Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Brazilians Oppose Bush-Lula Ethanol Pact

and ROGER BURBACH

During Bush’s visit to Brazil thousands of poor, rural members of the international Via Campesina social movement and the Brazilian Movement of the Landless Rural Workers (MST) orchestrated massive, non-violent occupations of multinational agribusiness corporations throughout the country. Nine hundred women occupied the Cevasa ethanol distillery in São Paulo. According to the press statement released by Via Campesina, the protest was against “the proposal by the United States government to benefit large ethanol companies in Brazil, which is not in the interest of the majority of the Brazilian population.” Cevasa is the largest producer of sugarcane in Brazil, and last year 63% of its shares were bought by the US-based Cargill corporation.

Other occupations included paper mills in Rio Grande do Sul owned by Stora Enso Oyj of Finland, and Votarantin and Aracruz of Brazil. All of these actions were to protest the model of economic growth via industrialized agriculture for export. The social movements and their supporters in civil society assert that while Brazil’s agroexport boom may boost Brazil’s GDP, it is increasing poverty and marginalization for the rural poor due to land concentration, environmental destruction, unemployment and labor exploitation. According to the Via Campesina press statement, for every 100 hectares planted to sugarcane (from which Brazilian ethanol is produced) only one job is generated, while on a family farm 35 jobs are generated. In Brazil, agribusiness is controlled by a handful of multinational corporations that are usurping more and more Brazilian territory, and expelling more rural poor to the already-swollen urban centers.

The occupations’ organizers were careful to highlight that their critique is not of ethanol itself, but with the paradigm being imposed on the industry ­ large scale, industrialized production for export to the Global North (especially the US), entirely controlled by multinational agribusiness corporations. At a press conference held by the Via Campesina, the MST, the Central Union of Workers (CUT), and the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), Bishop Tomás Balduino said, “The pact between Brazil and the United States for the promotion of ethanol is sinister. It’s just going to promote death, marginalization, poverty and the destruction of the environment because it defends the interests of large multinationals.”

Ethanol is emerging as a way for powerful international capital interests to ally, merge and strengthen. João Pedro Stedile, of the national coordination of the MST and Via Campesina, declared, “Bush came to Brazil as a messenger boy for the multinational companies, the agribusiness companies, the oil companies and the automobile companies that want to control the biofuels.” George W.’s brother, Florida state Governor Jeb Bush, was recently appointed to co-chair the Interamerican Ethanol Commission (IEC), which has as its mission to “promote the usage of ethanol in the gasoline pools of the Western Hemisphere.” The other co- chairs are Roberto Rodrigues, President of the Superior Council of Agribusiness of Brazil and Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter American Development Bank. Formation of the IEC highlights the alliance being built between US and Brazilian petro and agro capital, and reveals why the current discourse of ethanol as a renewable and sustainable form of energy is cast in neoliberal language that ignores the disastrous impact this corporate model has on society and the environment.

The social movements and their supporters propose that Brazilian ethanol production should be in the hands of small farmers, as part of a diversified agricultural system in which local food production for Brazilians is prioritized, thereby assuring land, livelihoods and jobs for the rural poor. Brazil should focus on producing ethanol for its large internal market ­ not to sustain US consumption.

Yet despite the widespread protests and opposition by the very segments of civil society that helped bring Lula to power in 2002, and re-elected him for a second term last October, an accord between Brazil and the US has been signed for joint research and cooperation to increase ethanol production, export, and trade as a global commodity. The accord indicates that Lula is cooperating with Bush and agribusiness in order to ensure the industry remains controlled by large capital interests while the Brazilian rural poor sink deeper into poverty. “Today there is no more agrarian reform, there is agribusiness,” said Bishop Balduino. “Make no mistake, this accord will only benefit the multinationals and the elite.”

Regardless, the voice of dissent articulated through the occupations by the Via Campesina and MST during Bush’s visit garnered national and international attention and strengthened the resolve of the social movements. The MST is determined to challenge the Lula government and is stepping up its land occupations, including the seizure of lands that could be used for ethanol production. According to João Pedro Stedile of the MST, “the Lula government is supporting the mode of agricultural production known as agribusiness that allies the landowners with the transnational corporations. This is going to provoke a popular reaction sooner rather than later.”

ISABELLA KENFIELD is an Associate of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) based in Berkeley, California. Currently she is a journalist living in Curitiba, Brazil and has written on social movements, multinational corporations and biofuels.

Roger Burbach is the director of the CENSA. He has written extensively on Latin America, including, “The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice.” He is also the co-author with Jim Tarbell of: “Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire.”

 

More articles by:
October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail