Aracruz Cellulose SA is a producer of bleached hardwood kraft market pulp, situated in Brazil. It is a leader in the production of pulp, making up 27% of the world's supply of eucalyptus pulp. Aracruz's pulp comes from the eucalyptus tree, which is ideal for generating profits quickly; the tree is fast growing and is ready to be harvested after only seven years. Europe makes up a huge portion of Aracruz's market, in 2004 40% of Aracruz's market sales were from Europe . Aracruz prides itself on its position in the world's pulp market and claims to be one of the most environmentally sustainable and socially equitable companies in the industry. What is not cited by the company is the fact that it has been illegally operating on the traditional land of the Tupiniquim and Guarani indigenous peoples in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo since 1967. Aracruz recognizes the current conflict with the indigenous peoples of Espirito Santo, but states that at the time they commenced operations there were no people inhabiting the land. Aracruz turns the conflict against the communities attempting to regain their land by claiming they are not truly indigenous people, giving the reason that due to acculturation they have “lost their traditions and habits ”. Aracruz, in its pursuit to make itself out as the good guy, states that it plays a role in improving the local quality of life and has been generous by donating a portion of land to the 4,491 hectares of Indian reserve in 1983. What the company fails to recount is how it has been involved in violence against indigenous peoples, forcibly removing them from land, racist anti-indigenous campaigns, surrounding the small amount of indigenous reserves and stifling it with pollution, poisoning water and land with pesticides, destroying the bio-diversity of the Brazilian rain forest and thus limiting indigenous access to food, burning of villages, and even killing indigenous activists. The Tupiniquim and Guarani people have been involved with the FUNAI organization, which has three times in the past thirty years demanded the expansion of the Espírito Santo Indians reservation, which includes land being occupied by Aracruz eucalyptus plantations. The Brazilian indigenous peoples had a hard struggle before finally the act stating that those 11,000 hectares are indigenous land was signed by the minister of justice, in September 2007. In what follows you can read more in detail about the violations by Aracruz.
Aracruz settles on indigenous lands in 1967:
Aracruz clears 50,000 hectares of Mata Atlântica forest by driving tractors with chains tied between them through the forest, crushing all vegetation and animals.
Aracruz replaces the vast ecologically diverse rain forest with monoculture eucalyptus plantations. Today of the 375,000 hectares of land Aracruz Cellulose S.A. owns, 60% is covered with eucalyptus.
The small amount of water available to indigenous communities is now contaminated by Aracruz's intensive use of pesticides and herbicides. The chemicals sprayed onto the eucalyptus plants are washed off by rain and into runoff streams, rivers, and waterways used by indigenous communities. Fishing is no longer considered safe and water fauna, a source of food, is now dead. The chemicals used by Aracruz are Mirax, amarelão, Scalth and Randap, and a product which kills the eucalyptus after its third cutting. Pesticides create environmental and health harm, and communities who consume the contaminated waters and handle the materials in Aracruz fields can suffer headaches, dizziness and fainting, blindness, vomiting, miscarriage, respiratory problems, cancer, and even death.
Aracruz's deforestation of the Atlantic Forest in the state of Espírito Santo causes adverse effects on the environment and native peoples. Fauna and plant species that existed specifically in the area Aracruz claimed for eucalyptus plantations are now extinct, and the act of destroying the forest created severe unbalance in the ecosystem. Animals no longer had a habitat to live in and diverse plant species were replaced with monoculture. For indigenous peoples who rely on the animals and plants of the forest for their subsistence, they find that their natural sources for food and craft are limited so severely that malnutrition is now a serious problem within indigenous communities.
Violence Against Indigenous Communities:
FUNAI (National Institute for Indian Affairs) in 1993 recognized the right of indigenous people to 13,579 hectares of land.
On May of 2005, the Tupiniquim and Guarani indigenous peoples in Espirito Santo state self demarcated 11,009 hectares of Aracruz's land that had been outlined as belonging to them by FUNAI. This repossession process involved cutting down eucalyptus trees, building small homes and a traditional meeting house, and planting native food crops and trees. On January 20, 2006 police forces backed by Aracruz invaded the land in order to drive out the indigenous peoples. The operation involved three delegates and 120 Federal Policemen from the Command for Tactical Operations. The police were armed with tear gas and submachine guns and they hit the Indians with rubber bullets. Helicopters were used to hunt down fleeing Indians, and some 13 Indians were seriously wounded. The police violently arrested 2 leaders, breaking the arm of one. The villages were destroyed and some set on fire. The machines used to destroy the villages were Aracruz property, and the two arrested leaders were kept in a guest house belonging to the Aracruz company, which point towards Aracruz's involvement in the events.
As a result of the Guarani's attempts to regain their lands, Aracruz launched a campaign against the Indigenous peoples using billboards stating messages such as “Enough of Indians Threatening Workers”, “FUNAI defends the Indians. Who is defending our Companies?”, “Aracruz brought progress. FUNAI brought the Indians” The racist actions taken against the Indians by Aracruz has encouraged local prejudice against the Indians. The message propagated by Aracruz is that the Indigenous peoples are those who are bringing problems into the area. Some schools now forbid indigenous children to wear traditional body paint, and some supermarkets will not allow Indigenous peoples into their shop.
Aracruz is a contributor to the desperate living situation of the Guarani. Injustice against indigenous peoples is not limited to the state of Espirito Santo in Brazil where Aracruz operates, but is rampant throughout the country. Guarani people have no land and little food. Malnutrition has become a serious situation, especially among children. In 2004, at least 21 Guarani children died of starvation and many more were treated in hospitals for acute malnutrition. Because of this the state began distributing food rations to the Guarani people, though in 2007 the Mato Grosso do Sul state government (which has the worst recorded living conditions for Guarani) cut their food aid. The Guarani depend on these rations for their survival, and FUNASA, the National Indigenous Health Department, will only be able to distribute food parcels as a temporary solution . The Guarani’s impenetrable feeling of hopelessness has led it to have one of the highest suicide rates for any one group of people; the suicide rate for Guarani is 19 times higher than Brazil’s national rate . Without land and a way to provide sustenance for themselves, the future for Guarani is grim and leads to a general feeling of hopelessness.
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