The Multinational Monitor


I N D I G E N O U S   P E O P L E S

Brazil: "Developing at Indians' Expense

Some 200,000 Brazilian Indians, spanning 26 language groups, reside in Brazil, largely in the Amazon region. Their traditional economies rely on agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering forest foods. Extensive land, therefore, is vital for their survival.

Brazil's Indians currently face a dangerous threat from their government's economic development strategy, which relies on the exploitation of Indian lands and resources.

The "Great Carajas Project" is an enormous industrial park currently under construction in the eastern

Amazon states of Maranhao, Para, and Goias (see MM report on Indian opposition to Alcoa's involvement in the project, September, 1982). Total direct and indirect investments in this venture amount to $61.7 billion.

The exploitation of natural resources in the Great Carajas Project is taking place in four separate but interrelated sectors: mineral extraction and processing (copper, gold, aluminum, manganese, nickel, tin and iron ore); hydroelectricity; forestry; and livestock breeding. Investments in the infrastructure necessary for these projects have already been made, including the construction of roads, railways, harbors, and electrical energy facilities. The power plant of Tucurui, the largest hydroelectric facility ever built in a tropical forest, is scheduled to begin operation in 1982. At least five large metal projects are under production.

The dependence of these projects on foreign banks and corporations is widespread. According to some estimates, about 30010 of investments will come from foreign sources. Loans to finance the exploitation of an 18 billion-ton iron ore mine is coming primarily from the European Economic Community, the World Bank, a consortium of American banks led by Morgan Guaranty Trust, Japanese banks and the German government.

Brazil has already invited foreign corporations to participate in almost all the projects under extremely favorable conditions. The companies will receive guaranteed rights to land, cheap manpower, and infrastructural support from the Brazilian government.

For the Indian nationals and approximately 100,000 peasant families to be affected by the project, the consequences will be severe, with loss of land, damage to the environment, and cultural disruption widespread.

In addition to the Great Carajas project, the Brazilian government and international banks are building huge and expensive hydroelectric dams to supply energy for such projects as Carajas.

The development of hydroelectric energy will proceed at the expense of native peoples. According to a recent study by Dr. Paul Aspelin and Dr. Silvio Coelho dos Santos, at least 10 Indian reservations will lose major portions of their lands to hydroelectric projects. Between 91,000 and 351,00 hectares of Indian land in all will be taken.

This report is taken from an article written by Robin Wright of the Anthropology Resource Center.

Who Runs Brazil?

In a discussion with Multinational Monitor, Marcal de Souza, one of the founders of the Brazilian Union of Indian Nations, sketched out the reason why the Brazilian government serves the multinational corporations - to the detriment of the Indian population.

Souza: The Brazilian government is providing incentives for multinational corporations to come into Brazil. Many of the projects of these companies lie near or in Indian areas. They involve such things as mining development and hydroelectric power production.

These multinational projects damage Indian communities in several ways. The most obvious effect is on the environment, and the diseases brought by the non-Indian people who work on these projects.

MM: Why is it that the government sides with the multinationals and not the Indians?

Souza: These companies are extremely powerful. The larger the company, the greater their power, and the greater the degree of closeness that they develop with the government. This closeness can be very personal. The head of the company just calls up a minister, at home, and tells him what he wants done.

These companies have a lot more economic resources and political power at their disposal, so when push comes to shove, the whole federal government comes down on their side. There is no one to stand up for the rights of the Indian people.

"We Protest"

The following is a statement by Lino Pereira of the Miranha People, on behalf of the representative committee of the Indigenous People of Brazil. Lino Pereira delivered this detailed indictment against multinationals in Brazil at the Washington conference on Aboriginal rights.

"The indigenous people of Brazil wish to express their solidarity with their brothers in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Australia, Canada and other countries because of oppressions and massacres presently committed against them and because of the situation in which they find themselves, and to publicly condemn these thing which are now occurring. At the same time, we want to inform the other indigenous peoples attending this conference in Washington of some of the principle problems caused by multinationals in Brazil and by the Brazilian government itself. We protest the following:

1. The construction of the highway from Cuiaba to Porto Velho, financed by the World Bank, which will cut through the territory of the Nambiquara Indians;

2. The invasion of the Satere-Mawe territory in the state of Amazonas by the French Elf Aquitaine petroleum corporation, which has destroyed a large part of hunting, fishing, forest resources and the traditional culture of these people;

3. The development of the ProAlcool (gasahol) program in the Brazilian northeast, which will affect various indigenous groups including the Wacu, Tinguiboto, Xoxo-Cariri, whose lands will be destroyed by sugar cane plantations;

4. The invasion of the Kaingang lands in the state of Parana in southern Brazil by the company of Slavero and Son, which has already cut down a large part of their forest for export;

5. The lack of legal recognition of Yanomami lands and the constant threats by politicians both of the government and opposition parties to reopen the Yanomami lands to prospecting. Besides leading to land loss and illegal mineral exploitation, these mines will also subject the Yanomami to diseases to which they have no resistance;

6. The absurd removal of the Pataxo people of the Brazilian northeast to inferior lands where they have no food stocks. Those who will suffer most are mothers and children. All this is in benefit of some big land owners under the protection of politicians who foresee the coming elections. All this is an affront to basic human dignity;

7. The construction of the Tamandua hydroelectric dam on the Cotingo River in the northern part of the Amazon, which will flood the Macuxi and Wapixana Indian lands. There is also an effort on the part of the government of Roraima to settle homeless Brazilian families on part of the lands that the Indians will lose;

8. The construction of the Balbina hydroelectric plant on the Uatuma River, which will flood the territory of the Waimiri-Atroari;

9. The transfer of the Guarani people of Ocoi on the Parana River to an area less than half the size of their own, because of the construction of the Itiaipu hydroelectric project;

10. The threat of the termination of the special legal status of the Indian and the imposition of special criteria to establish who is a member of the Indian community, both projects undertaken by the president of a special planning commission of FUNAI (National Indian Foundation), Coronel Ivan Zanoni;

11. The method used by FUNAI as a weapon to quiet indigenous people - the large-scale contracting of Indian people as its employees;

12. The implementation of large-scale economic projects to introduce Indians to capitalism, thus diverting their attention from their own subsistence farming activities;

Confronted by these aggressions, the indigenous people of Brazil join together in body and spirit with the other indigenous peoples of other countries. Together, we may see our rights respected and achieve a peace similar to that which existed among us before the rise of capitalism,

To conclude, we should remember that a large part of the world's resources are in indigenous areas, and that the indigenous peoples are the best keepers of their lands; that it is all peoples - not just the indigenous ones - that the forces of capitalism, especially in the form of multinational corporations want to exploit for their own enrichment.

Therefore we invite you to come to learn with us.

Without its native people, Brazil does not exist."

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