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Open letter from the Aracruz Indians: - The fight is not over

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.
Artikkelen er mer enn to år gammel. Ting kan ha endret seg.
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.


By Harald Eraker
Norwatch

In March 1998, the Tupinikim and Guarani Indians occupied 13,579 hectares of Aracruz Celulose's eucalyptus plantations. Erling Lorentzen is a major shareholder and chairman of the board of the company. The Indians had demanded to have the area returned from the company for many years, since it was taken from them in the late 1960s.

The occupation was met by heavily armed police and detentions. In an atmosphere of fear and strong pressure, the Indians signed an agreement with the Lorentzen company on 2 April 1998. The agreement said that Aracruz Celulose had to give up 2571 hectares of land, pay the Indians 10 million US dollars and provide them with electricity and water for a period of two years (see NorWatch no. 7 1998 and 8 1998).

Have not given up the fight
Now the Indians have commented the agreement in public for the first time. In an open letter from the top council of the Tupinikim and Guarani Indians dated 3 September this year, they start by condemning the agreement.

"Many people say that we exchanged our land for projects and money. This is not true. We have not given up the fight to have our areas of land extended. The pressure they put on us that time forced us to give Aracruz Celulose a break, and one day we will resume our struggle for the rest of the 13,579 hectares of land. The agreement will not keep us from doing that, because this is our land."

According to the letter, the Indians are upset about the agreement, but they chose to accept it, hoping that the 2571 hectares of land and the compensation would improve their lives.

Alternatives to eucalyptus
The 10 million US dollars compensation will, according to the agreement, be paid over a period of 20 years (500,000 dollars per year). The money the Indians have got so far, has partially been spent on agricultural activities such as the growing of coffee, coconuts, maize, beans and fruit trees, partly on agricultural equipment and irrigation plants.

1800 of the 2571 hectares of land which were returned to the Indians from the Lorentzen company last year are covered with eucalyptus plantations. According to the open letter, the Indians have cut down 250 hectares of eucalyptus which have been sold to cellulose producers:

"We discuss with our villages what to do with the land after the eucalyptus trees have been cut down. There is a strong wish to expand the agricultural areas and start replanting of forest, particularly in the areas around the water sources and the small rivers, which have been dramatically affected by the continuous planting of eucalyptus."

Inflation
In spite of the compensation paid by Aracruz Celulose, the Indians complain of financial problems. The compensation is paid in Brazilian currency (rials) which, according to the letter, means that the money is frittered away by inflation.

Because of this, the Indians asked for new meetings with the company, hoping to re-negotiate parts of the agreement.

"The company had no understanding for our argumentation and refused to change the content of the agreement."

According to the letter, this made the Indians even more upset, and they end their letter by claiming that both Aracruz Celulose and they know that the agreement can be terminated at any time.

"Many people say that we exchanged our land for projects and money. This is not true. We have not given up the fight to have our areas of land extended. The pressure they put on us that time forced us to give Aracruz Celulose a break, and one day we will resume our struggle for the rest of the 13,579 hectares of land. The agreement will not keep us from doing that, because this is our land."

Open letter from the top council of the Tupinikim and Guarani Indians, dated 3 September 1999

Norwatch Newsletter 16/99