By Pia A. Gaarder
The investigation committee on Aracruz was established late March in the presence of 500 representatives for more than 60 organisations, all part of The Movement Alert against the Green Desert. It is highly uncommon that a state authority establishes an inverstigation committee, and it indicates that the Norwegian lead company has ended up in grave conflict with its host country.
The public investigation represents yet another blow for Aracruz, following the state parliament banning the planned 17 000 hectar eucaluptus plantation expandation last autumn. According to the new legislation, all new plantation has to sease until an ecological survey of the land areas have been finalized. However; Aracruz has now received help from the federal supreme court.
According to the Brazilian online newspaper “Gazeta”, the supreme court ruled on the 6th of June that the temporary ban on planting in Espirito Santo is illegal. Reason: The ban is only on plantation of eucalyptus that is grown for reduction to cellulose. Thus found the supreme court that merely some of the eucalyptus farmers were affected, and that the ban was in conflict with the principle of equality. The supreme court admitted no right to compensation for financial loss in the period of the ban. It is currently not known how the state will react to the ruling.
The investigation committe has, after weeks of activity, documented a long list of complaints, irregularities and illegal actions that the company is supposed to have been guilty of over the last 30 years.
A representative for the smaller farmers’ organisation, João Batista Marré, was the first to be heard by the committee. He told the investigators that Aracruz Cellulose only the last few years had thrown out more than 100 local farmers in the commune of Vila Valério. Their homes had been destroyed and eucalyptus trees had been planted on their fruitfully soiled lands, suitable for corns and fruit.
According to The Movement Alert against the Green Desert newsletter, Marré also handed over 500 pages of documentation on how the company during 1974-75 bought a 22 000 hectar land area, assisted by puppets who didn’t themselves live in the area. The law says that this land should exclusively belong to independent farmers, and not companies. The original inhabitants were forced away by special groups – including military personell.
The investigation committee’s work is said to have received astonishingly little attention in the press. The local press in the state have not covered the committee’s hearings. Instead, according to The Movement Alert against the Green Desert, there has popped up several big Aracruz commersials, and a whole-page letter of support for the company. Many of the signatories are supposed to have been unaware of the initiative.
Facts: Aracruz Cellulose
Aracruz Cellulose is owned primarily by four large stock holders; Lorentzen Empreendimentos (28 %), Votorantim (28 % bought by Mondi International in October 2001), Safra (28%) and the Brazilian Investement Bank for Social and Economic Development, BNDES (12,5 %). Lorentzen Empreendimentos is controlled by the Norwegian Erling Lorentzen, who foundet Aracruz Cellulose in 1972, and who today holds the chairman of the board position in the company. Aracruz owns 144 000 hectar of eucalyptus plantations in the Espirito Santo and Bahia states. Furthermore, the company owns the worlds largest cellulose plant, producing an annual 1,3 million tons of short fibred bleached celluloses.
Norwatch Newsletter 7-8/02