Bits of glass and brick crackle beneath our feet. Unripe bananas and manioc plants lay spread on the ruins of a field. The military police has cleared the area 10 days earlier on behalf of the gigantic cellulose company Aracruz. We are, in fact, not on the Gaza strip but in Erling Lorentzen’s Brazil.
The cellulose giant Aracruz will not contest the Brazilian minister of justice’s decision that the disputed land areas are to be returned to the Indians, Haakon Lorentzen, board member of Aracruz, informed Norwatch. The prerequisite is that the line is drawn and that no further demands will be made to expand the Indians’ territory on the company’s land.
Brazil’s Minister of Justice has sent the land conflict between the cellulose giant Aracruz and the Indians back to the Directorate for Indian Affairs with a request to find a solution that takes care of the interests of both parties. Aracruz’s nightmare – to give up 11,009 hectares of land – is thereby averted.
Aracruz financed all the political parties and is, among the cellulose firms, decidedly the largest contributor to the politicians’ election campaigns. The cellulose industry keeps a tight rein on Brazilian politicians at all levels – from local politicians at the state level to recently elected President Lula da Silva.
Simultaneously with the Tupinikim and Guarani Indians’ visit to Norway to protest against Aracruz Celulose, the Indians’ land conflict with Mr. Erling Lorentzen’s company is being carefully studied by the Advisory Council on Ethics for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global. The Ministry of Finance’s final decision in the Aracruz case is now dependent on the developments in process in Brazil.
The Lorentzen company Aracruz Celulose was caught red-handed destroying natural forest in the Brazilian State of Bahia in October. Local organisations documented the incident by filming trees being cut in an area recently bought by Aracruz Celulose in order to extend the eucalyptus plantations that feed the company's giant cellulose factory.
The Tupinikim and Guarani Indians have made public a letter where they state that the fight to retrieve lands from the Lorentzen company Aracruz Celulose is not over. In their letter, they declare that the agreement they made with the company in 1998 was forced upon them in a situation where heavily armed Brazilian police had surrounded their villages. The Indians have spent parts of the compensation sum that Aracruz Celulose had to pay for self-supporting activities. But much of the money has been frittered away by inflation, and the Indians demand re-negotiation of the agreement.
Quilombo families whom NorWatch has visited in the Brazilian state Espirito Santo, accuse the Lorentzen-company Aracruz Cellulose of being responsible for the deaths of three of their sons due to poisoning as a result of the company's use of pesticides in 1994. According to the families and a local trade union, the deaths were never properly investigated. The Lorentzen-company, on the other hand, denies that pesticides were the cause of death. The company refers to the death certificates of two of the boys, and the autopsy report of the third boy. However, according to a professor at the National Institute of Forensic Toxicology in Oslo, who has examined the material, these documents do not preclude poisoning as the cause of death.
In the report Summa Sumatra, which deals with Norwegian companies' contributions to deforestation on Sumatra, we questioned a loan from NORAD to finance Dyno's production of industrial resins on the island. Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of plywood made of timber from the rainforest. At the same time, NORAD is also supporting forestation projects on Sumatra.
Six environmental organisations have joined in encouraging Norwegian consumers not to buy tropical wood garden furniture. In their statement, the organisations list seven major chains which sell this kind of furniture, and they ask for the retailers to provide active consumer information..