Brazilian politicians pushing environmental and rights rollbacks gain direct economic benefits from these policy changes that allow them to produce more agricultural commodities for the global market, report shows
By Amazon Watch
September 12, 2018.- A hard-hitting report published today unmasks key Brazilian political actors behind an ongoing assault on the Amazon rainforest and exposes the global corporate and financial entities that support them. The report from Amazon Watch reveals how the supply chains of leading brand names like Coca-Cola, and the portfolios of asset managers such as BlackRock, finance the political agenda of a powerful congressional bloc whose actions imperil the world's largest rainforest, indigenous rights, and global climate stability.
Complicity in Destruction: How Northern Consumers and Financiers Sustain the Assault on the Brazilian Amazon and its Peoples illuminates the political and economic conflicts of interest that underpin the power of six emblematic politicians from the conservative ruralista bloc, which represents the country's agroindustrial sector.
All six politicians are currently seeking reelection, higher office, or appointing successors in Brazil's coming general elections. And all six have been strident advocates of ruralista policies that exacerbate rising Amazon deforestation, slash environmental protections, and profoundly undermine the land rights of Brazil's indigenous peoples, all while benefiting their families' businesses.
Amazon Watch's new report demonstrates how the ruralistas' destructive agenda is bankrolled by global commodity markets and argues that Northern companies and financiers run reputational risks by associating with these actors.
"We conducted this innovative research project to shine a spotlight on the destructive agenda of the ruralistas and to provide new, effective forms of leverage over their reckless behavior by targeting the global economic relationships that sustain them," said Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch. "While our Brazilian partners resist the brutal, ruralista-led assault on the Amazon and its peoples, we stand in solidarity by offering tools to support their critical efforts."
Today's publication serves as both a call to action for financiers, companies, and global consumers that, perhaps unwittingly, are empowering the drastic rollbacks led by the ruralista bloc, and an act of solidarity with Brazil's National Indigenous Movement and allied organizations working resolutely to counter an onslaught of regressive policy shifts.
"We indigenous peoples know that large banks and companies from outside of Brazil, including Dutch and Chinese interests, are supporting the ruralistas in their efforts to destroy indigenous and traditional communities and our forests and rivers," said Alessandra Korap Munduruku, coordinator of the Munduruku people's Pariri Association. "They see the trees and water as money, but it is our home – we don't have another way to live. We, and all of humanity, depend on the Amazon and have a responsibility to defend it."
"The National Indigenous Movement has observed how the major financial and political influence of large transnational companies have negatively impacted indigenous land rights in Brazil," said Luiz Eloy Terena, a lawyer for Brazil's Association of Indigenous Peoples (APIB). "We have taken this information to the European Parliament to demand the boycott of commodities produced on indigenous lands. The new data contained this report helps us to consolidate information on these actors, which is a key demand of our movement."
"As the Brazilian government and ruralista political leaders promote economic interests above all else, international markets and global consumers have a fundamental role to play," said Tica Minami, Greenpeace Brazil Amazon Campaign Coordinator. "Citizens around the globe can make it clear that they no longer accept consuming products tainted with forest destruction and rights abuses, thus jeopardizing the global reputation of Brazilian agribusiness interests."
The ruralistas profiled in the report include Mato Grosso deputy and senatorial candidate Adilton Sachetti, who has moved to strip indigenous land rights from the Constitution while his production of soy and cotton relies on close ties to the family of "soy king" turned Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi. Lifetime São Paulo politician and orange producer Nelson Marquezelli, for his part, has pushed to slash forest protections and has been linked to slave labor practices, while indirectly supplying beverage giants Coca-Cola (United States), Schweppes (Switzerland), and Eckes Granini (Germany).
Findings also link profiled leaders to rising rates of violence against environmental and human rights defenders and an associated climate of impunity, as well as well-documented cases of corruption.
Brazil's agroindustrial sector is an economic powerhouse that contributed 23.5% to the country's gross domestic product in 2017, while accounting for 44.1% of total exports, according to the the National Agriculture and Ranching Confederation, a farm lobby group. As a result, Brazilian agribusiness has built tremendous financial and political clout. While highly insulated from calls for reform in Brazil, the country's agroindustrial sector is sensitive to its image abroad given its economic reliance on global markets for Brazilian commodities and finance for Brazilian agricultural exporters.
"As a U.S.-based organization, Amazon Watch fully recognizes our own country's outsized role in climate change and human rights abuses," said Poirier. "As part of that, we believe that Northern consumers must recognize how their choices may enable the ruralistas' abhorrent attacks on indigenous land rights and environmental protections that safeguard an irreplaceable region that is critical to our collective survival. Once we understand what's at stake, the global community must respond."