Brazil: Cargill’s Amazon port shut down

On March 24, Brazilian federal police and environmental agents shut down a major deep-water port on the Amazon River owned by Cargill Inc., saying the US-based multinational agribusiness firm failed to provide an environmental impact statement required by law. Cargill’s controversial soy export terminal port is located in the town of Santarem, in Para state. Judge Souza Prudente ordered the port shut down late on March 23. Federal police agent Cesar Dessimoni said Cargill had prepared an environmental assessment that did not meet federal standards. “They’ll have to do it correctly, as the law demands,” he said. “A big step forward has been taken in enforcing the responsible use of natural resources and bringing greater governance in the Amazon,” Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator in Brazil, said in a statement.

Cargill, which has operated in Brazil since 1965, opened the $20 million port in Santarem three years ago. On March 24 the company said it plans to appeal the ruling. Cargill said Para state had accepted its environmental impact statement. “We find ourselves caught in a jurisdictional dispute between the state and federal government about which regulations have precedence,” Cargill spokesperson Lori Johnson said. “When we built the facility, the permits were issued by the state. Since that time the federal prosecutor has said we should have done another kind of environmental assessment, and that is the issue before the courts.” (AP, March 25)

On March 7, more than 900 women from Via Campesina occupied the Cevasa sugarmill in the region of Ribeirao Preto, in Sao Paulo state in a protest against monocultures and agrofuels. Cevasa, the largest sugarcane company in Brazil, was recently bought by Cargill. The protest was part of a national week of struggle under the slogan “Women in defense of food sovereignty.” The Ribeirao Preto region concentrates the largest sugarcane industries in the country, which are known for labor violations, including slave labor, and environmental destruction. (Friends of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers-FMST, March 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 1

See our last posts on Brazil and the struggle for the Amazon.