Letter from Ouro Preto
Political document of the 5th International Meeting of People Affected by Vale
Minas Gerais , Brazil, August 13-15, 2015
We, traditional communities, social and environmental movements, trade unions and civil society organizations of Brazil and the world, members of the International Articulation of People Affected by Vale, have gathered for our 5th International Meeting after traveling in caravans to visit territories affected by the company in the states of Pará, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, in Brazil.
Along the way, we witnessed cases of rights violations committed by Vale. In Pará state, we visited the Indigenous Land “Mãe Maria” (Mother Mary), where the Akrãtikatêjê people are suffering from the violation of their territorial rights. In Canaã dos Carajás , we met with two groups of peasant farmers living in encampments at Grotão de Mutum and Planalto Serra Dourada. They are fighting for the return of their land which was appropriated by Vale. In Parauapebas, Vale workers are victims of anti-union practices and suffer from accidents, mutilations and diseases associated with poor working conditions. As well we met farmers in the Palmares settlement who oppose the economic model imposed by Vale in the region. In Marabá, the communities of Alzira Mutran and KM 07 suffer from Vale’s lack of respect for their right to adequate housing.
In Minas Gerais state, Vale’s project in Serra da Gandarela threatens to deprive access to and contaminate the water sources of entire communities. Moreover, the daily effects of air and water pollution are already being felt in the communities of Morro da Água Quente, Catas Altas, Pires and Plataforma, all in the state of Minas Gerais) and in Santa Cruz, in Rio de Janeiro state. This struggle for water, in fact, unites all the women and men affected by Vale. The reports to the meeting from representatives of affected communities in Piura and Cajamarca (Peru), Tete and Nacala Corridor (Mozambique), Mendoza (Argentina), Colombia and Canada confirmed that this same pattern of rights violations by Vale to be found in different states of Brazil is prevalent all around the world.
The nation states in the countries where Vale operates are complicit in these violations being carried out by the company. This is especially true for the Brazilian state which holds shares in the company and also finances the company’s operations with public funds through subsidies from BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development). Signing agreements and conventions between Vale and various states to promote megaprojects of economic development at the expense of workers’ and communities’ rights contributes to the perpetuation of social inequalities. Access to land is a case in point. Vale uses the economic crisis as a pretext for demanding sacrifices of previously acquired rights. We also condemn Vale’s practice of tax evasion, its failure to comply with environmental licensing processes and, above all, its criminalization of the men and women who defend human rights and give leadership in actions of resistance.
We denounce the deterioration of working conditions and the constant worsening of living standards for Vale workers. This reality, that kills, maims and enrages thousands of workers each year, is an attack by Vale on the only means that many of these workers have to make a living: the sale, every day more depreciated, of their labour power. The elderly, the women, the workers, the communities, and the children are particularly affected by Vale: they are the memory, the support and the future of our communities and struggles.
Environmental racism is another facet of how Vale operates. Black populations and Indigenous peoples suffer disproportionately from the impacts in the regions where the company operates. On the third anniversary of the Marikana massacre in South Africa, we reaffirm our solidarity with the families of the workers who lost their lives at Lonmin mining company and their co-workers.
We, traditional communities, environmental movements, trade unions, social organizations, act to defend life; we organize, inform and train ourselves. We pay attention to Vale’s constant human rights violations and plunder of natural resources. Neither the company nor our respective governments want us to organize; they seek to divide and rule. The company policies of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, the espionage and criminality practiced by Vale are intended to dismantle the struggles of communities and workers, to make their resistance invisible. United, however, we are stronger. The crisis of the company is not a real crisis, but only a strategy to maximize its profits through increased working hours for its employees and expansion of its operations, further increasing their impact. We will not be silenced, because the growth of Vale violates our rights. We are rising up against it.
Fighting back is not a crime! We demand our rights!