Rubber tappers against cattle ranchers and the murder of Chico Mendes, Brazil

Chico Mendes, a Brazilian environmental defender campaigned against ranchers to stop the deforestation of the rainforest. In 1988 he was shot down. He and his fight are symbols for the Global Environmental Justice Movement.


<div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Description</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld"></td><td class="columns"> The 1970s marked a shift in the dynamics of the extraction of resources from the Amazon. During 1970 and late 1980s the government of Brazil, in an effort to fortify the economy offered incentives to cattle ranchers in the Amazon rainforest.  Rapidly, the deforestation became visible affecting rubber tappers or <i>seringueiros, </i>who are traditional communities who lived in the forest.  Faced with eviction and loss of livelihood, in 1976 the rubber-tappers organized themselves to save the forest and their livelihoods. One of the forms of mobilization by the protesters was the "<i>empate</i>" – a peaceful demonstration in which they protect the trees with their own bodies. Early 80´s, ranchers from Southern Brazil began to buy up huge tracts of Amazon land in order to clear them for cattle grazing land. Frigorifico Bordon SA - a company engaged with beef- was one of the enterprises detected in this conflict. In all this process, Chico Mendes, a traditional rubber tapper in Xapuri (Acre State) became involved in the struggle.  Initially, Mendes sent letters to the president of Brazil describing the inhuman conditions imposed upon the rubber tappers. But their letters were ignored.  At the same time, there was another treat coming into their territory.  Starting from Rôndonia state, a highway (BR 364) was being built (with World Bank-IDB financing, causing deforestation and loss of livelihoods of thousands of <i>seringueiros</i> in the near State.  Chico Mendes also opposed the construction of this highway in Acre.  The Environmental Defense Fund invited Chico Mendes to to attend the Inter-American development bank (IDB) annual meeting in Washington and to meet US Congress members; he explained that cattle ranchers systematically destroyed the rainforest and created hardship for the natives and rubber tappers.  Senators respond the following: "We can´t repeat the devastation occurred in Rôndonia" and insisted that later works of extension of the BR 364 should be interrupted until the Bank can certify that they have complied with the environmental and social  components required for the loan". The year 1985 marks the founding of the National Council of Rubber Tappers (CNS) by Mendes and other key union leaders aiming to defend rubber tappers demands.  In 1986 the Xapuri Rural Workers’ Union allied with the indigenous people of Brazil, who had also been historically discriminated against and overlooked.  The alliance between these two groups showed to government officials the seriousness of the campaigns demands. In June of 1986 Mendes organized over 200 tappers for a march on the federal forestry office of Xapuri. They were evicted by the police.  Since then, the <i>seringueiros</i> received threats of death, including Chico Mendes. As a form of territory resistance, trade unionist proposed the creation of the "Extractive Reserves (RESEX)", which would be protected areas where the traditional populations continue its extractive activities, with no risk of being expropriated. The following years, the focus of the movement was recruitment of rubber tappers for <i>empates</i> and rallying international support for the cause. International recognition of Mendes with international prizes (United Nation’s Global 500 Environmental Prize and World Society Prize in 1987) spread awareness of the campaign. On December 22nd 1988, Chico Mendes was murder by two ranchers (Darcy Alves and his father). They both were in jail for 19 years.  As an example of environmental justice success, after the murder of Chico Mendes, the policy in the Amazon changed radically and the model proposed (extractive reserves) was legalize. The first Resex is named Chico Mendes with 980, 000 hectares and serves as a home and refuge to 3,000 families. Today there are Resex along the whole Brazilian territory.  </td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Basic Data</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Name</td><td> Rubber tappers against cattle ranchers and the murder of Chico Mendes, Brazil</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Country</td><td><a href="/country/brazil">Brazil</a></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Province</td><td>Acre </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Site</td><td>Xapuri </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Accuracy of Location</td><td>MEDIUM regional level</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Source of Conflict</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (1st level)</td><td>Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (2nd level)</td><td>Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)<br /> Land acquisition conflicts<br /> Deforestation</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Specific Commodities</td><td><a href='/commodity/land'>Land</a><br /><a href='/commodity/meat'>Meat</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Project Details and Actors</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Details</td><td class="columns"><div class="less">A list of RESEX can be found here:</div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">http://uc.socioambiental.org/uso-sustent%C3%A1vel/reserva-extrativista<br/><br/>According to O Globo, the first RESEX was created in Alto Juruá in 1990, after Chico Mendes' death. Altogether, there are 89 RESEX in Brazil, in 17 states. Total number of hectares is 14 million, equivalent to the area of Ceará state. [1]<br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Project Area (in hectares)</td><td>980,000 </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Population</td><td>Rural</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Start Date</td><td>1976</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Company Names or State Enterprises</td><td><a href='/company/frigorifico-bordon'>Frigorífico Bordon</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/brazil'><small>Brazil</small></a> - <small>owner </small></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Relevant government actors</td><td>National System of Conservation Unities (SNUC),Confederação da Agricultura e Pecuária (CNA), Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), Comissão Nacional de Desenvolvimento Sustentável dos Povos e Comunidades Tradicionais – CNPCT</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Environmental justice organisations and other supporters</td><td>União dos Povos da Floresta (UPF), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), National Wildlife Federation (NWF),National Council of Rubber Tappers (CNS)</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">The Conflict and the Mobilization</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)</td><td>HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">When did the mobilization begin</td><td>PREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Groups Mobilizing</td><td>Farmers<br /> Neighbours/citizens/communities<br /> Trade unions<br /> Religious groups<br /> </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Forms of Mobilization</td><td>Blockades<br /> Development of a network/collective action<br /> Land occupation<br /> Official complaint letters and petitions<br /> Popular education schools committed to the seringueiros demands; "empate" – a peaceful demonstration in which they protect the trees with their own bodies. </td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Impacts</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Environmental Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover<br /><strong>Potential: </strong>Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Health Impacts</td><td><strong>Potential: </strong>Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Socio-economic Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession<br /><strong>Potential: </strong>Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Outcome</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Status</td><td>Stopped</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Pathways for conflict outcome / response</td><td>Criminalization of activists<br /> Deaths<br /> Institutional changes<br /> Land demarcation<br /> Migration/displacement<br /> New legislation<br /> Repression<br /> Strengthening of participation<br /> Violent targeting of activists</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Development of Alternatives</td><td>The proposal of creation protected extractive reserves (RESEX) that would hand over the management of public land to local communities. </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Do you consider this as a success?</td><td>Not Sure</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Why? Explain briefly.</td><td>The labour of Chico Mendes influence a generation of conservationists and policymakers. He is now a symbol of the global environment movement. <br/><br/>His idea of creating legal instrument to establish extractive reserves (RESEX) is now a reality. Yet the relentless destruction of virgin Amazon forest has continued (ranchers and soya) and the treats and murders of the environmental defenders in Brazil is one of the highest in the world. </td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Sources and Materials</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Legislations</td><td><table><tr><td><p> BRASIL 2000. Lei Federal Nº 9.985 de 18/07/2000. Regulamenta o artigo 225 da Constituição Federal e institui o Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação e da outras providências.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://uc.socioambiental.org/sites/uc.socioambiental.org/files/snuc_sistema%20nacional%20de%20unidades%20de%20conservacao.pdf" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">References</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Burch, Joann J., Chico Mendes, Defender of the Rainforest, The Millbrook Press, 1994<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> DeStefano, Susan, Chico Mendes: Fight for the Forest, Twenty-First Century, 1991.<br/></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> La Amazonía, explotación Vs ecologismo. Caso: Chico Mendes<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://vozaltermundo.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/la-amazonia-intereses-economicos-vs-ecologismo-caso-chico-mendes/" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Brazil Marks 25 Years Since Murder of Environmentalist Chico Mendes<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/brazil-marks-25-years-since-murder-environmentalist-chico-mendes-1430026" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> [1] O Globo - Reservas extrativistas permitem exploração sustentável da natureza<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://g1.globo.com/natureza/noticia/2015/04/reservas-extrativistas-permitem-exploracao-sustentavel-da-natureza.html" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Reserva Extrativista<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://uc.socioambiental.org/uso-sustent%C3%A1vel/reserva-extrativista" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> The life and legacy of Chico Mendes<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7795175.stm" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Brazilian Rubber Tappers campaign to protest the deforestation of the Brazilian rainforest region, 1977-1988<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/brazilian-rubber-tappers-campaign-protest-deforestation-brazilian-rainforest-region-1977-198" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Chico Mendes: 25 years of a brutal killing<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.ejolt.org/2013/12/chico-mendes-25-years-of-a-brutal-killing/" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Media Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> A história de Chico Mendes Documentário<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoTHmdqz6lw" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Voice Of The Amazon<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ii0ypePaZ1o" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Eu quero viver (Adrián Cowell and Vicente Rios) Parte IV<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxWIxL-zTp8" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Chico Mendes talks in USP , 1988<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5_hUt-mvhk" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Eu quero Viver. (Adrián Cowell and Vicente Rios) - Part I<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUr2t3Te8Jo" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Eu quero viver (Adrián Cowell and Vicente Rios) Parte II<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kBLDzZEyrA" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Eu quero viver (Adrián Cowell and Vicente Rios) Parte III<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KukLSjKo5Ok" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other Documents</td><td><table><tr><td><p><strong>Chico Mendes</strong> <br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/16an53wxpe_4ucw5wgyie_file.jpg" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>Chico Mendes vive!</strong> <br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/5279906357_aaa026865e.jpg" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other Comments</td><td>“At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realize I am fighting for humanity.” Chico Mendes </td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Meta Information</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Contributor</td><td>EJAtlas team</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Last update</td><td>01/10/2016</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div>
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