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:
Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail