terça-feira, 9 de junho de 2009

Perseguição aos Quilombolas de Paracatu chama a atenção internacional

Perseguição aos Quilombolas de Paracatu chama a atenção internacional

Raymond Colitt, da agência de notícias internacional Reuters, publicou
uma notícia sobre a pressão, as ameaças e as mortes que a RPM/Kinross
tem causado aos descendentes de escravos de Paracatu que vivem nos
vales doo Machadinho e São Domingos, comunidades vizinhas da mina de
ouro explorada pela mineradora transnacional canadense.

O artigo, intitulado "Descendentes de escravos ainda sofrem no
Brasil", reproduzido abaixo, pode ser encontrado em


Descendants of slaves still suffer in Brazil

By Raymond Colitt, Reuters

4th July 2007

PARACATU, Brazil - Moacir de Mello's small farm is squeezed on one
side by bulldozers belonging to a Canadian mining firm and on the
other by a rancher trying to make him leave. "We're locked up like a
pig in a sty," his wife says.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged to grant land titles to
descendants of slaves. But, as the squeeze on Mello and his wife
shows, Lula's efforts face deeply entrenched racism, red tape, and big
business interests.

Brazil brought an estimated 4 million slaves from Africa to work its
fields and mines, more than any other country. After abolition in
1888, many slaves settled in Paracatu in the central state of Minas
Gerais, where they had been digging gold for white owners. "My
great-great grandfather bought his freedom and this land with the
sweat of a slave," said Candida Pereira de Mello of the land she
occupies with her husband.

Today, many slave descendants, known as Quilombolas, are just as
excluded from economic and political life in this colonial town as
their ancestors were under slavery.

Blacks make up 70 percent of the town's population, compared with 48
percent in Brazil, but it never had a black mayor or even a black
representative in the town assembly. Blacks hold the worst-paying
jobs, if any at all. Since taking office in 2003, Lula's government
has improved health, education and the power supply in several
communities of Quilombolas. But state and federal governments have
granted only 23 land titles of more than 400 requests.

"Not enough personnel and too many law suits hold up the process,"
said Maria Bernadete Lopes, the official in Brasilia in charge of
protecting black heritage nationally.

Eliane Guimaraes, 35, said her family and others were forced to leave
their ancestral lands for the town decades ago by white settlers with
incorrect land titles. "Slavery may be over but the racism that
sustained it continues the same," she said, sifting through a pile of
rubbish with her 2-year-old son on her breast.

"I've gotten jobs by phone and when they see I'm black, they say the
post is taken," said Guimares, who struggles to feed five children
making $150 a month recycling trash.


In recent years, Kinross Gold Corp. subsidiary RPM has bought up more
than 100 properties to expand its gold mine and build a new dam.
Quilombolas said the mine is encroaching on them and said roads they
rely on have been cut. "We're running out of space to live," said
Cristina Coutrin dos Reis, head of Sao Domingos, one of three
Quilombola communities surrounding Paracatu.

RPM dried up a waterfall that was used for recreation and drinking
water, she said. RPM said it is unaware of the claim but installed a
well as an alternate water supply. On the other side of the mine, Ana
Lopes de Moraes said two of her sons were shot by company guards
several years ago and died of their injuries. "I've lived on a
mountain of gold all my life but it's brought more sadness than
happiness," said Moraes, 70.

RPM said it did not know Moraes but said security guards in 1998 and
2000 returned fire against clandestine prospectors. The company also
said it negotiated land directly with the owners, with deeds
registered in the registry office in Paracatu. Another factor that may
work against the Quilombolas is that the registry is owned by the
sister of a lawyer who represents RPM.

As many as 2,000 Quilombolas in the three communities are fighting for
their land in claims that could hold up part of RPM's $470 million
expansion plan and even force the city mayor to move off a
disputed plot. "The question is not if but how much land they will
get," said federal prosecutor Jose Sergio Pinto. But he said the
already drawn-out process could end up in court for years.

Anthropologists are determining the extent of the ancestral land,
Pinto said. "If anybody is on Quilombola land, we either buy or
expropriate that area," Pinto said. RPM said it would respect
ownership rights if Quilombolas were granted property deeds. In a city
where RPM created numerous jobs, Quilombolas are accused of stifling
progress and stirring racial tension.

"Many people despise us but we didn't start this conflict, it began
when we were brought from Africa against our will," says Dario
Alegria, head of a local black advocacy group. Some of the ruling
white class side with Alegria.

"The blacks built this country, shaped our history, culture and food,
they have a right to that land," said Graca Caetano Jales, Paracatu's
secretary of culture. "We need to find a solution for them because
things cannot always end in impunity in Brazil."

Sergio Ulhoa Dani
Tel. 00(XX)49 15-226-453-423