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AFTER DAVOS AND RIO DAS PEDRAS, THE CRIME OF BRUMADINHO

 

This last hectic week meant a crisis for the government. After completing a month as the President, Bolsonaro faces strong contradictions after returning from Switzerland, where he participated in the World Economic Forum. In addition to Davos, the arrest of militiamen from Rio das Pedras in Rio de Janeiro further warmed up the distrust over his son’s – Senator-elect Flávio Bolsonaro’s – illicit business network, which started with Queiroz and appears to reach the Rio militias. The tragedy stemming from the environmental crime in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, sealed the country’s week with shocking scenes, hundreds of missing people and dozens of dead, many of them still unidentified, thanks to the promiscuous relationship of the public power with the big mining companies like Vale.

At a time when more news of the Bolsonaro family’s relations with the militias is being revealed and the crisis involving Flávio worsens, as the Veja magazine of the week has testified, a tragedy is crumbling in the country.

 

The crime of Brumadinho

When we closed the text, the number of confirmed deaths reached 58, and, tragically, it kept growing. There are still more than 300 missing, with mismatched information. The pain the families have been through is terrible. The vast majority of those involved are permanent and outsourced employees of Vale SA. The rupture of the dam, on the afternoon of September 25, at the Feijão mine in the interior of Brumadinho, tragically repeated the crime of Mariana. Three years ago, another dam was broken, in a similar fashion, in one of the greatest environmental crimes in our country’s history.

It is no coincidence that again the main author of such social and environmental crime is the same: Vale. The company, which was privatized during the FHC government for a ridiculously low price, has become one of the main Brazilian villains when it comes to environmental and social crime. Although this post-privatization result was more than predictable, the costs are already too high for the entire Brazilian population.

When transferred to the private sector, Vale follows the script of the big capitalist companies, which in its chaotic operation needs to put its profits over all, from the environment to the life of the people. This capital’s need is denounced by all communities directly affected, who know that their lives are worthless in the face of the exorbitant profits of the mining companies.

In order to guarantee such profits, and especially impunity in the face of their crimes, an organic relationship is necessary, bordering on promiscuity with the governments in force. In Minas Gerais this relationship is wide open and it happens without any shame. From the PSDB governments to the last government of Fernando Pimentel (PT), all without exception acted as managers of the interests of the great mining companies in their path of devastation.

The government of Fernando Pimentel (PT), in fact, even having passed through the social and environmental crime of Mariana, effectively worked to make environmental legislation more flexible, guaranteeing the unbridled expansion of mine exploitation throughout the state. Governor Zema, who recently took seat, manifested in campaign and even after his victory, that he intended to follow the same path. In January, he came to meet with Samarco in order to return the company’s activities in Mariana and two days before the tragedy he met with another company that operates in Brumadinho to ensure the expansion of mining activities in the city.

However, it is not only local governments who are responsible for the carte blanche given to Vale and other miners to destroy. The Bolsonaro government and its allies have already stated several times their intentions in emptying the organs of environmental license. The very policy of not demarcating indigenous lands appears on the same ground of liberation for the predatory exploitation of capital over nature. In addition, the presence of Ricardo Salles in the Ministry of the Environment, even after condemnation in São Paulo for benefiting the mining companies of the state, is unacceptable.

It should also be rejected by the population the theatrical actions promoted by the government, which are being used as disguises for the government and Vale’s guilt of this crime. It is necessary to value the supportive role of first responders, psychologists, social workers and other professionals who have traveled from other states to help the victims and their families in Brumadinho. As in Mariana, the organization of civil society in order to help the victims is a demonstration of solidarity and appreciation for life. Not for nothing even on the first day after the accident the government needed to issue a statement stating that the donations that had arrived were more than enough to meet the homeless.

 

Vale and the governments are responsible

Such demonstrations of solidarity reinforce the importance of popular organization to demand justice for the victims, their families and the environment. A new Mariana in terms of social and environmental tragedy unfortunately ended up happening despite all the warnings. It cannot be repeated in terms of impunity. In this new, more authoritarian and reactionary regime that tries to establish itself in Brazil and in the world, the fight for justice in Brumadinho plays a central role.

The punishment for Vale and the others responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people and entire ecosystems should be on the agenda of the democratic sectors as yet another barrier against the advance of conservatism that is subject to the profit of large corporations. We at PSOL have the task of working shoulder-to-shoulder with the families of the victims and with the workers to demand both justice and tougher legislation on environmental licenses. In addition, the general review of all state tailing dams should also be on our agenda.

Finally, our efforts must also locate Brumadinho in a more general context of the struggle against capitalism combined with the reactionarism that killed Marielle, prevents the elucidation of this crime and last week was part of the process of self exile of Jean Wyllys. The role of PSOL should be to stimulate and organize the resistance of the people. Here is the challenge to face Brumadinho.

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  • Pedro Fuentes
  • Bernardo Corrêa
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