Military Police violently evict women protesters from Stora Enso’s plantations in Brazil

On Tuesday, 4th March 2008, about 900 women from the International Peasant Movement Via Campesina were violently evicted by the Military Police from an area of 2,100 hectares of Stora Enso’s plantations at the Tarumã Farm in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. According to a statement from Via Campesina about 60 women were badly injured and 800 were arrested. Meanwhile, 250 children at the camp were separated from their parents. Tents were destroyed and tools taken from the women.

The women were protesting against Stora Enso’s monoculture eucalyptus plantations, which the company is currently establishing in Rio Grande do Sul. The women arrived at Tarumã Farm at 6.00 am on Tuesday and started to cut down eucalyptus trees. They replaced them with native tree seedlings.

In a statement, Via Campesina said: “Our action is legitimate. Stora Enso is illegal. Planting that green desert in the border strip is a crime against the law of our country, against the ecosystem and against the food sovereignty of our state, which has less and less lands to produce food. We are pulling up what is bad and planting what is good for the environment and for the people of Rio Grande do Sul.”

Under Brazilian law, foreigners cannot buy land within 150 kilometres from the Brazilian border, without a specific approval process. Stora Enso is buying large areas of land close to the border with Uruguay, where the company also has plantations. The company plans to establish more than 100,000 hectares of industrial tree plantations and to build a one million tons-a-year pulp mill.

Stora Enso first attempted to buy the land through its subsidiary Derflin, which as a foreign company could not buy the land. Stora Enso then set up a front company, Azenglever Agropecuária Ltd, to buy the land on its behalf. Via Campesina points out that while Azenglever is owned by two Brazilians, they are top executives of Stora Enso: João Fernando Borges is forest director and Otávio Pontes is vice-president of Stora Enso for Latin America. According to Via Campesina these two are currently the largest landowners in Rio Grande do Sul state.

Via Campesina reports that a total of 45,000 hectares is already registered in the name of Azenglever Agropecuária and that the federal police are “aware of the illegal operation, but they have done nothing to prevent the advance of the green desert.” Meanwhile, Stora Enso continues to buy land.

In a press release, Stora Enso confirms that it “has been purchasing lands in the border zone of Brazil,” and that Azenglever is a “temporary arrangement”, set up to “protect Stora Enso’s land acquisitions”. The company claims that it formed Azenglever Agropecuária “to hold the land until proper authorization is given”. The company states that it “requested the competent authorities to take legal actions in order to remove the invaders in a peaceful way”.

The eviction was far from peaceful. The Military Police in Rio Grande do Sul are well-known for their violence against the peaceful actions of social movements. The eviction took place so quickly because Stora Enso already had a permit from the court in Rio Grande do Sul state meaning that no further court decision would be required to remove the protesters from the land. Yeda Crusius, the state governor who gave permission for the Military Police to evict the women, received some 500,000 Reais for her election campaign from plantation companies, including Stora Enso.

What, you may well be asking, has any of this got to do with FSC? Two things. First, Stora Enso has some of its operations certified by FSC (and it is currently trying to get its monoculture eucalyptus plantations at Veracel, a joint venture with Aracruz, FSC-certified). When FSC dissociated with Asia Pulp and Paper, FSC stated that it has “a duty to protect the good will and integrity associated with its name and logo for consumers and for our trusted partners and members.” When an FSC-certified company sets up a front company to avoid Brazilian laws, funds industry-friendly politicians and sends in the Military Police who violently evict 900 women, injuring 60 of them, does this improve the “good will and integrity” of FSC?

Second, FSC is currently carrying out a “Plantations Review“. The FSC Board has appointed four “Technical Expert Teams” which “will further develop the recommendations of the Policy Working Group. Expert Team B is looking at “Maintaining Ecosystem Integrity”. One of the members of the team is Antti Marjokorpi, who is, according to FSC, “a specialist in the areas of biodiversity conservation and management in tropical plantation forestry and forest certification standards for sustainable forest management. He has worked throughout South America, Asia and the pacific islands, and Africa in various positions held with Stora Enso and Enso Forest Development over the past 15 years.” In other words, FSC has invited someone from a company responsible for hundreds of thousands of hectares of monoculture eucalyptus plantations to help advise it on “Maintaining Ecosystem Integrity”. We shouldn’t be surprised then, when the “Plantations Review” ends up flying in the face of social movements such as Via Campesina by recommending that FSC continues to certify industrial tree plantations.

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