Chaos in the city and war in the countryside

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By LISZT VIEIRA*

A war unleashed by capital that uses the pretext of economic production to impose barbarism

While the urban working class – those who were going to lead the proletarian revolution – do not seem to threaten capital, environmental activists – those environmentalists called reactionaries by orthodox leftists – are confronting capital and even being murdered on the agricultural frontier. In addition to the chaos in transport, housing, unemployment and urban logistics in general, the logic of the gunmen has moved from the countryside to the city, where the power of the militiamen is growing alarmingly. And the main focus of the capital x labor conflict seems to have moved from the city to the countryside, where oppression and the number of murders of rural leaders increase.

According to the NGO report Global Witness, published on September 12th, and published on the same date by the portal UOL, of the 177 murders of environmental defenders recorded around the world in 2022, 34 occurred in Brazilian territory. Brazil was only behind Colombia in the number of deaths. In 2022, Colombia led the ranking as the most violent country for activists. There were 60 murders. Brazil was the second most lethal country for environmentalists in 2022.

To say that 177 environmental activists were murdered in 2022 around the world is to say that, every two days, a person linked to the defense of the environment and the collective use of natural resources was killed because of their actions. According to the Report, the serious situation in Latin America was highlighted: the region was the scene of 88% of all murders. Of the 18 countries that appear in the report with documented cases, 11 are Latin American.

“The worsening climate crisis and the increasing demand for commodities agriculture, fuels and minerals intensifies pressure on the environment – ​​and on those who risk their lives to defend it”, says the document, warning that impunity is a huge problem that encourages the practice of murders. “The intellectual masterminds are rarely known, as are their motivations.”

For the authors of the Report, it is complex to establish clear links between recorded murders and specific economic sectors. Of the 177 crimes in 2022, at least ten have their causes linked to interests of the agribusiness industry. Mining was associated with eight cases monitored by the Global Witness. Other sectors that would be behind the deaths are logging (4), road and infrastructure construction (2), hydroelectric power (2), hunting (2).

More than a third of the people murdered were indigenous (36%). Small farmers (22%) and people of African descent (7%) are also among the biggest victims of violence. In 2022, state officials, protesters, forest rangers, environmentalists, lawyers and journalists were also targeted for assassinations.

The Report clarifies that “there are several other non-lethal attacks, such as attempts to silence, criminalize, threats and other types of physical and sexual violence. All of this surrounded by the land conflict.” This is the first time that the report highlights deaths recorded in the Amazon Rainforest region: one in every five murders recorded in 2022 took place in the Amazon.

“We must protect the people who protect the environment. They are not just defending their homes, their lives, their own territory. They are defending the environment, which is important for the survival of the entire planet”, adds the Report.

The process of urbanization and conservative modernization that began in the 50s brought social changes, altered the power structure and shifted most of the violence to the agricultural frontier, where rural leaders, indigenous people and forest defenders were murdered by large farmers. , loggers, prospectors, miners, cattle ranchers, mainly. In addition to murders, there are rapes, beatings, violent appropriation of land where the law, recalling Euclides da Cunha in The Sertões, is at the tip of the rifle.

Illegal deforestation, caused by the expansion of agriculture and livestock farming, leads to the destruction of forests and loss of biodiversity, contributing to climate change. Mining and mining are also the cause of environmental degradation and social conflicts. Data from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) on rural conflict in Brazil show that between 1985 and 2021, 1.536 murder crimes were recorded resulting in 2.028 deaths. However, only 147 of these crimes were prosecuted. In other words, around 90% of murder cases during this period did not have any type of trial.

The report “Conflicts in Campo Brasil 2022”, prepared by the Pastoral Land Commission, points out that the Legal Amazon concentrated 59% of conflicts over land in 2022. The percentage increased in relation to 2021, when the biome was the scene of 51% of the occurrences. The number of deaths in the Amazon increased from 495 in 2013 to 926 in 2022. According to the Report of the Pastoral Land Commission, the numbers explain the direct relationship between the State and agribusiness. This is a historical relationship based on the exploitation of communities, the death of people, the destruction of nature and communities' ways of life. Indigenous people were victims of 38% of murders. Among those causing violence in the countryside, farmers are in first place, with 23%. Next is the federal government under the Bolsonaro administration (16%), businesspeople (13%) and land grabbers (11%).

The murders of human rights and environmental defenders in the Amazon have occurred in practically the same way for 40 years: in places with economic vulnerability, brutal crimes are committed and remain unpunished. The case of Brazilian indigenous man Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips, murdered in Vale do Javari a year ago, is similar to other high-profile crimes in recent decades in the region, such as the murder of missionary nun Dorothy Stang in 2005, in the state from Pará.

Violence against indigenous people, peasants, quilombolas, landless workers, environmentalists and human rights defenders is the other face of the neo-extractivism of agribusiness, extensive livestock farming, mining, logging, which deforest the forest and degrade the land to export, without adding value. Despite the strong pressure from agribusiness and its predatory practices, we hope that the Lula government will be able to open a window of opportunity for civilization to overcome the barbarism that still prevails on Brazil's agricultural frontier.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, deforestation in the Amazon fell by 33,6% in the first half of 2023 and 42,5% in the first seven months of 2023. The news is good, but it is necessary to move towards zero deforestation. The Amazon Forest, according to Brazilian climate scientists, has already approached the point of no return, that is, an automatic process of self-destruction.

In the Cerrado, where Brazil's main river basins originate, the situation is clearly more alarming. According to DETER, in the first four months of 2023, 2.133 km2 were devastated, a value 17% higher than that recorded in the same period last year and 48% higher than the historical average.

When it comes to the transition to a low-carbon economy, Brazil is lagging behind, despite having a more renewable energy matrix than most countries. Brazil is currently the world's fifth largest emitter of Greenhouse Gases (GHG), after China, the USA, India and Russia. Its emissions pattern, however, differs significantly from the global average. While Brazilian emissions arise mainly from changes in land use and deforestation (50%) and from agriculture (24%), on average for G20 countries around 70% of emissions are related to the energy sector (Climate Transparency.

It is exactly there, where Brazilian emissions of Greenhouse Gases occur, in conflicts over land use, deforestation and agriculture, it is in these confrontations that the murders of environmental activists and peasant and indigenous leaders who give their lives for environmental protection. It is a war unleashed by capital that uses the pretext of economic production to impose barbarism.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). https://amzn.to/3sQ7Qn3


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