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Silvia Ribeiro: Paper bullets

Silvia Ribeiro: Paper bullets

by Silvia Ribeiro,
La Jornada, in Rebelión

On March 4th 2008, more than 800 women of Via Campesina Brazil invaded the Fazenda Tarumã in the State of Río Grande do Sul, a farm of 2100 hectares dedicated to the monocultivation of trees for the Swedish-Finnish paper company Stora Enso, the world' second biggest company of its kind. Starting in the morning they began to root out eucalyptus tree, planting native trees in protest at the vertiginous spread of these "green deserts" in the country.

State Governor Yeda Crusius, quick to defend the interests of the company sent, in the local military brigade which, using unrestricted violence and rubber bullets, wounded more than 50 people and arrested the majority who were locked into a sports stadium. The governor has private motives for this savage action since the main paper companies causing havoc by planting thousands of hectares of monocultures in the State (Aracruz Cellulose, Stora Enso and Votorantin Paper and Cellulose) have made "contributions" to her government amounting to more than US$300m, according to accusations made by the Movement of Landless Rural Workers based on submissions to the Brazil's Higher Electoral Tribunal.

Previously, Via Campesina Brazil had denounced the illegality of the invaded property since it is located within 150km of the frontier with Uruguay. According to Brazilian law, foreigners cannot own land in that frontier strip. Stora Enso tried to make the purchase through its Derflin subsidiary but was refused, precisely for being a foreign company. In response, it created a front company, the Azenglever farming company owned by the Brazilians João Fernando Borges and Otávio Pontes (forestry director and vice-president of Stora Enso In Latin America), currently two of the biggest landowners in the State. Azenglever already owns around 50 haciendas totalling more than 45,000 hectares but is aiming to extend its landholdings to 100,000 hectares.

As the women of Via Campesina declared, "Our action is legitimate, Stora Enso is the delinquent. Planting this green desert in the frontier strip is a crime against our country's laws, against the eco-system and against the food sovereingty of our State which has less and less land for producing food." They also explain that although they have denounced this clear case of legal abuse, the authorities take no measures against it. Their action forms part of multiple protests carried out by the women of Via Campesina throughout Brazil in the context of March 8th, International Women's Day, against tree and sugar cane monoculture, against the release of GM maize and other policies of the agri-business multinationals.

In 2006 hundreds of women invaded a platantion in Aracruz to denounce the abuses practised by these companies in various parts of the country who have displaced thousands of people in indigenous, rural workers and quilombola communities either directly or via contamination of water and soils caused by high levels of use of agro-poisons, the elimination of large forestry resources and of fauna and flora, laid waste in and around the plantations.

The companies and the governments that support them argue in defence of this model of huge tree monocultures, advancing like a cancer in many third world countries, levelling communities and eco-systems, that it is "necessary" to produce cellulose to meet the growing demand for paper. Now they also boost these monocultures as raw material for bio-fuels. In both cases the underlying threat from the companies is that to produce more it is necessary to use GM trees.

it is important in this context to note who consumes paper in the world and why, this being the excuse for the abuses of the big paper companies and cellulose manufacturers, including armed attacks by the "paper" governments who second them.

According to Chris Lang and reports distributed by the World Forests Movement (, global per capita consumption of paper in 1961 was 25kg while in 2005 it had jumped to 54kg. These figures conceal that the industrialized countries on average consume 125kg per person while in the countries of the South consumption barely reaches 20kg.

Also the average in the Northern countries conceals imbalances : Finland (the world's biggest per capita consumer of paper) consumes 334kg per person, the United States 312kg, and Japan 250kg. In China, consumption in 1960 was 4kg and in 2005 reached 44kg. But most paper used in China is used in packaging the products it exports to the rest of the world, mainly Europe, Japan and North America.

Most global paper consumption goes into advertising and packaging, which has grown exponentially due as much to the dislocation of production that had previously been local as to all-conquering direct sales to consumers in big supermarkets that have displaced more direct producer-consumer relations at local level.

For all these reasons the Via Campesina women's protest is by no means a local action but rather shows to the world what is hidden behind these projects absurdly called "forestation", designed to increase the profits of big multinationals at the expense of resources vital to rural communities and to life itself.

Silvia Ribeiro es a researcher with Grupo ETC.


Translation copyleft by Tortilla con Sal.

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