Brazil is going through an unprecedented health and economic crisis. The country is one of the epicenters of the world’s Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 83,000 deaths from the virus. Thousands of people are in mourning, and many others are still struggling to survive under these conditions.
In this context, large companies from different sectors are “taking advantage of this time to bolster fake solidarity” on their part, many organizations denounced this week, including Friends of the Earth Brazil.
Luana Hanauer, a member of Friends of the Earth Brazil, explained to Real World Radio:
The letter signed by the organizations denounces the farce of donations in the fight against Covid-19 carried out by monoculture, agribusiness, oil and mining companies in Brazil. Above all, it is remarkable the visibility obtained by companies in the hegemonic media, as one of the makeup strategies to clean up their image. They make donations that appear to be a payback to society but, actually, they are a way to strengthen their own branding through positive advertising, while receiving benefits from the State.
During the last months, these companies have obtained tax exemptions on pulp exports, agribusiness, mining and other areas of the economy; their activities were declared “essential”, so their workers have had to attend their workplaces at risk of contagion. Also, companies received large loans from the National Bank for Economic and Social Development, while thousands of infections occur with a really weakened public health and social security system, the loss of labor rights and job insecurity.
“The novel coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) reveals the genocidal and cruel attitude of the Brazilian president, with his ‘So what?’ when he was faced with the deaths caused by this disease. His henchmen follow him in this trivialization of the suffering of thousands of people, in particular those who need the Unified Health System (SUS)“, the organizations declared through a letter published on July 27.
From FoE-Brazil they pointed out that, in the context of the health crisis, defending the maintenance of public services essential for life “became an even harder task—given that this is a time of attacks on democracy, advancing fascism, increasingly evident institutionalized and structural racism, and the strengthening of big companies’ power over territories”.
Meanwhile, hegemonic media and news portals grouped in the Red Globo advertise donations from companies (such as the paper and pulp producers: Suzano, CMPC and Veracel/Stora Enso) to face Covid-19.
The letter signed by Friends of the Earth Brazil recalls that these transnational companies usually have their headquarters in some country in the global North, while they set up subsidiaries and exploit cheap workforce in countries of the global South, such as Brazil.
The campaign broadcast on television is called “Solidaridad S.A.” (“Solidarity Inc.”, in English). Among others, the pulp company CMPC donated 70 million reais in the campaign: barely 7 percent of the liquid profits that this corporation obtained last year.
It is worth mentioning that companies that present themselves as “solidary” in the face of this health crisis have managed to renegotiate their debts with the Brazilian State since the start of the pandemic, and to obtain loans from the National Bank for Economic and Social Development, such as the Suzano company (which has already received more than 6 billion in public money).
Those funds could be used to increase the amounts of emergency aid in the most vulnerable and unemployed populations, as suggested by the social organizations. Currently, this aid barely exceeds $100 dollars per month, and that could be cut in half in August.
These and other complaints are detailed in the letter “The donation farce of the agribusiness, industrial tree plantation, oil and mining sectors in Brazil during the battle against Covid-19”.
Meanwhile, without receiving the same attention in the mass press, social movements and NGOs provide support to the neediest populations, in urban and rural areas by donating food and cleaning supplies, creating solidarity networks throughout the country.
Given the dramatic situation experienced by the most vulnerable communities affected by the new coronavirus, we demand that government authorities take responsibility for providing decent living and health conditions for those affected by Covid-19. And we repudiate companies that continue to destroy nature and peoples, using this situation to do “humanitarian” marketing with green makeup, Hanauer said.
Among the solidarity actions, the Landless Workers and the oil workers joined forces to donate food and gas for domestic use in Curitiba; the Dam Affected People Movement of Brazil (MAB) proposed a series of measures to protect the lives of workers throughout the country; and the Quilombola Front mobilized approximately 30 tons of food, as well as hygiene and cleaning supplies.
To know more about these actions, we invite you to listen to episode 05 of the Ecoando Resistências podcast at this link.