The purpose of this text is
to present preliminary elements for a discussion about the
Lula administration, with respect to its policies in the
– The Amazon development model designed in the 90s
In order to perform a brief
analysis of the Lula administration’s policies for the
Amazon region, we need an initial understanding of the
concept of development that has guided governmental
intervention since 1990 until now; that is, one must
understand that the neoliberal policies initiated in past
decades have considered the Amazon as a region devoted to
the generation of trade surplus.
The “Brasil em Ação”
and “Avança Brasil” government programs have started a
new approach in government practices with respect to
regional development. According to this approach, the
establishment of integration axes would enable a more
competitive access to markets. This concept proposes the
creation of long distance transportation infrastructure that
integrates national and international regions, thus
increasing competitiveness and facilitating access to
The Lula administration has
established as its goal for the Multi-Year Plan 2004-2007 to
articulate productivity and competitiveness with social
inclusion, employment and income distribution. Thus, the
federal government has proposed to establish policies
capable of realizing endogenous potential, regional
specificity and diversity. We may find examples of this
proposal in the documents produced by the National
Integration Ministry titled “Política Nacional de
Desenvolvimento Regional” (BRASIL, 2003a), which lay some
of the foundations for regional development policy.
This document states that
development must consist of “exploring, in a thorough
manner, the endogenous potential of the extraordinarily
diverse base of regional development, according to the
current social framework grounded on more diversified and
sophisticated production, carrying regionally-based social
values” (BRASIL, 2003a, p. 12). The document reinforces
the need to strengthen the economic agents that find
competitiveness anchored in competitive advantages and those
that use the region’s natural resources. This conception
is also present in the document produced jointly by the
National Integration and the Environment Ministries, titled
“Plano Amazônia Sustentável” (PAS) (BRASIL, 2006).
But federal government'
action in the Amazon was guided by a document drafted by the
Planning Ministry, the Multi-Year Plan 2004-2007 (BRASIL,
2003b). There, actions established during past
administrations are reinforced, and the articulation between
the federal public sector and the economic agents who may
wish to take advantage of the wealth of the region is
The strategies of the
Planning Ministry expressed in the Multi-Year Plan state
that Brazil’s economic development is blocked by
restrictions causing external and internal vulnerability.
These restrictions produce a weak ability to generate
foreign currency needed to balance trade and to attract
productive capital. This would render Brazil dependent on
capital in order to balance its budget.
Faced with such a diagnosis,
the government has established as its priority the
increasing of trade surplus. For that purpose, the
government would privilege companies that perform such a
function in the region, such as the mining-metal industries
and agribusiness. Based on this diagnosis, the government
has focused on strengthening projects that prioritize and
increase trade surplus. Subsequently, the public development
process focuses on valuing projects that are export-oriented
and have weak or no articulation with regional development.
Furthermore, these would leave behind them a legacy of
social and environmental problems, as was the case with
Serra do Navio, in Macapá, after 50 years of manganese
exploration by ICOMI.
Faced with the need to
reassure the functioning of this model, the Lula
administration made it clear that it would maintain the same
dynamic of previous administrations, with only minor changes.
This has been made unequivocal by the President’s
attendance at the inauguration of the third production line
of Alunorte, in Barcarena, which enabled a rise in the total
export volume by this company from 730 thousand tons of
alumina a year to 1,4 million tons in 2004. He also attended
in 2004 the inauguration, in Canaã dos Carajás, of the
CVRD (Companhia Vale do Rio Doce) project aimed at the
strengthening of copper mining in the Sossego mine, which
will be responsible for the annual production of 140
thousand tons of copper in the next two decades.
For this purpose, the
government has chosen to benefit certain economic segments
and has established a strategy aimed at favoring export
companies without local ties by providing tax exemptions,
which will inevitably lead to impoverishment and
environmental degradation. The government has chosen to
benefit a development model that is alien to the region.
This approach is opposed to a sustainable development model
that could give priority to human rights and environmental
One of the examples of this
policy is the strengthening of CVRD - Companhia Vale do Rio
Doce, who in 2005 was responsible for 14% of the nation’s
trade surplus, with an annual gross profit of $35,4 billion reais,
and a net profit of $ 10 billion reais, or two-thirds
higher than in 2004. It is obvious that this large growth of
CRVD and other companies is favored by tax exemptions and by
integration projects coordinated by the federal government.
Thus, we conclude that the
project established for the Amazon region by the Lula
administration is a continuation of the model implemented by
the previous government, focusing on “income concentration,
homogenization of the productive process and devaluing human
and environmental resources”, according to a statement by
professor Maurílio Monteiro during a talk at the Brazilian
Bishops National Conference.
Grain agribusiness and deforestation
The rise of deforestation has been very
serious in the Amazon region. In the last 35 years, from
1970 to 2005, 17% of the Amazon area has been destroyed. The main
causes of deforestation are activities related to the
exploration of natural resources, such as timber exploration,
cattle ranching, grain production in large farms, charcoal
production, as well as large projects, such as roads and
One of the main causes of deforestation is the rise of grain agribusiness.
The Brazilian state that includes almost half of the levels
of deforestation is Mato Grosso, at 48.1%, the equivalent to
12576 Km². Mato Grosso is the largest soy producing state
in the country, and the world’s largest individual soy
producer is Blairo Maggi, its current governor. In
the last 35 years, this
is the state that has lost the largest area of forest. At
the same time, we can notice that the revenues collected by
the Maggi industrial group have risen 28%, reaching US$ 532
millions in 2003, versus US$ 415 millions in 2002 (Greenpeace,
The forest has been
destroyed in order to enable the production of timber,
cattle and soy, and for road construction and paving. At the
center of this discussion is the paving of the BR-163
highway, since just the expectation generated by this
construction has increased the illegal occupation of land,
violence and deforestation in the Santarém region.
Thus, the incentives for
grain agribusiness and the quest to secure the necessary
infrastructure for its transportation, via Amazon ports such
as Santarém and Vila do Conde, in Barcarena, favor a type
of development that destroys one of the fundamental
characteristics of Amazônia: its environmental and cultural
The main consequences of a
type of development that converts forest in pasture and
agricultural areas are an intense and irreversible loss of
genetic wealth in many of the Amazon’s ecosystems, such as
regional rainfall reduction, increase in forest
susceptibility to fire, and extensive land cover conversion
from forest to savanna. The rise in grain agribusiness is
also a cause of pollution and the disappearance of rivers,
favoring large landholders, and causing the rural exodus of
small farmers, who are forced to migrate to large cities.
- The creation of homogenous spaces in the Amazon
Undoubtedly, the Amazon
region’s greatest wealth is its diversity. Throughout
time, this diversity has guaranteed the survival of its
population. The increased presence of corporations in the
region created homogenous structures and spaces. Such
structures are materialized in the consolidation of soy and
eucalyptus monocultures, cattle ranching and mining
Government policy throughout the 90s strived for “efficiency” in the
development of competitive advantages, which favored the
marketing of natural resources as a key element for trade
surplus generation. Despite
the rhetoric of the Lula administration in claiming
to pursue an interconnection
between economic growth and sustainability, there were no
significant policy changes.
The rise of poverty
we think of the Amazon what comes to mind is a region with
great natural resources. In fact, it is so. But the current
development model limits the ability of local populations to
benefit from that wealth, and causes extreme poverty, as
well as loss of natural and cultural resources. Since this
form of economic development is centralized and imposed from
the outside, without further commitments to the region, it
is not surprising to see the rise of unemployment, violence,
and extreme poverty in the region.
state of Pará
imposition of a development model that does not value
socio-environmental diversity brings serious social
consequences to the population of the region, producing a
contrast between the appropriation of wealth and the rise of
poverty. This has become evident in the state of Pará.
Pará, the second largest state in the Amazon region in terms of land
area, and the most populated one, has 430 thousand
unemployed people, according to DIESSE (Interlabor
Department for Socioeconomic Statistics and Studies). In
cities such as Santarém, Alenquer, and Paragominas, where
there was a rise in crop monoculture, one can witness the
sprouting of neighborhoods with extremely poor living
conditions. According to the Social Services Bureau of
Paragominas, 350 families arrive in the city each month
looking for employment. The high level of unemployment
observed in medium and large Amazon cities is accompanied by
an increase in violence and exploitation, whose main victims
end up being children and adolescents. There has also been a
rise in the number of children and teenage victims
of child labor – there
are more than 300 thousand working as maidservants without
any rights. Regions such as Marajó and the islands of the
Lower Tocantins are known routes of child and teenage
traffic for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
The rise in poverty has
also brought with it a resurgence of diseases that are
easily controllable or that had become extinct in past
decades. According to Health Watch data and indicators, the
state of Pará is ranked first in the nation in the
occurrence of leprosy. In 2004, 5041 cases were detected by
SINAN (National System for Judicial Notification), and 18
deaths were recorded by SIM (Information System on Mortality).
According to official indicators, there are, in Pará today,
39 hyper endemic municipalities, that is,
administrative regions where more than 20 cases per 10
thousand people are observed; none of the remaining 104
municipalities in the state can avoid the endemic
classification, either. Faced with such data, a frightening
prospect cannot be ruled out, not to mention the cases where
entire families are in the process of contracting the
disease but have yet to make it to the official indicators.
The fact that the Marabá
region, where the world’s largest mining province is
located, and from where CVRD has extracted 85 million tons
of iron until the end of 2006, is the area of the state
where hanseniasis has seen the steepest rise is undeniable proof that
extractive mining companies do not bring quality of life to
their surrounding populations.
Beriberi is another disease
that should have been controlled, but was not. Recently, 123
beriberi cases have been diagnosed, with 37 fatal victims,
in the municipalities located on the banks of the Tocantins
River, in the South of the Maranhão state, and 41 more
cases in Pará, just in the D. Eliseu municipality. That
region has seen one of the highest rises in the
establishment of charcoal kilns, which exist to produce
vegetable coal for the Marabá metal company. One might add
that beriberi was known for killing the Black populations
during the colonial period, in the 17th century. Its main
cause is vitamin B1 deficiency, and it provokes a
neurological syndrome in its victims.
We must reflect upon
development based on indicators that take into consideration
the basic rights of our population, and the ecological
balance of the region. After these elements have been
accounted for, we realize that the Amazon has been put
through a process that has been designated by André Gunder
Frank as the “development of underdevelopment”, that is,
we are getting poorer.
policies define the Amazon as a region to generate trade
surplus and to produce raw materials. These materials,
however, have less and less value. The Carajás mine,
projected to produce 25 million tons of iron, has reached 85
million in 2006, and will have produced 100 million by the
end of the decade. Aluminum ore, in Trombetas, went up from
6 to 16 million tons in 2006. Alunorte, projected for 1,1
million tons of aluminum, will produce 2.4 million.
Not to mention the mines that are about to start the
process of extraction.
So, the strategy defined by
the Lula administration reinforces previous projects and
strengthens local oligarchic forces, and, consequently,
deepens income concentration problems and social exclusion.
The current model considers the forest and its population as
impediments to “development”. The current policies for
the Amazon region are not different than the ones during the
period of colonization.
Bertha K.. Geopolítica da Amazônia. Estud. av.,
São Paulo, v. 19, n. 53, 2005.
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