Guarani struggle against neoliberal policies in Brazil

Guarani Nov 26 2016

This is re-posted from November 26, 2013 because it has to do with the Guarani people in Brazil & their remarkable struggle against neoliberal economic policies involving land grabs, destruction of their culture, environmental devastation–the same process going on in North Dakota with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. For those who consider Dilma Rousseff a champion of working & indigenous people, much of this was under her regime.

Since October Guarani Nandeva Indians have occupied over 14 “farms” outside the municipality of Japora in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil–claiming them as their ancestral lands–& legally declared so by the Brazilian Supreme Court in 2005. This young man stands watch at a roadblock they built to keep “farmers” out after an occupation (Nov 22nd).

The so-called “farms” are soybean & corn plantations & the “farmers” are transplanted US Midwesterners transmogrified into Brazilian plantation owners. As US farms ceased soybean production in favor of corn for the ethanol market (from the early 1990s), soy production increased at the rate of 14% a year in Latin American countries of the Amazon Basin, leading some to call the region Soylandia. Brazil, the heart of Soylandia, is now the world’s biggest soybean exporter as well as a leading exporter of beef, poultry, pork, ethanol, sugar (primarily from corn), & other products. Mato Grosso is now the largest soybean producing state in Brazil.

Soybean production & the growing corn & sugarcane industries are massively contributing to deforestation & global warming by pushing cattle ranchers further north into rainforest zones (according to an environmental study). The main demand for soybeans is not culinary as tofu & miso but industrial as nontoxic & biodegradable products to replace petroleum-based polyurethanes in paints, solvents, textiles, lubricants, plastics, foam insulation in construction, foam cushions in car seats, backing for artificial turf, & as biodiesel. As one media source reports, “Brazil is positioned to become the Saudi Arabia of biofuels.”

The considerable commercial stakes for agribusiness more than explain the extreme violence used against the Guarani & other Indigenous peoples of Brazil. Their ancestral lands have been forcibly taken from them & claimed by agribusiness interests with private militia & goon squads while the Brazilian government auctions off the lands at bargain basement prices. Every year dozens of Indigenous activists are assassinated. Their communities have been torched & they are forced to live in roadside encampments overlooking the ancestral lands which were the foundations of their economic, cultural, & spiritual lives.

The Guarani have continually fought for their land rights–in the courts, in the legislature, & in public protest & have been answered with physical intimidation & legal appeals justifying theft by plantation owners & occupation & forcible evictions by Brazilian military & police. The Brazilian government conducts a regular dog & pony show of legal & legislative maneuvers to convince the Guarani they stand a chance of having their lands demarcated against the incursion of plantations. But as of only a few years ago, only seven territories were mapped of the 600 tribal demarcation plans pending.

The Guarani & other Indigenous peoples cannot stand alone forever with bows & arrows against ruthless military arsenals. The increasing & very high suicide rate among their young shows the toll this struggle for survival is taking on them. Their struggle is not just for their land rights but in the interests of global ecology. An active solidarity with them is in the interests of all humanity & we need to start looking for effective ways to assert that solidarity.

(Photo by Lunae Parracho/Reuters)