Brazilian Indians in the War of Eucalyptus

At the time when Brazil was a Portuguese colony, monoculture for export was one of the driving forces behind the development of the domestic economy. Five hundred and four years later, the development project for the country is still based on production for export.

Sugarcane has mainly been substituted by soy, which is the main agribusiness product presented by the government as the solution for the national economy, and by eucalyptus, which is the raw material for the industrial production of pulp and paper.


The advance of monoculture into the indigenous lands continues to be a matter of dispute between these peoples and those who have invaded their lands.


Even today, it is rare for monoculture expansion to take place without seriously affecting indigenous people, their traditional lands, and the environment.


In the deep south of Bahia, very close to where the first Portuguese colonizers landed, around 300 indigenous people who took part in a seminar about the impact of monocultures on their communities blocked a stretch of the BR-101 highway.


The objective of the protest was to pressure the company Veracel Celulose to stop planting eucalyptus in lands traditionally occupied by the Pataxó.


A commission of indigenous people went to Brasí­lia for meetings with the Ministry of Environment, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the Office of the Federal Attorney General.


The commission received the information that a meeting had been set up with the president of the official indigenous people’s agency, Funai, but Gomes’s advisors had not confirmed this meeting.


“Whilst this situation continues, Funai will not meet with the indigenous people. Funai no longer accepts this kind of pressure,” the advisor said, referring to the blockade on the highway.


Part of the land claimed by the Pataxó people in the deep south of Bahia is being used by the company Veracel Celulose for planting eucalyptus.


Veracel Celulose is one of the companies in the Aracruz Celulose group, world leader in the production of bleached eucalyptus pulp.


The third Aracruz factory in Brazil is being built in Eunápolis, in the south region of the state of Bahia.


The company has plantations in the states of Espí­rito Santo, Bahia, Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande do Sul, with approximately 247,000 hectares of eucalyptus plantations, and exports the greater part of what it produces in Brazil.


According to the indigenous people, the companies are violating the environmental law by planting eucalyptus within the boundaries of conservation units, destroying native plants and coconut palm plantations, changing the relief of the land, and affecting water springs.


It is precisely this delay in the demarcation of indigenous lands that makes it possible for eucalyptus plantations to exist in traditional lands and leads to land grabs and situations of tension and violence.


For this reason, the indigenous commission has requested the authorities to suspend the planting of eucalyptus in lands traditionally occupied and claimed by the Pataxó, to proceed with the demarcation process for this land, and to suspend the almost 30 court orders for the removal of the Pataxó and Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe from the reoccupied farms in the south of Bahia.


Cimi ”“ Indianist Missionary Council
www.cimi.org.br

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