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Latifúndio | Counting the Beans

Senator Kátia Abréu: "Miss Deforestation"

Senator Kátia Abréu: “Miss Deforestation”

Source:  Brasil de Fato

At least six of the major foreign and domestic groups in the agribusiness, mining and firearms industries invested  R$ 1.395 million in the 2010 election campaigns of nine of the 17 federal deputies who signed  PLP 227.

The bill weakens protections of indigenous rights to ownership of their traditional territories.

Data from the federal elections tribunal (TSE):  See the complete list of campaign donors to the 17 authors of PLP 227.

Dozens of other companies and multinationals involved in grain, pesticides, meatpacking, mining and construction are well represented among the principal donors of the lawmakers who signed PLP 227. As the Parliamentary Agriculture Front denounces the supposedly corrupt interests of native peoples and environmentalists, without ever naming names, the TSE donation figures indicate who should really be questioned about conflicts of interest.

PLP 227, on the agenda since last year, seeks to create a complementary law to Article 231 of the federal constitution – “On the Indians” – creating exceptions in the right of indigenous peoples to the traditional lands they occupy — a matter of great importance to the Union.

Among these exceptions, under PLP 227, is the exploitation of Indian lands by agribusiness and mining, and the construction of businesses with ties to the interests of the three spheres of government — municipal, state and federal.

In that light, the approval of  PLP 227 is of direct interest to national and international business organizations, who see indigenous lands as a fertile and promising field for the productive areas of each sector, all closely tied to the commodities markets.

These commercial groups financed part or all of the political campaigns of the lawmakers who proposed PLP 227. As the saying goes, it is the conductor who tells the band what to play.  This case is no exception: the 17 deputies are well-known opponents of indigenous rights in their public- and private-sector  lives.

The U.S. multinational Cosan, which produces biofuel and operates on indigenous lands in  Mato Grosso do Sul, invested  R$ 150,000,00 to the campaigns of  (1) Luiz Carlos Heinze (PP/RS), who openly opposes the demarcation of Indian lands; (2) Giovanni Queiroz (PDT/PA), owner of a Pará latifúndio; (3) Roberto Balestra (PP/GO), a major landowner of the Center-West, and (4) Moreira Mendes (PSD/RO), sponsor of PLP 227 and owner of a latifúndio with interests in agribusiness.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, however. The multinational JBS, biggest meatpacker in the world, was notified by the federal prosecutor in 2011 about selling animals raises in the indigenous lands of Marãiwatsédé, which belong to the Xavante. JBS disbursed R$420.000,00 to political candidates. Gerdau, whose owner, Jorge Gerdau, was given an office near president Dilma’s to serve as a consultant to the government, donated R$ 160,000.00.

Seara, of the international group Marfrig, one of the most prominent agribusiness combines in Brazil, donated R$ 75,000.00. The National Association of Firearm and Munitions Manufacturers donated R$ 230,000.00.  Bunge of Holland, an international agribusiness giant that arrived in Brazil during the second decade of the XXth Century, chipped in with R$ 360,000.00.

Real Interests

It has become a common practice, in the national legislature, for ruralist lawmakers, with ties to latifúndio holdings and agribusiness, to use the floor of the Camara and Senate to attack indigenous and environmental organizations. The accusations are monotonous and focus on supposed corrupt influences, in some cases connected to international groups who are said to represent a threat to national sovereignty and economic development. .

The latest to voice such accusations was federal deputy Moreira Mendes (PSD/RO), who received contributions from the arms industry, Cosan and JBS. Mendes was indignant over the organization of a protest against PLP 227 on the social networks, saying that he had received more than 200 messages accusing him of wanting to put an end to article 231. He called the protestors  [“sinister”] and referred to indigenous groups and NGOs as motivated by criminal interests. Senator Kátia Abreu (PSD/TO) has also used this discursive strategy, in which she relates indigenous groups, Funai and the MPF as symbols of corrupt, conflicting interests.

Abreu is a federal senator who simultaneously serves as president of the SNA, the National Agricultural Society.  She writes a regular weekly column in the Folha de S. Paulo. That means that the principal industry lobbyist is the leader of  government back benchers dedicated to the cause. Her enemies call her “Miss Deforestation.”

Among angrier proponents of this discourse,  an attempt to mount a Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito (CPI) to investigate who, or what, is behind the demarcation of indigenous lands. In this battle of conflicting interests, anything goes.

It is far from being merely a question of campaign contributions. Paulo César Quartiero (DEM/RR) was one of the famous rice farmers … who moved in on land inside the  Terra Indígena Raposa Serra do Sol native reserve. Quartiero was arrested by federal police and charged with leading an attack, with firearms, on a native community.