World Rainforest Movement

Brazil: Indigenous representatives campaign in Europe to recover their land occupied by Aracruz Celulose

Paulo Henrique de Oliveira, a Tupinikim leader of Caieiras Velhas and Coordinator of the Articulação de Povos e Organizações Indígenas do Nordeste, Minas Gerais e Espírito Santo – APOINME (Articulation of Indigenous People and Organizations from the Northeast, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo), and Antônio Carvalho, a Guarani chief, travelled to Europe in April/May 2006, to publicise their struggle to demarcate Tupinikim and Guarani lands in Espírito Santo (see WRM Bulletins Nº 94, 96, 102, 103) . They spent three weeks travelling to Norway, Holland, Germany and Austria where they talked to various groups about the 11,009 hectares of their land currently in the possession of Aracruz Celulose –Brazil’s giant pulp producer. The following is Paulo de Oliveira’s account of the trip.

“We left Brazil on 25 April, aiming to show what is happening with indigenous people in Brazil, and more specifically in the State of Espírito Santo, where the indigenous territory is occupied by a multinational company, Aracruz Celulose S.A., in which some European countries, among other countries, hold shares.

In Norway, a country which invests 34 million Norwegian crowns (approximately 4.5 million Euros) in the company, we held a meeting with the Bank of Norway, with members of the Parliament and with the Council of Ethics of the Government Pension Fund. We asked them to withdraw all the investments they hold in the company.

Some of the factories that buy pulp from Aracruz are based in Germany. There we took part in meetings with some of these companies, with the Forest Stewarship Council (part of Aracruz’s operations were certified by FSC as well managed), with the Ministry of Development, with members of the Parliament of the Green Party and with some NGOs. We talked about the disrespect shown by Aracruz Celulose for the indigenous people and for the Brazilian Constitution, which guarantees Indigenous Rights. We asked the various people and organisation that we met to put pressure on Aracruz so that it returns the lands, respects the decision of the Minister of Justice and that the Brazilian government demarcates the Tupinikim and Guarani lands as soon as possible and enforces the Brazilian Constitution.

During the trip, we were able to have many discussions with other NGOs, to strengthen our struggle and our organization, as well as to see that the Europeans are very sensitive towards the indigenous cause and that they make all efforts to help us. For example, the children of a school we visited willingly polished shoes to raise funds to help us in our struggle.

However, I hope that the politicians, the companies, the Ministry of Development, the FSC and the Bank we visited are able to fulfil their promises, and that Aracruz returns the lands. I hope that the government speeds up the process of demarcation and that we may continue our struggle, helping our brothers and sisters who fight for their lands, for their rights, for their dignity, because our struggle does not end here. This is just the beginning of a struggle for a better life and a better planet.”

The struggle of the Tupinikin and Guarani peoples seems to bear fruit. Such has been the international discredit of Aracruz for its usurpation of indigenous land that the company itself has recently announced that it decided to “request the voluntary temporary withdrawal of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification of the forests [eucalyptus plantations] pertaining to its Guaíba Unit located in the State of Rio Grande do Sul. This certification, which was obtained before the acquisition of this unit, had previously been revalidated three consecutive times and was to expire in December 2006.”

What has this to do with the struggle in Espirito Santo? Aracruz itself acknowledges the link. In its press release (at it states that “some stakeholders had expressed concern to the FSC about the revalidation of the UG certificate — not related to forestry management in Rio Grande do Sul, but rather a land dispute between the company’s Barra do Riacho Unit (more than 2,000 km away) and indigenous communities in the State of Espírito Santo”. This is clearly a damage control operation. In this way, Aracruz is acknowledging the success of the indigenous peoples’ campaign in generating international support to their struggle to recover their lands and is trying to avoid broadening opposition within the FSC certification arena.

While this issue is developing, Aracruz tries to conceal its real face with big money that can hire broadcasting spaces to capture huge global audiences. A new nationwide propaganda in the current World Football Cup shows national celebrities, like former football player Pelé, playing a ball to each other, while a voice says: “Aracruz: fazendo um papel bonito lá fora”, meaning in English “Aracruz: playing a nice role out there” (there’s a world play since in Portuguese the word “papel” has the double meaning of “role” and “paper”, the end product of the cellulose produced by Aracruz).

Nothing more far from reality, and local communities know it well. On June 16, in Jacutinga, a community at Linhares, north of Espírito Santo, seven tractors of the company were put in motion to pull down part of the Brazilian Mata Atlântica forest. The action was carried out on a holiday, but was nothwithstanding deterred by the firm resistance of pesants from the Movement of Small Peasants who have been protecting the area for more than twenty years (see report from the Alert against the Green Desert Movement at

Not certifiable, not reliable. Aracruz should not be viable.