US robots, Israeli drones to help make 2014 World Cup in Brazil ‘one of safest sporting events ever’
Brazil has added 30 US military robots to the Israeli drones and ‘Robocop-style’ glasses with face recognition cameras to its arsenal after the country allocated $900 million to make 2014 World Cup “one of the most protected sports events in history.”
The 30 PackBot 510 units, which usually cost between $100,000 and $200,000 apiece, will arrive in Brazil as part of the $7.2 million deal the country signed with American iRobot advanced technology company. The contracts include services, spare parts and associated equipment.
“IRobot continues its international expansion, and Brazil represents an important market for the company’s unmanned ground vehicles,” Frank Wilson, iRobot’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “IRobot is excited to be providing the company’s state-of-the-art robotic technologies to Brazil as the country prepares for several high profile international events, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”
The first real test for the PackBots will be the visit of Pope Franics to Brazil this July, with the country also looking to use the robots during the Rio Olympics in 2016.
The PackBots are equipped with cameras and are operated remotely in order to detect and examine suspicious objects or explore dangerous environments, while keeping their operators safe from harm.
The devices weigh about 27 kilogram and rely on caterpillar treads to move around, using videogame-style hand controllers to make it more familiar to the users.
More than 2000 of those military robots are currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with PackBots being the first to enter the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Brazil is spending $900 million to bolster its security forces, including high-tech surveillance equipment and helicopters, as the country is hoping to make the 2014 World Cup “one of the most protected sports events in history.”
The country’s police will be equipped with facial-recognition camera glasses that can capture 400 facial images per second to store them in a central database of up to 13 million faces.
Brazil is also reported to have spent $25 million on four Israeli-made drones, which are expected to make their debut at the FIFA Confederations Cup in June.
There’ll also be plenty of manpower involved in the security operation as the World Cup organizers plan have 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers from the Brazilian Armed Forces at each of the 12 host cities during the event.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has announced that it will create a united defence body to promote democratic stability among its member countries.
Military delegates of Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador concluded a two day meeting yesterday in Quito, and agreed on creating the first South American Defence College (ESUDE) – a safety training centre with the aim of turning “the regions into a zone of peace”.
UNASUR has said that the idea behind the project is to “eliminate outdated visions that have formed our military, with manuals and taxes from foreign powers.
“The goal is to start from scratch and consider a defence doctrine, without starting from the premise of opposing countries. It is important to define our role in the military, to assume responsibility for prevention, border control or emergency responses.
“We want to create a body of higher and postgraduate education to create a regional identity for civilians and our military, and to avoid interference of other countries or geopolitical zones,” a UNASUR spokesperson said.
The ESUDE proposal paper will be presented at the next meeting of the executive body for the South American Defence Council in Lima, Peru on the 16th and 17th May. Members who attended yesterday’s meeting in Quito will meet again during the second week of July in Buenos Aires, to define the Esude proposal.
One of the issues that is expected to be up for debate in the following meetings is the level of participation in the armed forces from each country.
The initiative already has the support of other member countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and Uruguay.
- UNASUR Urges Respect for Venezuela’s Electoral Results (venezuelasolidarity.co.uk)
- U.S. refuses to recognize Maduro’s presidential win in Venezuela polls (panarmenian.net)
Rio de Janeiro – Atomic power agencies from Brazil and Argentina signed an agreement to build two nuclear reactors for research and production of radioisotopes, said the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT) today.
The agreement, signed by the Brazilian National Commission for Nuclear Energy (CNEN) and the National Commission of Atomic Energy (CNEA), is centered on the construction of two reactors: the Brazilian Multipurpose Reasearch Reactor (RMB) and the RA-10 in Argentina, said a spokesman from the MCT.
The action meets the Bilateral Integration and Coordination Mechanism, established in the Joint Declaration of 2008 and signed by Presidents Cristina Fernandez and Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, said the source.
To carry out the project, both sides created the Bi-National Commission on Nuclear Energy (COBEN) which will be in charge of the construction of both reactors.
The atomic agencies of these South American countries have closely collaborated since 2008. Argentina provides Brazil 30 percent of the Molybdenum 99 (Mo99) radioisotopes which are indispensable in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Since 2011 both countries agreed to move forward on greater integration, and carry out a joint project to develop multipurpose reactors, demonstrating the mutual interest in increasing the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Both reactors, once manufactured and functioning, will have a total capacity to cover 40 percent of the world radioisotope market.
At the present, only France, Canada, South Africa, Australia and Argentina have the technology to produce radioisotopes.
Folha de São Paulo – Recent events indicate that the Obama administration has stepped up its strategy of “regime change” against the left-of-center governments in Latin America, promoting conflict in ways not seen since the military coup that Washington supported in Venezuela in 2002. The most high-profile example is in Venezuela itself, during the past week. As this goes to press, Washington has grown increasingly isolated in its efforts to destabilize the newly elected government of Nicolas Maduro.
But Venezuela is not the only country to fall prey to Washington’s efforts to reverse the electoral results of the past 15 years in Latin America. It is now clear that last year’s ouster of President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was also aided and abetted by the United States government. In a brilliant investigative work for Agência Pública, journalist Natalia Viana shows that the Obama administration funded the principal actors involved in the “parliamentary coup” against Lugo. Washington then helped organize international support for coup.
The U.S. role in Paraguay is similar to its role in the military overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in 2009, where Washington hijacked the Organization of American States (OAS) and used it to fight the efforts of South American governments who wanted to restore democracy. Zelaya later testified that Washington was also involved in the coup itself.
In Venezuela this past week, Washington could not hijack the OAS but only its Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, who supported the White House (and Venezuela opposition) demand for a “100 percent recount.” But Insulza had to back down, as did Spain, the United States’ only other significant ally in this nefarious enterprise – because they had no support.
The demand for a “recount” in Venezuela is absurd, since there has already been a recount of the paper ballots for a random sample of 54 percent of the voting machines. The machine totals were compared with a hand count of the paper ballots in front of witnesses from all sides. Statistically, there is no practical difference between this enormous audit that has already happened, and the 100 percent audit that the opposition is demanding. Jimmy Carter called Venezuela’s electoral system “the best in the world,” and there is no doubt about the accuracy of the vote count, even among many in the Venezuelan opposition.
It is good to see Lula denouncing the U.S. for its interference and Dilma joining the rest of South America to defend Venezuela’s right to a free elections. But it is not just Venezuela and the weaker democracies that are threatened by the United States. As reported in the pages of this newspaper, in 2005, the U.S. government funded and organized efforts to change the laws in Brazil in order to weaken the Workers’ Party. This information was discovered in U.S. government documents obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Most likely Washington has done much more in Brazil that remains secret.
It is clear that Washington did not see the mildly reformist Fernando Lugo as threatening or even radical. It’s just that he was too friendly with the other left governments. The Obama administration, like that of President Bush, does not accept that the region has changed. Their goal is to get rid of all of the left-of-center governments, partly because they tend to be more independent from Washington. Brazil, too, must be vigilant in the face of this threat to the region.
- The New Yorker Should Ignore Jon Lee Anderson and Issue a Correction on Venezuela (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Civil society groups have finally seen a leaked copy of the most recent version of the Master Plan for the ProSAVANA programme, which is dated March 2013. The copy makes clear the project’s intentions and confirms that the governments of Japan, Brazil and Mozambique are secretly paving the way for a massive land grab in Northern Mozambique. Several organisations from Mozambique and their international partners are now making this plan publicly available, along with some of their initial reflections. (Download the Master Plan here: part 1, part 2, part 3.)
ProSAVANA is a programme between Japan, Brazil and Mozambique to support agricultural development in Northern Mozambique. According to the copy of the Master Plan leaked to civil society, the programme will cover an area of over 10 million hectares in 19 districts within 3 provinces of Northern Mozambique– Nampula, Niassa, and Zambézia. Over 4 million people live and farm in this area, which has been dubbed the Nacala Corridor.
The entire process of developing the ProSavana programme and its Master Plan has been characterised by a complete lack of transparency, public consultation and public participation. While agribusiness corporations have been part of government delegations to investigate business opportunities in the Nacala Corridor, the 4 million farmers living in the affected area have received no information about the intentions shown in the Master Plan. Three governments have refused to make this version or earlier versions of the Master Plan available to the public.
The Master Plan was produced by a team of foreign consultants with close linkages to multinational agribusiness corporations, some of which are already acquiring land in the ProSavana area.1 There were no meaningful consultations with local communities and the plan does not consider their needs, their histories and knowledge, or their aspirations for the future. Nor is there any appreciation of their local farming and food systems.
ProSAVANA is presented as a development/ aid programme but the leaked version of the Master Plan makes it clear that it is simply a business plan for the corporate takeover of agriculture in Mozambique.
What does this Master Plan mean for small farmers?
The proponents of the ProSAVANA programme have said repeatedly that this is a programme to support small farmers. But the Master Plan only considers how small farmers can support agribusiness. This boils down to two main directives:
1. Push farmers out of traditional shifting cultivation and land management practices into intensive cultivation practices based on commercial seeds, chemical inputs and private land titles.
Although zero analysis was made of the effectiveness of traditional farming practices in the area, the Master Plan says the “transition from shifting cultivation to settled farming is an urgent need” and says this is “the key strategy proposed in the Master Plan”. It even calls for actions “combating the practice of shifting agriculture.”
The plan acknowledges that farmers are likely to resist giving up their traditional forms of agriculture, so it proposes several means to encourage them to do so, such as the formation of “leading farmers” who can demonstrate the advantages of intensive agriculture, “a pump-priming subsidy system for chemical fertilizers”, and, most importantly, private land titles (DUATs) for those farmers that make the switch.
It is clear to us that the real objective behind these efforts to push farmers into intensive cultivation is to privatise the land and make it more available to outside investors. Relegating farmers to a fixed parcel is a way to mark off lands more clearly for investors and to make it possible for provincial governments to establish the land banks (state land earmarked for commercial use by private investors) that the plan calls for. It also allows investors to bypass negotiations with communities to access lands. The Land Registration of the Small Scale and Medium Scale Farmers component of the Master Plan clearly states that its objective is to “facilitate the identification of areas for the promotion of agriculture by large farmers, private companies and medium scale farmers.” It is also described as a means to “create an environment of cooperation and integration between the small scale farm and new investors.”
2. Push farmers into contract farming arrangements with corporate farms and processors.
The Master Plan divides the Nacala Corridor into zones, and defines which crops should be grown in these zones, where and how they should be grown, and by whom they should be grown (small farmers, medium farmers or corporations). Within these zones, the plan lays out several projects for the production of commodities, some of them based exclusively on large corporate farms, others based on a mix of large or medium farms and contract production arrangements with small farmers.
Contract farming will not improve the lives of small farmers in the area. It will instead make them dependent on a single corporation for everything from their seeds to the sale of their crops. One of the proposed contract farming projects in the plan envisions a return on investment of 30% per year for the company while farmers in the project will be forced to devote 5 out of the 5.5 ha they will be allocated to the production of cassava under contract production with the investor.
A paradise for corporations
The plan lays out several business opportunities that companies can invest in and get huge projected returns of between 20%-30% per year. Companies that invest will be able to tap a $2 billion Nacala Fund that is being financed by governments and investors in Japan and Brazil. Although details of this fund are still missing from the leaked version of the Master Plan, other sources indicate that the fund will be registered in the fiscal paradise of Luxembourg and called the Africa Opportunity Fund 1: Nacala.2
Some of the projects within the plan will provide large areas of land to investors. The Integrated Grain Cluster, which is planned for Majune District, Niassa Province, will be managed by one vertically integrated company that will operate nine 5,000 ha farms, within a 60,000 ha zone, to produce a rotation of maize, soybeans and sunflower, mainly for export. According to the plan, “the project has a high profitability and the internal rate of return was calculated at 20.3% and the payback is 9 years.” The Master Plan calls for projects such as this one to be expanded and reproduced throughout the Corridor.
Corporations will also benefit from several Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that are proposed in the plan. In these zones, companies will be free from paying taxes and customs duties and will be able to benefit from offshore financial arrangements. These SEZs will be located at the main sites that the project is planning for processing and trading facilities, which will cut deeply into any revenues that could accrue to the government through the planned development of agro-export industries.
Since the planning for ProSAVANA began in 2009, many foreign investors and their local partners have already acquired large parcels of land in the programme area, leading to numerous conflicts over land with local communities. The intention of the Master Plan is to bring even more investors to the area, which will make land conflicts even worse.
The main solution that the Master Plan proposes to these growing conflicts are the “ProSAVANA Guidelines on RAI” (Responsible Agricultural Investment). These guidelines are essentially a checklist based on the seven RAI principles that were developed by the World Bank and have been widely denounced by peasant organisations and civil society groups. The “ProSAVANA Guideline on RAI” will be included as an annex in the “Data Book for Private Investors” that will be released by August 2013 as part of efforts to promote agribusiness investment in the Nacala Corridor.
The guidelines are weak and only voluntary and the plan does not call for any new laws or regulations that could really defend communities against land grabs. The plan only says that “private investors interested in agricultural development in the Nacala Corridor will be requested to comply with these principles, in addition to their internal codes of conduct and voluntary self-regulations.”
What’s the end result of this plan?
The Master Plan, in its current form, would destroy peasant agriculture by wiping out farmer seed systems, local knowledge, local food cultures and traditional systems of land management. It will displace peasants from their lands or force them on to fixed parcels of land where they will be obliged to produce under contract production for corporations and to go into debt to pay for the seeds, fertilisers and pesticides required. The peasants that do get private land titles will be left at extreme risk of quickly losing their lands to corporations and big farmers.
It is telling that only one of the seven clusters in the Master Plan is aimed at small scale farmers and family food production. And this cluster only proposes the same old failed green revolution model of development. The Master Plan puts no real thought and energy into the needs and capacities of peasants in the Nacala Corridor.
Corporations are the big beneficiaries of this Master Plan. They will get control over land and production and they will control the trade of the foods produced, which will be exported along the roads, rail lines and Nacala port that other foreign corporations will be paid to construct with public funds from Mozambique and Japan. Foreign seed, pesticide and fertiliser companies will also make a killing from this massive expansion of industrial agriculture into Africa.
Some Mozambicans will profit from this. For example, Portugal’s richest family has set up a joint venture to acquire lands and produce soybeans in Northern Mozambique with a national company controlled by the friends and family of Mozambique’s President and in partnership with one of Brazil’s largest corporate farmers. But these profits will be made at the expense of regular Mozambicans.
Seeing the Master Plan only confirms our determination to stop the ProSAVANA programme and to support Mozambican peasants and people in their struggle for food sovereignty.
Justiça Ambiental, JA!/ FoE Mozambique (Mozambique)
Forum Mulher (Mozambique)
LPM – Landless Peoples Mouvement (Member of Via Campesina . South Africa)
Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign (Member os Via Campesina – South Africa)
AFRA – Association for Rural Advancement (South Africa)
Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) (*The world’s largest grassroots international environmental federation with 74 national member groups and more than two million individual members.)
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) / Friends of the Earth (FoE) Uganda
Amigos da Terra Brasil / FoE Brazil
Movimiento Madre Tierra, Honduras
NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark
GroundWork (South Africa)
Amigos de la Tierra España / Friends of the Earth Spain
Environmental Rights Action / FoE Nigeria
Sahabat Alam Malaysia/ FOE Malaysia
SOBREVIVENCIA, Friends of the Earth Paraguay
CESTA, FOE El Salvador
Earth Harmony Innovators (South Africa)
Ukuvuna (South Africa)
Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (Zambia)
(As of 29 April 2013)
1The Master Plan was drawn up by a group of consultants from the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV). These consultants are also directors with Vigna Brasil, also known as Vigna Projetos, which provides agribusiness consultancy services to corporations such as Galp Energia, Vale, Syngenta, Petrobras, and ADM. Galp, owned by the Amorim family of Portugal, is already invested in a large-scale soybean farming operation in the ProSAVANA project area through a joint venture called AgroMoz with Intelec, a holding company partly controlled by the family of the Mozambican President. Vigna Brasil has the same contact address as the company 4I.Green, which is described as the technical manager for the Nacala Fund– the main financing vehicle for the big agribusiness projects in the Nacala Corridor.
- The smallholders’ last stand (newint.org)
Earlier this month, a trial of monumental historic significance commenced in Argentina. A trial that will see a group of military leaders prosecuted for their involvement in the ‘Plan Cóndor’ campaign; an agreement between the right-wing dictatorships of South America which led to the disappearance and murder of up to 80,000 people during the 1970s and 1980s.
In what is expected to last two years, and call upon over 500 witnesses, the trial represents a significant step towards achieving justice for crimes against humanity committed at the hands of the Southern Cone’s brutal collusion.
The brutal right-wing military dictatorships that raged terror and political oppression across the continent defined the 1970s and 1980s in South America. The exact number of victims is disagreed upon, but it is estimated that the era saw the ‘disappearance’ of over 60,000 people in the fight to eradicate communist influence on the continent.
The sprawling dictatorships across the continent led to the clandestine kidnapping, torture, and murder of thousands of Latin Americans, with the aim of “eliminating Marxist subversion”, from Argentina, to the Augusto Pinochet-ruled Chile.
Targets of the eradication were officially stated as members of left-wing armed groups such as the MIR (Chile), the Montoneros (Argentina), and the Tupamaros (Uruguay), although the operation targeted trade unionists, family members, and anyone remotely considered a ‘political opponent’.
The formation of ‘Plan Cóndor’ – or ‘Operation Condor’ in English– was paramount to the continuation and reach of the dictatorships. The collusion of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil (and later Ecuador and Peru) enabled leaders to obtain resources and allies, thus continuing their left-wing eradication.
Set in the context of the Cold War, there was a palpable communist fear felt across the globe; something that enabled the dictatorships to garner significant funding and assistance from the United States. Declassified CIA documents –thousands of which were released in 1999 (here, here, here, and here)- show the key role the US played in the proliferation of the dictatorships. Politicians such as former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger have been heavily implicated as having been fundamental in the realisation of the kidnapping, torture, and murder of political enemies.
Argentina in particular saw one of the highest cases of ‘disappearances’ during the period of mass military dictatorships, with human rights’ organisations estimating the figure to stand at 30,000. Justice for the crimes against humanity committed during this period of state terrorism arguably began with the Juicio a las Juntas in 1985. The trial proved the crimes of the dictatorship for the first time, and led to the imprisonment of key figures such as Jorge Videla and Emilio Massera, both of whom received life imprisonment sentences, along with numerous others.
However, the work of the historic trial was largely undone, or at least heavily marred, by the amnesty laws passed during Raul Alfonsin’s government, which protected military officers from allegations and prosecution for crimes against humanity. This was followed by President Carlos Menem’s pardoning of the junta leaders in 1989. Protests and campaigning by organisations such as the Madres of Plaza de Mayo were fundamental in the repeal of the amnesty laws by the Argentine Supreme Court in 2005 under the government of Néstor Kirchner.
For the first time, the collusion between governments and dictators under the ‘Plan Cóndor’ campaign will be investigated. Twenty five defendants are on trial in Buenos Aires in what has been described as a ‘mega-trial’, expected to last two years and scheduled to hear 500 witness statements. Lawyer Carolina Varsky described the trial as: “historic as it’s the first to deal with the repression coordinated between Latin American dictatorships.”
All suspects being tried are Argentine, with the exception of Uruguayan Manuel Cordero, who is accused of participating in death squads and torture at the Orletti clandestine detention centre in the city. Cordero was extradited by Brazil, where he was living prior to the trial. The list of defendants features 22 Argentine military intelligence officers and agents, including former de facto presidents Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, both of whom are already serving life imprisonment sentences, which they will most likely not outlive.
Argentine political scientist Ariel Raidan spoke with The Argentina Independent about the significance of the commencement of the trial, and said how it signifies the government’s focus on “building a more just society, where truth and justice come first, overcoming years of impunity.”
“The countries of the continent are beginning to revise its tragic past. Both advances and setbacks have occurred in the fight for justice over the years, but this trial has a clear conviction to expose as many facts as possible” continued Raidan.
The trial will investigate the cases of over 170 victims, including 65 who were imprisoned at the infamous Orletti torture centre in Buenos Aires. Victims were often kidnapped from their home country and transported to the facilities of a neighbouring country; a practice made possible by the collusion of governments in the Southern Cone. Much evidence to be examined in the trial, and what prosecutors are heavily basing their case upon, comes from the now declassified US documents, obtained by the non-governmental organisation National Security Archive. Released under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents detail how Henry Kissinger and many other high-ranking officials in the US not only gave full support and funding to the Argentine military junta, but also urged the country to accelerate protocol and finish their operations before the US Congress cut aid. The documents, featuring signatures of many high-ranking officials, have led to accusations that the US was a secret collaborator, partner, and sponsor of the operation.
Additionally, documents identified as the ‘Archives of Terror’, discovered in a police station in 1992, were significant in the uncovering of the role of Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. These countries provided intelligence information that had been requested by ‘Plan Cóndor’ participating countries.
The victims are comprised of approximately 80 Uruguayans, 50 Argentines, 20 Chileans, and a dozen from Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. The disappearance of two Cuban consulate officials will also form part of the proceedings. Out of the 170 victims, 42 survived the dictatorship’s brutal treatment and many of them are expected to give first hand accounts during their testimonies in court. The remaining victims were murdered or ‘disappeared’ at the hands of the Cóndor agreement.
John Dinges, author of ‘The Condor Years: How Pinochet and his Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents’, said that, “this is historic in the sense that we’re going to hear from 500 witnesses. And really, in the Latin American legal system, it’s unusual. It’s really only coming to the fore now that you hear witnesses, as opposed to just seeing them give their testimony to judges in a closed room, and then later on people like me might go and read those testimonies, but really it doesn’t become public. This is all public. And apparently, a lot of it is being videotaped. So this is the first time that the general public is going to hear the details of this horrible, horrible list of atrocities that killed so many people.”
Alcira Ríos, the lawyer representing a Paraguayan victim whose case is to be tried in the coming months, said “we’re delighted that after years of struggle this has finally come to trial… the ‘disappeared’ deserve justice.”
Raidan spoke of his hope that “the trial will shed light on the specific articulation and coordination of the military juntas that ruled the countries of the Southern Cone”. The hope of many is to see clandestine details released that have for so long been shrouded in secrecy and cover-ups. The culmination of new documents, evidence, and witness statements has created a strong sense of hope that further justice will be achieved over the course of the trial. “The documents are very useful in establishing a comprehensive analytical framework of what Operation Condor was,” said Pablo Enrique Ouvina, the lead prosecutor in the case.
Miguel Angel Osorio, federal prosecutor in the case, has said that he is convinced of the existence of Operation Condor and that he believes it will be clearly proved, as well as “the actions of those implicated [in the plan] which prove that there was a illicit agreement to move people from one country to another”.
Perhaps closure will not be fully achieved over the brutal repression and crimes against humanity committed during this era, but there is a palpable sense surrounding the case that some semblance of a resolution will be achieved; that justice will be reached.
The Brazilian government and private sector are collaborating with Japan to push a large-scale agribusiness project in Northern Mozambique. The project, called ProSavana, will make 14 million hectares of land available to Brazilian agribusiness companies for the production of soybeans, maize and other commodity crops that will be exported by Japanese multinationals. This area of Mozambique, known as the Nacala Corridor, is home to millions of farming families who are at risk of losing their lands in the process.
The Nacala Corridor stretches along a rail line that runs from the port of Nacala, in Nampula Province, into the two northern districts of Zambézia Province and ends in Lichinga, in Niassa Province. It is the most densely populated region of the country. With its fertile soils and its consistent and generous rainfall, millions of small farmers work these lands to produce food for their families and for local and regional markets.
But now ProSavana proposes to make these same lands available to Japanese and Brazilian companies to establish large industrial farms and produce low cost commodity crops for export. Through ProSavana, they intend to transform the Nacala Corridor into an African version of the Brazilian cerrado, where savannah lands were converted to vast soybean and sugar cane plantations.
Large numbers of Brazilian investors have already been surveying lands in northern Mozambique under the ProSavana project. They are being offered massive areas of land on a long-term lease basis for about US$1/ha per year.
GV Agro, a subsidiary of Brazil’s Fundação Getulio Vargas directed by the former minister of agriculture, Roberto Rodriguez, is coordinating the Brazilian investors.
Charles Hefner of GV Agro dismisses the idea that the project will displace Mozambican peasants. He says ProSavana is targeting “abandoned areas” where “there is no agriculture being practiced”.
“Mozambique has a tremendous area available for agriculture,” says Hefner. “There is room for mega projects of 30-40,000 ha without major social impacts.”
But land surveys by Mozambique’s national research institute clearly show that nearly all the agricultural land in the area is being used by local communities.
“It is not true that there is abandoned land in the Nacala Corridor,” says Jacinto Mafalacusser, a researcher at the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM).
Peasants in the area also say there is no room for large-scale farms. On October 11, 2012, local leaders from the National Peasants’ Union (UNAC) met in Nampula City to discuss ProSavana. In a declaration from the meeting, the local UNAC leaders say they “are extremely concerned that ProSavana requires millions of hectares of land along the Nacala Corridor, when the local reality shows that such vast areas of land are not available and are currently used by peasants practicing shifting cultivation.”
The declaration condemns “any initiative which aims to resettle communities and expropriate the land of peasants to give way to mega farming projects for monocrop production”, as well as “the arrival of masses of Brazilian farmers seeking to establish agribusinesses that will transform Mozambican peasant farmers into their employees and rural labourers.”
This was the first time the peasant leaders from the areas affected by the ProSavana project had met to discuss it, and for many, it was the first time that they had received any information about what is involved.
“The government invited us to participate in a couple of meetings, but all we were presented was a power point presentation, with no chance to raise questions,” says Gregorio A. Abudo, the President of the União Provincial das Cooperativas de Nampula. “We want transparency. We want to know the details.”
The governments of Mozambique, Brazil and Japan are now ploughing ahead behind closed doors with a Master Plan for the ProSavana project that they intend to finalise by July 2013. Japan will be funding the construction of infrastructure in the Nacala Corridor while a representative of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) says that GV Agro has secured “lots and lots of money” for a fund that it is managing that will invest in large-scale farms in the area. The ABC representative also says there is a second fund of similar size being managed by others who he would not name. Brazil’s national research institute, Embrapa, is building up the capacities of the national research stations in Nampula and Lichinga and bringing in varieties of soybeans, maize and cotton from Brazil to test their adaptability to conditions in the Nacala Corridor.
UNAC says ProSavana is the result of a top-down policy that does not take into consideration the demands, dreams and basic concerns of peasants. UNAC warns that the project will generate landlessness, social upheaval, poverty, corruption and environmental destruction.
For UNAC, if there is to be investment in the Nacala Corridor, or in Mozambique in general, it must be made in developing peasant farming and the peasant economy. This is the only kind of farming capable of creating dignified and lasting livelihoods, of stemming rural exodus, and of producing high-quality foods in sufficient quantities for the entire Mozambican nation.
This article was originally published in Portuguese in Brasil de Fato newspaper on 29 November, 2012. Published in English by GRAIN
The latest round of US quantitative easing will create many problems for emerging countries and Brazil will take action to keep the Real from rising in value, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on Tuesday.
Speaking to journalists after a meeting in Paris with his French counterpart Pierre Moscovici, Mantega voiced concerns that further monetary stimulus would lower the value of the dollar and in turn hurt Brazilian competitiveness in export markets.
“I don’t think that the new monetary easing will solve many problems for the United States, but it will cause a lot of problems for emerging countries,” Mantega told journalists.
Launching a third round of monetary easing, the US Federal Reserve pledged earlier this month to buy 40 billion dollars of mortgage-backed securities each month in a move aimed at bringing down interest rates.
Brazil has been one of the fiercest critics of US Federal Reserve easing and is fighting to keep capital from flowing from low-yielding dollar assets into the Brazilian currency Real with foreign exchange market interventions as part of what it calls a “currency war”.
Brazilian President last March said advanced economies were unleashing a “monetary tsunami” that adversely impacts on emerging markets’ currencies and trade balances.
“We will continue to take measures to keep a devalued Real,” he said, declining to say how low Brazil would keep the currency.
Moscovici said that he understood Brazil’s concerns but added that currency tensions should be dealt with in international institutions and the Group of 20.
Mantega said that dollar weakness caused by the Fed’s easing not only hurt Brazil’s exports but that it reduced the value of the country’s dollar reserves. He added that “if Washington wanted to help revive the US housing market it would be better to focus on fiscal rather than monetary policy”.
- Brazil Finance Chief Blasts QE3 as Damaging for Emerging Markets – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Prepare for New ‘Currency Wars’ After QE3: Analyst (blacklistednews.com)
A Brazilian federal court has ordered the immediate suspension of work on the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, ruling that indigenous communities were not consulted. It was set to be the world’s third-largest dam.
The huge hydroelectric project across the Xingu River has been at the heart of an ongoing controversy The huge hydroelectric project across the Xingu River has been at the heart of an ongoing controversy
The Federal Regional Court of the First Region ruled on Tuesday that native communities affected by the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon must be heard before work resumes.
It said that the controversial project had been approved by the Brazilian Congress in 2005 on the proviso that an environmental impact study be conducted after work started. The court found that indigenous people were not given the right to air their views in Congress on the basis of the study’s findings, as was stipulated by law.
Norte Energia, the construction company which is running the project, faces fines of 250,000 dollars a day if it chooses to ignore the ruling. It has the right to appeal the ruling in a higher court.
Construction began a year ago on the dam, which runs across the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon. It was met by fierce opposition from local people and green activists.
Opponents argue it will reduce the volume of water in the Xingu River and affect populations of fish that are a staple in the diet of local indigenous peoples. They say it will lead to the displacement of around 20,000 people.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, warn of deforestation, greenhouse-gas emissions and irreparable damage to the ecosystem.
Due to be operational by 2014, the dam was designed to produce over 11.000 megawatts of electricity. If completed, it will only be surpassed in size by China’s Three Gorges facility, and Brazil’s Itaipu dam in the south, which is shared with Paraguay.
- Hundreds of Indigenous Peoples Occupy Belo Monte Dam Site (intercontinentalcry.org)
Argentine President Cristina Fernández said on Tuesday during a press conference held at the Mercosur extraordinary summit in Brasilia, that Venezuela’s entry to the bloc “strengthens the entire region” and creates a “new pole of power” at world level.
Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay made the incorporation act official at the special summit held in Brasilia with the attendance of the four leaders: Cristina Fernandez, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica and the host Dilma Rousseff.
The event started Tuesday morning in the Planalto Palace when the four presidents met and later had the family picture taken. This was followed by a press conference and a special lunch at the Brazilian Itamaraty chancery in honour of the presidents.
“This is a historic day that fills me with joy”, said the Argentine president adding that the inclusion of Venezuela “calls for the creation of the institutions for this new pole of power”.
Venezuela incorporation to Mercosur was decided at the mid year presidential summit in Mendoza, Argentina at the end of June when the other full member Paraguay was suspended because of the removal of Fernando Lugo from the presidency.
Following the three presidents agreed the inclusion of Venezuela as full member of the block, which had been pending because of the refusal of the Paraguayan Senate to have Hugo Chavez in the trade block. Chavez’ original request dates from 2006.
Venezuela’s swearing into the bloc makes it the first country to join the bloc since it was founded in 1991.
“I still remember the small minded sponsors who were against the inclusion of Venezuela”, and who argued that “it was not convenient to be part of Mercosur because Brazil would gobble us” given its size.
Cristina Fernandez then turned to Chavez and said that “your solitude was not personal or government solitude, it was political and cultural solitude from our region in South America” and immediately recalled that “Nestor Kirchner and Lula da Silva always dreamt of this happening”.
The Argentine president then criticized “developed countries” blaming them for the current global “financial insecurity”.
“I’ve read that the idea of capping the price of our commodities has resurfaced as if we were endangering global food security. Let us tell them to be at ease that we can provide food security because the world is in this condition not because of the soybeans, or because of wheat or corn, but rather because of the financial insecurity which those same developed countries generated”, said Cristina Fernandez.
She added that “we are going to produce more and better food, but what we are demanding is financial security, an end to fiscal havens, and end to double speech”.
With Venezuela Mercosur “closes the equation” in the regional block “because it is energy, food, minerals, knowledge, aggregate value, industrialization, know-how that we are now going to share”.
President Chavez said that with the incorporation of Venezuela “the new period of the accelerated history we are building has been opened”, which will mean “historic changes” for the region.
“We are where we should have always been, Venezuela’s inclusion in Mercosur was long overdue, but everything that is to happen has its moment”, said Chavez.
“We have come to Mercosur with all our wishes for a full integration” and to make this block “a mechanism of integration which goes beyond trade, which means social integration”, he added.
Finally Chavez said that Mercosur must be seen as “the largest locomotive to preserve our independence and to guarantee our integral development”.
“As of today Venezuela belongs to one of the most powerful blocks in the world which concentrates 300 million people and a GDP of over 3tn dollars,” rich in resources, energy and know-how.