News Release

Post-Coup Brazil: Indigenous Killings, Land Grabbing, TIAA Profits

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The Council on Hemispheric Affairs reports in the just-posted article “Indigenous Leader Killed in Land Dispute in Brazil” that: “On June 14, 2016 approximately 70 armed men approached a small group of Guaraní-Kaiowá families and, after terrorizing them by burning their belongings, opened fire, killing 26-year-old indigenous leader Clodiodi Aquileu Rodrigues de Souza Guaraní-Kaiowá. Among those shot, at least 10 other people were injured, including a twelve-year-old boy who was shot in the stomach.” Indian Country Today reported last week: “Gunmen attacked a Guarani Kaiowa village in northern Brazil this week, killing one man and wounding six others, including a 12-year old boy.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222[at]gmail.com
Currently in the U.S., Mendonça is director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights. She is also a professor in the international relations department at the University of Rio de Janeiro.

She just wrote the piece “International Financial Capital Targets Farmland in Brazil.” She said today: “This apparent spike in violence against indigenous people is really alarming. It’s tied to one of the goals of the coup government, which revoked land demarcations of indigenous communities and eliminated the Ministry of Agrarian Development, responsible for land reform and policies for small farmers, including the promotion of ecological agriculture.”

Her article states: “Historically, Indigenous and peasant communities in Brazil have resisted against violence and displacement. Land concentration is a root cause of social and economic inequality, in a country where 1 percent of large landowners control over 90 percent of agricultural land. In the past 12 years, 390 Guarani Kaiowa Indigenous people were assassinated in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where agribusiness corporations and local large landowners have expanded monocropping of commodities.

“The BAMAPITO region, which combines the states of Bahia, Maranhão, Piauí and Tocantins, has also become a target for land speculation and the expansion of agribusiness. This savanna area, rich in biodiversity, has been the home of traditional peasant communities for hundreds of years. Recently, this so-called ‘last agricultural frontier’ is at risk of destruction by a wave of land speculation, deforestation and pollution of water sources. Land market speculation consists of the same logic as the stock market, by the ‘secret’ purchase of ‘cheap’ land and its negotiation at higher prices.

“Especially since the global economic crisis that erupted in 2008, financial corporations have created new mechanisms to invest in farmland in the global South. After the collapse of real estate markets in the United States and Europe, pension funds, banks and other financial institutions targeted farmland as a ‘safe’ asset or as a ‘material’ base that could facilitate the flow of international financial capital.

“By 2012, over 1,200 land deals by foreign investors were identified, covering 83.2 million hectares, or 1.7 percent of the world’s agricultural lands. This global trend represents a massive transfer of natural resources from rural communities to agribusiness and financial corporations. Pension funds from Europe and the United States have made large investments in farmland in recent years.

“By November 2012, Radar Corporation had acquired 392 farms in Brazil, covering 151,468 hectares, with an estimated value of around US$1 billion. Radar’s main source of funding is an international pension fund linked to the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association — College Retirement Equities Fund Corporation (TIAA-CREF). This company manages pension funds in the United States with an estimated value of US$886 billion, and owns TIAA-CREF Global Agriculture LLC (TCGA), which operates on international land markets.”