The Struggles for Land in the Amazon

The Amazon , through regional planning, has always been seen as the frontier of natural resources in Brazil, represented by the following proposals:

projects encouraged by Sudam, aimed at the exploitation of wood and agriculture;
Grande Carajas Project, for the extraction and export of minerals;
hydroelectric plants that exploit the water potential of rivers. The policies responsible for this regional planning have turned the Amazon into a major capital investment.

The large projects and the construction of highways attracted large migratory flows to the Amazon from the Center-South and the Northeast.

This “conquest” of the Amazon triggered a series of social conflicts involving squatters, squatters, businessmen, jagunços, contractors, pedestrians and indigenous people. The result was a large number of deaths.

  • Tenants are farmers who cultivate small plots, usually for many years, but do not have title to the land. They have possession of the land, but not the legal documents registered with notaries, which guarantee their ownership. They are victims of farmers and companies.
  • Grileiros are agents of large landowners who illegally appropriate large portions of land, through the falsification of property titles. With the help of henchmen and jagunços, they expel squatters and Indians from the lands. The “land grabbed” lands are under the control of the new “owners”.
  • Entrepreneurs are people or companies that acquire huge tracts of land in the Amazon, sometimes with dubious property titles.
  • Jagunços are armed men, hired by land grabbers, businessmen or contractors to patrol their lands and expel squatters or indigenous people.
  • Contractors are people who hire workers for large farms. They are also called “cats” or intermediaries.
  • Pawns are rural workers, recruited by “cats”. They earn low wages and often work without a formal contract, not benefiting from labor rights. They delude themselves with promises of an enrichment that never happens and are always indebted to the boss, not being able to leave the job.

The roads, such as the Belém-Brasília axis and the Transamazônica highway, attracted squatters and land grabbers to the Eastern Amazon (“Bico de Papagaio”, southern Pará and northern Maranhão). These areas have become the main focus of rural violence in Brazil, drawing the attention of human rights organizations. Conceição do Araguaia (Pará), Tocantinópolis (Tocantins) and Imperatriz (Maranhão) became known as land grabbing centers.

The indigenous societies are the most fragile and most affected sector with this occupation of the Amazon. The Indians are expelled from their lands by jagunços hired by businessmen, by hydroelectric plants, by clearing the forest, etc. The lives of indigenous peoples are linked to the land and, without it, groups are disorganized. Often entire communities are killed by white-borne diseases.

According to paradisdachat, there were about 5 million indigenous people before colonization; today, there are just over 200,000, concentrated mainly in the Amazon.

With the introduction of the modern economy, the environment has suffered terrible consequences, such as the devastation of the forest by timber companies and ranchers.

Fires , deforestation , death of Indians, rubber tappers and violence against squatters are facts that have been discussed in all parts of the planet. The destruction of the Amazon and its social conflicts started to be condemned and the Brazilian government started to be more careful with the largest equatorial forest in the world.

The significance of development in the Amazon and its consequences

With each passing year, thousands of peasants (squatters and smallholders) are expelled from their land. They try to organize and resist, but are killed during armed conflicts. Indigenous people are also forced to leave the areas they occupy in the Amazon.

Behind this conflict situation, there are two ways to understand how it should be done the occupation of the Amazon.

First way: developing the Amazon means cutting down the forest, exterminating the fauna, ending the indigenous people, expelling the squatters to organize large farms and mining or logging companies.

Second way: preservation of the Amazon with the implantation of forms of economic growth in the region, without compromising the ecological balance. Some proposals for sustainable development have already been successfully practiced and, although they benefit a small portion of the population, they have the merit of raising the standard of living of the people involved, without causing environmental aggression or destruction of local culture.

The rubber tappers live in the middle of the forest, where the rubber tappers are born naturally, mainly in Acre. Their work depends on the conservation of the forest and, when it is attacked, they report the fact to the authorities. Environmental conservation areas do not compromise, on a large scale, the ecological balance.

Other products, such as Brazil nuts, guarana and cocoa, can be exploited economically, without destroying the forest.

Turtle nurseries allow the commercialization and production of the animal, without risk of extinction and ecological imbalance (1988).

Tourism is an activity that grows in the Amazon. The forest is the main attraction and needs to be preserved.

Recently, pressure from Brazilian and foreign civil organizations and the possibility of greater interference in the Federal Government have allowed more effective actions in order to have a management and inspection with concern for the Amazonian natural system, as well as for the traditional peoples who live there.

Since the 1970s, there have been several conflicts between rubber tappers and farmers who cut down the forest to sell wood and implement agricultural projects.

Chico Mendes spent years fighting for the creation of extractive reserves that would guarantee the survival of the rubber tappers and the preservation of the forest. His proposal was the union of the so-called “peoples of the forest” (rubber tappers, indigenous people and riverside population).

After reporting dozens of areas of illegal deforestation to the authorities, he began to suffer death threats. In 1988, he was murdered in his backyard. This crime had international repercussions and Chico Mendes became a symbol of the struggle for the preservation of the Amazon and the way of life of its population.

There is also a difference in the idea of ​​property: capitalist and speculative property, aimed at obtaining short-term profits, with land as a commodity, and communal and family, in which land is the source of life, a means of work for the livelihood of the family or the community and, thus, we try to conserve the environment to guarantee people’s survival.

Therefore, the historical process of construction of the Brazilian geographical space, the Amazon, until a few decades ago suffered less interference from the work of man.

With the economic expansion, the enlargement of agricultural frontiers and the great projects of mineral exploration, the environment began to suffer great consequences. In addition to devastating nature, economic growth has affected the majority of the population living in precarious conditions, without having access to the exploited wealth.

The Struggles for Land in the Amazon