of a connection between the killing of peasants in the Amazon and the vote on the legislation in the House of Representatives.

The Guardian of London publishes an article by one of the Greenpeace honchos with threats to Brazil for the Forest Code vote. They treat us like a colonial enclave in need of the empire’s civilization lessons.

International NGOs consider the entire area occupied by agriculture in Brazil, environmental liabilities that must be converted into forest. They deem reasonable to think that millions of farmers be coerced to pull farm trees and grass and plant native vegetation instead in a country that reserves more than 60% of its territory for green areas.

The “amnesty” attributed to the legislation is not explained by those denouncing it and no explanation was asked by the press. They only say that those who deforested until 2008 got amnesty. Who deforested until 2008? Those who planted the first seedlings of sugarcane in the Northeast and in São Paulo at the time of the hereditary captaincies?

The first farmers of Pará, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in the 18th century? The settlers invited by the Getúlio Vargas administration to cultivate the state of Mato Grosso? Or the Gauchos and Nordestinos taken by the military governments to expand the agricultural frontier in the Amazon? Maybe the INCRA settlers who received their land and only got their property title after deforestation?

It’s important to note that, by the legislation in force, they are all environmental “criminals” subject to the opprobrium of environmental fines and citations  by prosecutors and supervisory boards. Involved in this “illegality” web are almost 100% of the country’s farmers for not having the legal reserve, which the law made no provision for, or riparian forest, which the law of 1965 established as being from five to 100 meters and, that in the 1980s, was changed to 30 to 500 meters.

Recognizing the absurdity of the situation, the government itself, in a decree signed by president Lula and Minister Carlos Minc, suspended fines due to the “legal” requirement, whose term expires on June 11 and the decree will likely be reissued by president Dilma.

The government and the country are under intense pressure from  misinformation and lies. The Brazilian agriculture and farmers have become invisible in the presidential palace. I do not know if the president was aware when she included the Brazilian pig farmers to the delegation that went to China in search of market in the Asian giant that almost all the production of pigs in Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná is illegal for being inside a permanent conservation area.

The House of Representatives by a large majority, showed to be looking for the interests of environmental conservation and agriculture, approving a proposal that was accepted by one side but rejected by those who ignore or  need to ignore the reality of the Brazilian countryside.

The Senate now has a great responsibility and the Brazilian government must decide whether to protect the agriculture of the country or to capitulate in the face of external pressures, which in the name of the environment undermine the welfare of our people and the national economy.

Aldo Rebelo, of the Communist Party of Brazil (PC do B) is a member of the House of Representatives for the state of São Paulo. He was the rapporteur of the bill of the New Brazilian Forest Code approved by the House of Representatives. He can be reached at dep.aldorebelo@camara.gov.br.

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