In Solidarity with the Members of Via Campesina

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Ecologistas en Acción Organization supports more of the 2,000 peasants who, on 8th March 2006, entered the building of the multinational Aracruz Celulosa, in the Brazilian state of Grande do Sul. On the same date the International Women’s Day was taking place and The International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development of the FAO was being held in Porto Alegre (Brazil).

The Brazilian women members of the Peasant Movement (the biggest international movement within the peasant organizations) occupied a country estate eucalyptus crops. According to the police a million of eucalyptus plants and pines were destroyed as well as the laboratory containing genetically modified seeds (transgenics). These women reported the social and environmental damage of the single-crop farming, the genetically modified plants and the chemicals used by the multinational companies in the production of wood for paper cellulose.

In response to this, an action against many people has been brought. Among the prosecuted there are 30 women of the Landless Movement and the Movement of Brazilian Women Peasants as well as the leaders of Via Campesina who supported the pacific action. Paul Nicholson, peasant from the Basque Country and Europe’s representative of the International Coordinating Committee has been prosecuted as well.

Paul Nicholson would have to serve a sentence of 30 years. He has been found guilty of destroying and tearing off plants, occupying a biotechnology investigation laboratory, confiscation, industry espionage, theft, illicit partnership, hiding property and laundering money.

Three companies, among them Aracruz, grow around 360,000 hectares of wood monocultures for paper cellulose. These ‘green deserts’ are huge plantations of eucalyptus, acacias and pines which cover thousands hectares in Brazil and in Latin America and make the native people and other peasants leave their land. The eucalyptus erodes the soil and needs a great amount of water, which is a limited resource. Each tree consumes more than 30 litres a day. Wherever this desert advances to, there is a loss of biodiversity and high levels of pollution caused by the cellulose industries, soils are damaged and rivers are dried out.

Aracruz grows 261,000 hectares of crops in three states. In 2003 it got a profit of 300 million dollars. However, it can only employ one worker out of 185 hectares. It is known that Aracruz develops genetic engineering in its laboratories. That makes some be suspicious of the use of these products in crops. It must be said too that the Public and Federal Ministry of the state of Espirito Santo brought a legal action against Aracruz for libellous advertising against the native people, who claimed their land occupied by the company.

There are signs that the company, funded by the Brazilian Government, is trying to give a lesson to the peasant movement, which refuses its massive actions of occupying the land and the crops.

Nevertheless, the problems generated by cellulose multinationals are reaching other countries such as India, Chile, Ecuador, etc. The Spanish multinational company Ence in Galicia and in Uruguay where, for example, manages more than 120,000 hectares of eucalyptus crops thanks to its filial in EUFORES. Ence has caused severe problems on the management of water and soils, the loss of flora and fauna, the pollution because of the use of chemicals, deterioration of job quality as well as the great impact on other farming activities. Ence is also funded by the Uruguayan Government: it has tax exonerations for the import of equipments, loans with low rate and a partial refund of the 50 percent of the fixed costs providing that crops reach 75 percent of profit each year. In addition, the government has invested high figures in infrastructures. For the Uruguayan Government all these facilities given to the companies, which work in the country cost around 450 million US dollars between 1990 and 2004.

Ence uses tax benefits and the state subsidies and also gets profit from the aid given by the European Investment Bank (EIB) -thanks to an agreement guaranteed by Caja de Madrid, Bankinter and Banco Exterior- and Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO), another public body which invests an unsustainable forest program but gives profit to the private investor companies.

Ecologistas en Acción considers the pacific action which took place on 8th March in Brazil to be rightful and think that the charges are just an attempt of criminalizing the peasants movements and the native people. In addition we believe that the sentences are not fair because the guilty cannot be proved. What organizations like Via Campesina claim is a fair, social and environmental use of the land as well as the right for every peasant in the world to work in favour of food sovereignty, to land and for a vibrant rural world.

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