Brazil: protesters take on agribusiness

From June 10 to June 12 thousands of Brazilians demonstrated in 13 states to protest the power of transnational corporations and the growth of the agribusiness model in the country. Rallies, marches and sit-ins organized by two groups—Via Campesina (Campesino Way) and the urban-based Popular Assembly—called for a new economic model and a strengthening of the campesino economy in order to produce food cheaply for the population. The two groups issued a document entitled: “Why are we demonstrating? We want to produce food.”

Police violently repressed two demonstrations on June 11 in Porto Alegre, capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. Marchers protesting the high cost of food and incentives that the state is offering to transnationals tried to approach the state government’s main building, the Palacio Piratini. Police agents and soldiers attacked the march, leaving 25 people injured. Police agents also used violence against protesters occupying the street where a Wal-Mart superstore is located; seven people were injured and 12 were detained.

On June 12 some 1,200 members of Via Campesina and the Popular Assembly took over the railroad belonging to the Vale transnational mining company, some 12km from Governador Valadares municipality in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, to demand that the company negotiate with the 500 families of Pedra Corrida who were dislocated to make way for the Baguari dam.

Protests during the three-day mobilization included a sit-in at the Sao Paulo headquarters of the Votorantim company to protest the construction of the Tijuco Alto dam in Rio Poza de Iguape near the border with the Parana; the Military Police invaded the building using pepper spray bombs and arrested five protesters. More than 1,000 people occupied the Port of Pecem in Son Goncalo do Amarante in the state of Ceara to protest the high cost of food and various construction projects they said would cause environmental and social damage. In Alagoas state about 1,000 people from different organizations protested the Xingo hydroelectric facility. Via Campesina members in Bahia state protested irrigation projects that they said only benefited big agribusiness farms.

In Paraiba state some 200 Via Campesina members occupied the Nuestra Senora de Lourdes estate, whose 1,100 hectares are dedicated to growing sugar cane, the main crop used for ethanol in Brazil. Another 200 Via Campesina members occupied the Sugar Cane Experimental Station (EECAC) in Carpina municipality, Pernambuco state, to protest the spread of single-crop sugar cane farming in the region, which they said exacerbates Brazil’s food crisis. (Servicio Informative “amlai amlatina,” June 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 15

See our last posts on Brazil and peak food.