By Harald Eraker,
The yearlong conflict between the worlds largest cellulose producer, Aracruz, and the Tupinikim- and Guarani indi-ans reached a dramatic turning point on the 13th of January this year. FUNAI - the official institution in Brazil responsible for demarking of indian land - presented its report which confirms that the traditional land of the two indian peoples is within Aracruz's enormous property which the company partly has converted to eucalyptus plantations.
- Now that the land claim has been made public by FUNAI, the case cannot be denied, specially not by Aracruz Celulose, says Winfried Overbeek from CIMI to NorWatch.
CIMI is an organisation supporting indigenous peoples, run by the Catholic church in Brazil. It has for many years supported the 1 450 Tupinikim- and Guaranis in their fight against the giant Aracruz, where the Lorentzen family has an ownership of 28% of the voting shares. Lorentzen's stocks are worth about 1.5 billion kroner. (7 kroner is worth 1 USD)
The parties involved in the conflict and others concerned, have the possibility to comment on the FUNAI report until the 13th of April. This also means that the indians are given the opportunity to claim compensation from Aracruz.
Within the next 60 days, FUNAI will present its conclusions to the Minister of Justice. He will take the final decicion within 13th of July this summer.
- Making the report public is an important step towards extending the territories of the indians, as FUNAI recommends. The period until the 13th of July 1997 will have a decisive significance for the Tupinikim- and Guarani-indians, says Overbeek, who hopes that the support for the indian international campaign, which started last May inceases.
NorWatch can now present additional information about how the living conditions for the indians are and the environment has suffered under Aracruz' expanding activity. Today the company controls over 203 000 hectares of land which is equivalent to 4/5 of the Oppland county area in Norway. A large part of this area has been converted to eucalyptus plantations. The eucalyptus wood is the raw material for the production of pulp.
A recent investigation by the well known magazine "The Ecologist" shows that Aracruz cut down more than 50 000 hectares of primary forest to make way for the eucalyptus plantations during the first years after Aracruz started its activities in 1967. Aracruz has been fined several times by the environmental protection authorities in Brazil for having planted eucalyptus in protected areas.
Monoculture, which the eucalyptus plantations represent, has catastrophic effects on the environment. Rogerio Med-eiros, co-ordinator for the Brazilian journalists association for nature and environmental conservation, has monitored Aracruz Celulose's growth from the beginning, and presents disturbing facts: 156 small rivers and streams within the companys plantation have disappeared, wells are drying up, and the San Domingo river has stopped flowing. This has again effected how much fish the local peoples catch. Joao Pedro Stedile from Landless workers movement expressed himself in this way to "The Ecologist":
"50 000 people in the area used to eat fish everyday. Now they no longer eat fish; some of the fishermen have stopped fishing because there are so little fishes left". Aracruz has also been accused by two of the biggest environmental organisations in Brazil for its use of chemical insecticides, among others, the ant killerMirex, which has poisoned animal life in the area.
The Pulp Industry's workers Union has, in addition, accused the company for incorrect management of both waterborne and airborne emmisions.
"In a short time they, destroyed seven Tupinikim villagers, expelling us and today we are surrounded by a sea of eucalyptus plantations...."
Jose Luis Ramos, leader of a Tupinikim village, about Aracruz's conduct in 1967.
In contrast to what Aracruz claimed, large areas of land which the company bought in the sixties and later, were habited by thousands of indians and small scale farmers.
About half of the Tupinikim indians in the area had to move with the take over of land by Aracruz. The older indians still remember that 32 villages had to vacate. According to "The Ecologist", it has been reported that about 7 000 people have been forced to move, of whom several thousand never received compensation.
Real and symbolic violence was used to counter local opposition to the seeling of land: The companys purchase was carried out by two people, a military officer and a local village leader, a combination with a significance not to be misunderstood during a period of military dictatorship.
But the Tupinikim and Guarani-indians have not given up the fight to get part of their territory back. With the support from the Brazilian constitution, which in 1934 gave the Indians the right to their traditional land, they have since 1975 fought for their rights. In 1979 their fight led to the approval of a smaller reservation made up of three separate areas totalling 4 492 hectares, surrounded by eucalyptus plantations.
The Indians have since campaigned for the extension of their reservation by 13 579 hectares, so that they have the possibility of returning to their traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing and gathering.
The land claim was brought forward to FUNAI in 1993, and on the 13th of January this year the FUNAI's report was made public. It identified the Tupinikim- and Guarani-indian's territory is occupied by Aracruz today
- The indian land claim is, among others, supported by the State authorities, representatives from the Parliament, the local Labour party, NGOs and the local Church, including the Bishop, says Overbeek from CIMI.
Aracruz has on their seid always rejected the land claim. The chairman of the board and partly owner of the company, billionaire Mr. Erling Lorent-zen - in Norway best known as the husband of Princess Ragnhild- rejects the demands of the Indians and refuses to give away any land.
The faith of the indians will be decided on 13th of July this summer.
- We have now started an international letter campaign, where we ask organisations and individual people to send letters to the Minister of Justice and Mr. Erling Lorentzen, in support of the indian land claim, says Overbeek from CIMI.
Lorentzen in Brazil
The Lorentzen family owns 28% of the voting shares in Aracruz Celulose S.A., through Lorentzen Empreendimentos Holding, where they own 60%.
Den Norske Bank has 20% part ownership in that holding company. Other share-holders: Souza Cruz (daughter company of British American Tobacco) 28%, Safra Group 28% and the State owned bank BINDE 12%
Norwatch Newsletter 3/97