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How much is worth a life? We demand justice for those affected by the criminal disaster and the immediate recovery of environmental area!

Another environmental disaster. Over again in Minas Gerais. Another mining dam disruption. Once again Vale is responsible.

Three years is the time the country took to overcome a criminal environmental disaster, the biggest in brazilian history, only to live again the terrible scenario of mud killing rivers and burying lives.

At this right moment, we find ourselves, once again, watching the reactions of the mining dam Córrego do Feijão disruption, administered by Vale, in Brumadinho/MG. Already 142 are found dead and 192 are still missing, in 12 days of searching, also 103 persons are homeless. Authorities say they will punish severely the ones responsible for the crime, also they say the fiscalization will become more rigorous, but we are still perplex because we have learned nothing with the last environmental crime committed by Samarco, Vale e BHP, in Mariana/MG.

 

Again a sea of mud

The Fundão dam disruption, in Mariana/MG, in november 2015, led to a leak of 50 million square meter of mud full with mining tailings, that violently struck Rio Doce and left millions of citizens of the region without water and work. The crime murdered 19 persons, left a ton of dead fishes and led to a major hit on the coast, causing destruction every place that the mud hit.

However, three months after the crime, no one was taken responsible.

After the dam leaked, Samarco/Vale/BHP constituted, in agreement with the governments of the time, a private entity to carry out the work of recovering the Rio Doce basin and compensating the affected communities. However, what we have today is a deep indignation at the anti-democratic nature of the work carried out by the Renova Foundation, which excludes the impacted communities and the movements of those affected from decisions. Despite having been created to repair the damage, the history of this entity allows us to conclude that its actions have in fact as a priority the protection of the heritage and the interest of the companies. There are many complaints of conflicts of interest in the conduct of the work, including the incorporation of professionals from Vale in strategic positions in the Foundation, as well as undue influence by mining companies in the decision on the use of resources and working methods.

The indignation with the anti-democratic character has also been repeated in the crime of Brumadinho, when once again Vale has already started renting houses without the participation of the victims, and in addition it has also sent families to hotels without the consent of the victims. The lack of respect is the rule in the way Vale has dealt with those affected. In meetings Vale has already said that it could not meet the demands of residents sent a week in advance, the president of the company declared that the company is a “jewel” and “can not be condemned for an accident, no matter how great the tragedy has been”, and moreover during the tribute held at the hearing with federal deputies all stood for 1 minute of silence, only the president of Vale remained seated.

According to the investigation that the MP has carried out, Vale was already aware of the risks of rupture of Brumadinho and 9 other dams. For the MP in emails exchanged between representatives of Vale and the German company TUV SUD, which conducted the inspection in Brumadinho in July last year, expressly mention a kind of blackmail of Vale to prove the safety of the dam tailings, despite what the numbers checked by the inspection pointed out. In the documents presented, the Public Prosecutor’s Office states that there was a severe risk of disruption, in these documents there were also graphics with information on the potential for deaths with alarm triggering and without alarm triggering. The sirens in Brumadinho did not ring. 8 Vale employees were arrested on Friday morning so that the work of the investigation could continue.

After the immediate outcry of the criminal tragedy that occurred in Mariana/MG, there was an attempt to tighten the National Policy on Dam Safety (PNSB). A measure to increase the control mechanisms of this type of activity even went through the Federal Senate, providing, among other things, the obligation to hire insurance or provide financial guarantees to cover damage to those affected and the environment, determination for the company to implement all recommendations arising from periodic inspections and provide for more severe punishment for the company and its legal guardians. However, this bill did not make progress in the National Congress due to the lobbying of mining companies and ended up being filed at the end of last year.

Parallel to all these actions by Samarco/Vale/BHP to hinder the process of compensating those affected, punishment of those responsible and environmental recovery in the Rio Doce Basin, as well as the lobbying in Congress to halt the measures to increase prevention and punishment of mining crimes, what has been verified, on the other hand, are actions by these companies to accelerate the return of the operation of Samarco mining company in the Mariana/MG region. The current president of Vale, Fabio Schvartsman, in an attempt to make his permanence in the position viable, announced at the end of last year that Samarco’s operations in the region should restart in 2020.

Unfortunately the criminal disaster that occurred in Mariana/MG was the most perverse in our entire history, but certainly not the only one. Only in 2018, to stay in examples that also had great repercussion, we had the rupture of an Anglo American slurry pipeline that poured a mixture of iron ore and water into a Santo Antônio do Grama river (MG). And there was the illegal dumping of effluents from a Norwegian Norsk Hydro bauxite refinery in the Amazon region of Barcarena (PA).

We argue that only what can prevent the recurrence of this type of socio-environmental crime is the construction of another development model for the country, different from the current primary export model, which still operates in the logic of slavery, colonialism and plundering. We need a development model that does not mean exporting sweat and blood, water and territory. A development model made for the majority of the Brazilian people. The construction of this alternative must be a strategic struggle of those underneath, driven by the articulation of the peoples of the city, the countryside and the forest. We need a Popular Development Project!

The immediate struggle for new containment measures against disasters caused by the mining industry cannot do without a serious debate on the nationalization of Vale. In addition to the immediate dismissal of the company’s board of directors, it is necessary to listen to the population, through a public consultation process, about what the people think of the privatization of the company that took place in 1997. A privatization process that was much contested at the time and that is now unfolding in two socio-environmental disasters of irreparable proportions in little more than three years. We know that simply having Vale as a public company is no guarantee that new disasters will not happen, but at least it gives the public authorities the possibility of determining, together with Brazilian society, the pace and method of mineral exploration and the priority given to the allocation of its resources. After all, what we are witnessing today is a strategic company for the country being managed according to the prices of commodities, whose main objective is to accelerate extractivism in order to fill the pockets of international private investors, not having as a priority the return to the Brazilian people and the guarantee of better projects and better management of impacts and risks of its activity.

Out, Schvartsman!

Privatization kills!

For a Vale of the Brazilian people!

 

The dismantling of environmental policy

The first month of government was enough to realize that Jair Bolsonaro’s entire discourse and political platform are not sustainable. In practice, reality is different.

Vale’s crime in Brumadinho/MG becomes yet another example of reality, superimposing itself on the discourse and destruction agenda of the Bolsonaro government. If the political affection that Bolsonaro triggers to engage its social base is fear and violence, the character of its governmental actions and public policies of its government have the exclusive character of destruction. Destruction of rights, destruction of public services, destruction of nature and of our territories.

Since before the electoral campaign, the president has systematically spoken of a fictitious industry of Ibama’s fine. Something completely surreal considering that the official data point to a payment rate of only 5% of the total fines imposed. In other words, what exists in fact is a complete picture of impunity in relation to environmental crimes committed by large companies, such as the Samarco/Vale/BHP crime in Mariana, where the vast majority of the fines imposed have not yet been paid.

In addition, the recurring discourse in Planalto is that environmental legislation is very strict and prevents the full development of the country. But in the same week in which the President states in Davos that Brazil is an example in the environmental area (remembering that the prominent position we conquered in this area is due to the public policies that he wants to dismantle and to the traditional peoples that he wants to destroy), we witnessed incredulous people in Brumadinho/MG, which causes the flexibility of the legislation and the dismantling of the environmental organs.

In order to fulfill its campaign promise to “end Shiite environmental activism”, the dismantling package of the federal environmental policy, so far, includes the emptying of the Ministry of the Environment, exemplified by the extinction of the Secretariat of Climate Change, the sector that articulated the fight against deforestation in the Amazon, the sending of the Brazilian Forest Service and the Rural Environmental Registry to the Ministry of Agriculture and the sending of the National Water Agency to the Ministry of Regional Development. All these measures were conducted by Ricardo Salles, creator of the Endireita Brasil Movement, and the ruralists’ intervenor appointed for the position of Minister of the Environment.

Until the day of the Vale dam collapse, Minister Ricardo Salles had said nothing about the main challenges of the portfolio, which are gigantic, nothing about the environmental regulation of large enterprises. The only speeches and actions that are seen by the Minister are interviews and publications on social networks attacking workers in the environmental area, as well as protests against the excess of indigenous lands and conservation units, criticism of the structure for monitoring and inspecting deforestation in the Amazon and persecution of social movements and civil society organizations.

Now the Minister speaks of severe punishment of the mining company and strengthening of environmental management. But how can one trust a subject who was convicted in the first instance of a crime of administrative impropriety precisely for benefiting mining companies in the changes to the management plan of the Environmental Protection Area of Várzea do Tietê?

On January 24, the Federal Justice sent to the Federal Supreme Court the trial of the popular action requesting the nullity of the nomination of Ricardo Salles as Minister of the Environment. We understand that, after the tragedy of Brumadinho/MG, the permanence of the minister was unsustainable for not having the moral authority to act with exemption in the accountability of the company and the demand for justice for the victims. An environmental criminal cannot be ahead of the federal environmental agenda.

As can be seen, the destruction package of the environmental policy is gigantic. And the task that has been set for all the activists is to increase the efforts of articulation and work to amplify the indignation of the people in the face of this new environmental crime. Only in this way will we be able to stop all these setbacks. We will be resistance!

Mud never again!

Flexibility No!

Out, Salles!

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  • Bernardo Corrêa
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