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“The hardest part is knowing that Vale continues operating”

Friends of the Earth International, with delegates from Brazil and its Economic Justice Program, demand justice in Brumadinho

During the march of people affected by mining company Vale in Brumadinho (Brazil) held by the Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) from 20-25 January, during the first anniversary of the worst socioenvironmental crime [1] in this South American country, Real World Radio interviewed activist Leticia Paranhos, co-coordinator of the Economic Justice-Resisting Neoliberalism Program (EJRN) at Friends of the Earth International.

Paranhos, together with Luana Hanauer, also present at the week of mobilizations to denounce the impunity surrounding this crime, are members of Friends of the Earth Brazil.

Paranhos said that last 25 January was a very exciting day of struggle, but also a day of mourning for the people affected by this crime. “The hardest part is knowing that Vale continues operating and knowing that this crime will happen again due to all the transnational corporations that continue operating with impunity,” she added.

A year after the toxic mud from the Córrego do Feijão mine spilled over Brumadinho municipality and covered hundreds of kilometers more through the Paraopeba River, Brazilian authorities have not prosecuted any executive from Vale. During the day of mourning, the mine continued operating in the toxic mud where there are at least eleven people dead who have yet to be found.

Friends of the Earth Brazil and Friends of the Earth International consider it is extremely important to be with the Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) who are organizing themselves to resist, mobilize and transform the reality in Brumadinho, in Mariana and other parts of the country, together with other organizations of people affected by the “capital vs. life” conflict.

Brumadinho is the symbol of what a company is capable of doing with the lives of people for profit; it is an example of what can happen in other places,” said Luana Hanauer from Friends of the Earth Brazil.

Rio Grande do Sul is the new mining frontier in Brazil

While the collapse of the Córrego do Feijão mine is the worst socioenvironmental crime that took place in Brazil, the fact that almost half of the 24 thousand dams in the country are “at risk” makes it probable for other “Brumandinhos” to take place. The affected peoples made reference to a mine in Congonhas, with a capacity of 100,000,000 cubic meters of toxic waste.

Luana Hanauer also made reference to two dams located in Rio Grande do Sul state, where Friends of the Earth Brazil is based in: the Águia Fertilizantes [2] mining dam in Três Estradas community and the electricity dam project Garabi-Panambi [3].

“With the MAB we learnt to face these extractivist, mining-energy projects that always go after profits without respecting the lives of the people,” said Hanauer.

“Radical system change will only come with internationalist struggle, together with the people oppressed around the world,” said Paranhos. “This is a moment to join the people and renew energies in the struggle,” added Luana.