FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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:
Weekend Edition
July 10, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Lynnette Grey Bull
Trump’s Postcard to America From the Shrine of Hypocrisy
Anthony DiMaggio
Free Speech Fantasies: the Harper’s Letter and the Myth of American Liberalism
David Yearsley
Morricone: Maestro of Music and Image
Jeffrey St. Clair
“I Could Live With That”: How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade
Rob Urie
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice
Paul Street
Imperial Blind Spots and a Question for Obama
Vijay Prashad
The U.S. and UK are a Wrecking Ball Crew Against the Pillars of Internationalism
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post and Its Cold War Drums
Richard C. Gross
Trump: Reopen Schools (or Else)
Chris Krupp
Public Lands Under Widespread Attack During Pandemic 
Alda Facio
What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Inequality, Discrimination and the Importance of Caring
Eve Ottenberg
Bounty Tales
Andrew Levine
Silver Linings Ahead?
John Kendall Hawkins
FrankenBob: The Self-Made Dylan
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Deutsche Bank Fined $150 Million for Enabling Jeffrey Epstein; Where’s the Fine Against JPMorgan Chase?
David Rosen
Inequality and the End of the American Dream
Louis Proyect
Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic
Thom Hartmann
How Billionaires Get Away With Their Big Con
REZA FIYOUZAT
Your 19th COVID Breakdown
Danny Sjursen
Undercover Patriots: Trump, Tulsa, and the Rise of Military Dissent
Charles McKelvey
The Limitations of the New Antiracist Movement
Binoy Kampmark
Netanyahu’s Annexation Drive
Joseph G. Ramsey
An Empire in Points
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset
Ramzy Baroud
On Israel’s Bizarre Definitions: The West Bank is Already Annexed
Judith Deutsch
Handling Emergency: A Tale of Two Males
Michael Welton
Getting Back to Socialist Principles: Honneth’s Recipe
Dean Baker
Combating the Political Power of the Rich: Wealth Taxes and Seattle Election Vouchers
Jonah Raskin
Edward Sanders: Poetic Pacifist Up Next
Manuel García, Jr.
Carbon Dioxide Uptake by Vegetation After Emissions Shutoff “Now”
Heidi Peltier
The Camo Economy: How Military Contracting Hides Human Costs and Increases Inequality
Ron Jacobs
Strike!, Fifty Years and Counting
Ellen Taylor
The Dark Side of Science: Shooting Barred Owls as Scapegoats for the Ravages of Big Timber
Sarah Anderson
Shrink Wall Street to Guarantee Good Jobs
Graham Peebles
Prison: Therapeutic Centers Or Academies of Crime?
Zhivko Illeieff
Can We Escape Our Addiction to Social Media?
Clark T. Scott
The Democrat’s Normal Keeps Their (Supposed) Enemies Closer and Closer
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
In 2020 Elections: Will Real-Life “Fighting Dems” Prove Irresistible?
David Swanson
Mommy, Where Do Peace Activists Come From?
Christopher Brauchli
Trump the Orator
Gary Leupp
Columbus and the Beginning of the American Way of Life: A Message to Indoctrinate Our Children
John Stanton
Donald J. Trump, Stone Cold Racist
Nicky Reid
The Stonewall Blues (Still Dreaming of a Queer Nation)
Stephen Cooper
A Kingston Reasoning with Legendary Guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith (The Interview: Part 2)
Hugh Iglarsh
COVID-19’s Coming to Town
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail