We have received the following from ‘Alert against the Green Desert Network’ in Brazil, reporting on the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) continuing occupation of part of the illegal (but FSC certified) plantations owened by Veracel. As we previously reported, the Veracel certification has been highly controversial; despite FSC itself finding that the certificate showed “a number of nonconformities with FSC accreditation requirements”, the certificate still remains in place and SGS Qualifor, which was responsible for issuing it, remains accredited by FSC. The inability of FSC to deal with such cases has prompted at least one NGO to quit its membership of FSC international.
In spite of tense situation, MST continues occupying ‘devolutas’ lands planted with eucalyptus of Veracel Celulose in Bahia
05 May 2009
Landless workers continue the occupation that started on 07 April 2009 of an area with eucalyptus monoculture tree plantations of Veracel Celulose, in the Extreme South of Bahia. After almost one month of occupation, the state government has not taken any step yet to find a solution for this area with ‘devolutas’ lands (lands without official land titles and therefore legally belonging to the state and should be destined to agrarian land reform), appropriated by the private company Veracel Celulose.
Veracel Celulose is a result of a joint venture between Stora Enso and Aracruz Celulose. Veracel has about 205 thousand hectares of lands, and has its plantation area certified as ‘socially, environmentally and economically sustainable by the international certifying initiative FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Nevertheless, this ‘socially sustainable’ company occupies, according to the MST, 20 thousand hectares of ‘devolutas’ lands, lands that should be destined to the people for agrarian land reform and, subsequently, for small-scale food production. Legally, it is forbidden for private companies to occupy ‘devolutas’ lands. In the region, about 5,000 families live in tent camps waiting for a peace of land. Last year, another landless movement (MLT) already occupied a ‘devoluta’ land of Veracel, but was expelled by the police.
During a public hearing on 23 April with state and federal authorities, it was agreed upon that the Listener for Land Conflicts of the INCRA (National State Institute of Agrarian Land Reform) would be informed by the police forces, as well as all other parties involved, about any action to try to remove the 1,500 families that might occur because of a court decision that the 1,500 MST-families should leave the area on 4 May (yesterday), result of a court action proposed by Veracel.
MST’s position is that it is not willing to leave the area without guarantees that the state of Bahia will take concrete steps against Veracel to take control over the ‘devolutas’ areas in favor of the landless families. Besides, during the hearing, a representative of INCRA at the national level denunciated that the eucalyptus plantation companies occupy most of the agricultural lands in the municipality of Eunapolis and region, showing very clearly the responsibility of the eucalyptus planting companies such as Veracel in being a concrete obstacle for land reform in the region.
For Luciano, one of the MST leaders, “The Government needs to solve the situation, the families cannot continue to live in this precarious situation. “Besides, he says: “If a decision is in favor of a company like Veracel, the Government decides quickly, constructs roads, gives financing and tax incentives. But to decide in favor of the people, especially the workers, the Government takes a long time to decide. And while the government does not decide, we intend to stay in this area and will continue to cut eucalyptus trees. We already cut down about 10 hectares of trees and planted maize and beans, as you can see on the photographs”.
The local situation is tense and we urge to all of you to give publicity in your country to this struggle of the MST against this company owned by Stora Enso and Aracruz.