Govt. vows "tight rein"

on new logging operations

Responding to mounting concern over the motivation of three large new industrial loggers in the Amazon, Brazil's Environment Minister Gustavo Krause has struck a defiant posture, stating that Brazil would "keep a tight rein" on logging companies. The companies now entering the Amazon have a history of highly destructive industrial forestry exploitation in Sarawak, Malaysia, as well as elsewhere.

Three logging companies, including the Malaysian WTK Group, one of the world's largest, have arrived in the Amazon recently. This has raised concerns about the possible devastation of the world's largest remaining intact tropical forest. The other two are the infamous Malaysian company Samling and Fortune Timber, which is owned by the Chinese Government and Hong Kong investors. Samling's record in its home state of Sarawak has been the target of widespread criticism by environmentalists.

Environment Minister Krause said that the companies would be welcome in Brazil only if they acted within the law. "If the Malaysians don't leave our forests in peace, we won't leave the Malaysians in peace," he said.

Increasing deforestation, not enough inspectors

According to Brazil's environmental protection agency Ibama, 11 percent of Brazil's Amazon forest has been cleared and the rate is speeding up. In 1994, an area of 5,750 square miles was cut down, compared with 4,300 in 1993.

Only 80 inspectors patrol the vast Amazon region for forestry malpractice. According to Krause, Brazil will turn increasingly to satellite monitoring of its errant timber industry. This will help combat official corruption, Krause believes.

* * *

German Chancellor brands G-7 inaction "pathetic"

In July 1996, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, on a visit to Brazil, severely criticised other G-7 countries for their failure to contribute more substantially to the protection of the country's Amazon rainforests. Kohl said Bonn has been the only G7 country to honour the funding promises made following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.

"The motto seems to be: The others talk, we pay," he said. "Their actions have been rather pathetic. After all, we are talking about protecting the future of a whole generation."

Germany has funded a program of protection measures designed to promote sustainable forest development and exploitation and safeguards for indigenous tribes. The European Union agreed in July to help, but Kohl says his country has contributed 60% of the funding for the program so far.

Chancellor Kohl said it was not for him to criticize developing countries that sometimes pursue development at the expense of their environment, particularly because Europe had all but eradicated its own forests. "It's not our job to force our help on others, but we can offer it," he said.

* * *

Call for Dam Delay

(Brasilia, August 22, 1996)

The President of Brazil's Congressional Committee in Defense of the Consumer, Environment, and Minorities, Dep. Gilney Viana (PT-MT) sent a letter yesterday to the Minister of Mines and Energy, Raimundo Brito, reminding him that the Brazilian Congress has still not authorized the functioning of the Serra da Mesa dam, at the headwaters of the Tocantins River in Goias state, as required by the Brazilian Constitution. He asked for a delay in the scheduled October 1 inauguration date for the dam.

According to Dep. Viana, Congressional approval is needed because of the dam's direct impacts on the Ava-Canoeiro, an isolated group whose survival could be threatened if the floodgates were closed. The reservoir created by the dam would flood 2,000 sq. km., including an area where the Ava-Canoeiro still live without permanent contact with the national society.

There are very few Ava-Canoeiro remaining, after the group suffered the effects of massacres during the late 1960's, but the federal Indian agency, FUNAI, has confirmed that about 12 Ava-Canoeiro have been identified in the area that would potentially be flooded by the reservoir. Other Ava-Canoeiro have been repeatedly moved, according to the stated needs of the dam constructor, the electric utility FURNAS. The last site to which they were relocated was invaded by 64 squatters. Now, they are living in a much more arid area than they are accustomed to.

The completion of Serra da Mesa, scheduled to begin generating electricity in 1998, has been threatened by legal and financial problems. The Nacional Energetica company, which still holds a controlling interest in the dam, was a subsidiary of Banco Nacional, which collapsed this year in a corruption scandal. The sale of the subsidiary is a key part of the bailout plan, but there are no buyers willing to pay the asking price, which leaves the Brazilian government liable to come up with the $100 million needed to complete the project.

In September, Dep. Viana's commission will make a site visit to further investigate the potential impacts of Serra da Mesa on the Ava-Canoeiro

Source: ax:cimi rainfor.general Aug 7, 1996

* * *

Another Mahogany Scandal

One week after Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed a decree suspending the granting of licenses to exploit mahogany and virola (a hardwood similar to mahogany) in Brazil for two years, the Brazilian press denounced the existence of a half-billion-dollar timber project for Malaysian timber companies and the payment of bribes to staff members of the Brazilian Institute for Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama). In the wake of the controversy, some people are saying that the decree is aimed at suspending new contracts only, while other people say it applies to all new and existing contracts. The aim of the government was to prevent the degradation of the environment in the region, but the decree ended up exposing a corrupted scheme of the mahogany Mafia. The bribe scandal was denounced by Friends of the Earth International. The 500-page dossier prepared by the group and delivered to the Brazilian government is based on a study on 10,000 documents kept in the files of Ibama, the Brazilian Agriculture/Livestock Research Company (Embrapa), and Funai. It claims that, in 1995, Ibama staff members were receiving bribes of US$ 5,000 a month from timber companies and charging US$ 20,000-40,000 to issue licenses to cut down mahogany trees. The president of Ibama, Eduardo Martins, admits there were irregularities. This year, 100,000 cubic meters of mahogany were illegally traded in Brazil and abroad. Between 1982 and 1992, indigenous lands lost over 2 billion cubic meters of that hardwood, equivalent to 250 truckloads a month. In 1987, half of the mahogany that was traded came from the reservation of the Xikrin Indians, located in the state of Para'. More than 3.5 thousand timber companies operate in that state. About 470 square kilometers have been deforested in Amazonia, or 11.8% of the whole region. According to Embrapa officials, if the deforesting continues at its present pace, mahogany may become extinct in 30 years. There are 3,040 timber projects in course in Amazonia. Ibama intends to visit 1,010 of them to check whether the new rules are being complied with.

Source: Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi Brasilia, 5 August 1996

* * *

Indigenous Peoples Do Not Accept Review of Their Land

The Council for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Brazil (Capoib) reacted strongly against the decision of the minister of Justice, Nelson Jobim, published in the Official Newspaper yesterday (July 7), to review the bounds of eight indigenous areas based on Decree 1775/96. "The decision of minister Jobim is consistent with the provisions of Decree 1775/96, which was prepared by him and will lead to the genocide of indigenous peoples in Brazil," Capoib claimed.

These eight areas (Evare 1 and Suruini-Mariene, in the state of Amazonas; Raposa/Serra do Sol, in the state of Roraima; Bau and Apyterewa, in the state of Para; Sete Cerros, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul; Kampa do Rio Envira, in the state of Acre; Krikati, in the state of Maranhao) were included in a list of 34 indigenous areas whose size was contested by economic and political groups which want to reduce them under the provisions of Decree 1775/96 and whose claims for this purpose were rejected by the minister of Justice because they lacked any legal grounds. However, the minister tried to soothe these anti-indigenous interests requesting a review of the most coveted areas, which in practice represents a new attempt to reduce those territories. They were, however, demarcated in strict compliance with constitutional provisions and therefore this new maneuver of minister Jobim makes no sense. The accounts given by 20 indigenous leaders, members of the Capoib's board who eyewitnessed conflicts and threats from invaders in conflict areas, show very clearly that the situation is very serious. They came to Brasilia to try and speak to the minister of Justice, who refused to receive them again. During a meeting yesterday of the Minorities Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, the leaders said that they will not accept any decision to reduce their lands and warned that Jobim's measures will enhance the conflicts. Capoib received words of support from many entities and members of parliament from Brazil and abroad, particularly from the European Parliament, who warned the Brazilian government that it will not accept any reduction in indigenous lands, particularly in the ones whose demarcation is being funded by the governments represented in it.

Decree 1,775/96 has been condemned by CIMI (the Indianist Missionary Council) and and CAPABIOB (The Council for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Brazil). Grave concerns over the decree have been expressed by 43 US deputies representing government-supporting and opposition parties. Angelika Koster-Lossak, a deputy from the German Green Party on a visit to Brazil called for the repeal of the decree.

Note: See Action Pages

Source: Brasilia, 11 July 1996 Indianist Missionary Council

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