Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2 Summer 1981

other valuable minerals through a network of clandestine jungle airstrips, of paying most of his laborforce only U.S. $1.60 a day while holding them in the jungle under duress with private security guards, and of flaunting his power while creating a “state within a state.” A project of this scale requires massive capital (since 1967, Ludwig has pumped an average of $180,000 daily into Jari), but this multi-billionaire (a fortune earned with his shipping company, National Bulk Carriers) has it. According to Roberto de Oliveira Campos, Brazil’s former Minister of Planning who convinced him to make the investment, Ludwig is “accustomed to investing in lunatic adventures, and just as accustomed to having them pay off.” Now 83, Ludwig pursues his adventures largely for his own pleasure, as he has no known heirs. Despite substantial Brazilian and international criticism, Jari is regularly cited as the “model integrated industrial complex” the government wants to encourage throughout the Amazon. His piece de resistance was the arrival of a floating pulp mill, constructed in Japan and towed 13,000 miles around South America and up the Amazon to Jari. It’s slated to produce 750 tons of kraft paper each day. The heavy pollution generated is just another price of progress. Virtually everything Jari produces (Ludwig is experimenting with soybeans, sugar cane, herds of water buffalo, etc.) is destined for export. But foreign observers, according to anthropologist Shelton Davis, “have been mesmerized by the technological scale of Ludwig’s effort and continue to accept uncritically the Brazilian government’s claim that it is now interested in protecting the natural resources of the region. In the end, the primary losers in what National Geographic recently headlined as ‘Mr. Ludwig’s Billion Dollar Gamble’ may turn out to be the future generations of Brazilians.” VICTIMS TODAY D UT IF the heirless Mr. Ludwig is I ■ laughing his way to the bank, plenty of present day Brazilians are waiting for a drop from the trickle down hose. Though the number of working family members had doubled from one to two among the working class, the average family income is now lower than in 1958. The rural poor, with little to show for promises of jobs and land in the Amazon, are truly suffering. In the chronically depressed Northeast, malnutrition, infant mortality as high as 25% illiteracy of more than 50% and an average annual income of approximately $150 (1/5 the national average) indicate an almost total abandonment by the national government. The key to this entire pattern is the word “export.” An export economy breeds dependency, internal disruption and as Shelton Davis puts it, “has taken food away from the domestic market and worsened the already severe pattern of hunger and malnourishment that characterizes the majority of the population of Brazil.” As you read this, one child is dying every minute in NE Brazil. The front line victims of this economy, so caught up in its own momentum it can’t slow down, are the 200,000 Indians still living at the furthest reaches of the nation. It is now unlikely that native groups remain which have avoided contact with “civilization.” The governor of the frontier state of Roraima, General Fernando Ramos Pereira, states, “an area as rich as this—with gold, diamonds and uranium—cannot afford the luxury of conserving half a dozen Indian tribes who are holding back the development of Brazil.” The largest unassimilated tribe is the famous Yanomamo, called the “fierce people” by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, for what he perceived to be their “high capacity for rage” and generally aggressive behavior. Still 12,000 strong, their lands straddle the borders between the far NW corner of Brazil and the Amazon sections of Venezuela and Colombia. The Yanomamo’s cultural integrity and indeed their survival are directly threatened by the construction of the Northern Perimeter Highway across their land and the discovery of gold and uranium. Recently the German government signed a long-term agreement with Brazil for the provision of natural uranium in exchange for the most advanced nuclear technology—an $8 billion project. And that uranium is largely on Yanomamo land. A gold rush is currently underway, with 60% of the prospectors reported to be carriers of malaria and hepatitus. Epidemics and ethnocide are beginning to reduce the “fierce people” to prostitutes and beggars on what remains of their land after “national needs” are served. Like sages are transpiring across Brazil. The descendant of Rondon’s Indian Protective Service, FUNAI, vested with the role of protecting Indian interests while slowly “integrating them into national society,” has recently acquired a new president, Colonel Joao Nobre da Veiga, who was previously head of information and security for an affiliate of the powerful state-owned Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, the mineral company with its tentacles reaching into Indian lands everywhere. With the fox in the henhouse, the struggle to protect Indian rights has fallen into the hands of the Indians themselves, and their national and international supporters. THE EROTIC FANTASY ONE NIGHT in Belo Horizonte, as I watched a Godard film in a downtown cinema, the sound of what appeared to be grenades or mortars reverberated outside. Many patrons exited hurriedly fearing the worst, while 1sat through till film’s end, my imagination running wild. Student demonstrations had been taking place in many cities, and though the government response had been restrained, they threatened brutal retaliation if things got out of control. The noise turned out to be festive revelry, but we’d all been scared. He was part- German, part- Italian, part- Brazilian and )art anything le needed to have his way with things. Business Week reported recently that after a “decade of stability, Brazil’s political and economic climate can no longer be taken for granted.” Prolonged strikes and mass demonstrations are happening more frequently. The synthetic opposition party, MDB, has begun to take itself seriously, and has several times garnered more votes than the official ARENA party. While it has been advantageous to permit democratic openings during a period of reckless internal expansion, the generals’ regime has proven itself equally capable of bloodthirsty behavior when it felt that was required. This will undoubtedly prove easier as the shift to the Reagan era becomes manifest. Today, though high rise apartments, well-stocked department stores and that bottom line of Western civilization, the motor vehicle, have created a false sense of well being, inflation is once again on the rise, over 140% annually. The nation is in debt some $60 billion. More than half the $13 billion in export earnings goes to service the debt, with the remainder insufficient to pay for petroleum imports. The Brazilian people, particularly the middle class and poor, are being asked to pay the price of this hasty development. One seldom-mentioned aspect of this surge across the continent, with highways, airstrips and communications infrastructures now largely in place, is the long-held Brazilian dream of empire. One theory holds that Brazil will only be great when, like the U.S., it reigns from sea to shining sea. Several obstacles stand in the way, but so did Mexico, Russia, Franc and England in our nation’s past. Empire has often been used historically to guise a nation’s deep-seated internal problems, while making the future more attractive than the present. Brazilians popularly call their country “the land of the 21st century.” Author and MDB state representative Fernando Morais responded to the government’s assertion that Brazil is an intermediate power in a multipolar world: “What power? Is a country a power where the people don’t have enough to eat, where the external debt ascends to $60 billion? Is it a power because we have eight nuclear plants? The idea of being an intermediate power is simply a delirium, an erotic fantasy of the military.” But the tremendous external indebtedness, the wild inflation, and a history that dismisses an “inferior people” as an obstacle to manifest destiny sounds familiar. The holocaust that has nearly eliminated the native people of Brazil is no less virulent than that which happened in Nazi Germany, despite its lack of international attention. External expansion might swiftly follow. Sudetenland-Paraguay is so linked to the Brazilian economy that in parts of the country only cruzeiros—Brazil’s currency—are honored. Paraguay would fall quickly if the generals so chose. Uruguay, once Brazilian turf, would soon follow. Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Indian nations despite their small white uppercrusts, are staggering under the same debt load that curses Brazil, but with little infrastructure development to show for it. They have the Andes for protection, but their militaries are puny compared to Brazil’s. Only Argentina, with its viciously anti- Semitic fascist government currently engaged in wiping out all internal opposition, could stand up to Brazil. But the population disparity is four to one, and the Argentine economy has been stagnant while the Brazilian “miracle” has been occurring. Brazil now stands as the capo di tutti capi of the military dictatorships of the Southern cone. Her current role is to protect U.S. and allied interests in the region, much as the Shah’s Iran served in the Middle East. But power shifts, or further internal disruption could serve to spring Brazil onto the stage she picks, for her own reasons. This scenario of Brazilian hegemonism is still a fantasy. But the roots of predatory fascism are deep. No dramatic change will take place in a vacuum, as the superpowers themselves prime up for another round of colonial war games (EI Salvador, Afghanistan). MOVING OFT ILEFT Brazil in an impoverished state, walking out of Boa Vista with my thumb outstretched, across a vast savannah. The road is very recent. Mount Roraima, Sir Conan Doyle’s Lost World is witnessed en route. The sun was fierce, the rains torrential, but I stood my ground when offered a ride-for-pay to the border. My forced march continued late into the evening, with my only fellow beings cattle grazing in the distance. I catnapped around 11 pm, only to be awakened by the rumble of trucks, many trucks, a short while later. The first two who passed me undoubtedly took me for an apparition, a bearded night spirit to be avoided at all costs. The gurgle of a stream brought forward my dehydration, and 1threw myself onto the ground, pack still in place, to draw water to my lips. I lay there for a few seconds in a kind of reverie. A truck drew to a halt nearby, and with my piteous approximation of Portuguese, I talked my way into a center seat between driver and assistant. No sooner inside than I felt a wave of heat unlike any I’d ever experienced. I jumped, I twitched, and I’m sure 1 was taken for a convulsive, until the assistant leaped in his seat and screamed bloody murder. I’d lain in a bed of fire ants who were intent on eating me alive. The assistant and I did our St. Vitus dance together, my strains unfortunately coming in staccato while his were moderato. How the driver, who cursed me and my people under his breath, remained immune I’ll never know. We picked them off, finally stopping to shake out our clothes, and I was allowed to ride on. After a late nite snooze and rendezvous with the 20 odd trucks which made up the caravan, all hauling large hardwood planks to the prosperous Venezuelan market, we rose early. One of the eager beavers mired his truck in the viscous clay so completely that when another truck attempted to pass him, it lost its load and tied up the rest of the right of way. So, willing or not, the entire energies of the fleet were focused on their plight, and I was welcomed to the struggle. Rocks were hauled, planks positioned and thousands of oaths flew to the sky, the soil and the guilty drivers. I witnessed and experienced Brazil became a testing ground for vicious torture techniques, the out-of-uniform police death squads disposed of those people the military’s court system dealt with too leniently. great comraderie, a collective energy that finally prevailed. No sooner free and past the roadblock than our vehicle’s load shifted as the wheels settled into a cavernous rut, and a passing 4-wheel rig was hailed to carry me on my way. My “savior” throttled his beast into moving out, and we quickly chewed up the distance to the border. He was part-German, part-Italian, part- Brazilian and part anything he needed to have his way with things. He carried three passports, a bundle of Indian spears he hoped to trade and an urgency that overshadowed any generosity in his spirit. He told me he was “heading to Caracas for tractor parts I can’t get quick enough in Brazil.” It was clear that nothing was going to get in his way. He told me he had “10,000 or so acres and I’m just getting started.” When we reached the border, he bribed and thoroughly intimidated the Brazilian official, and finding my visa clearance would take a half hour of his valuable time, he abandoned me as readily as he picked me up. Only later did I realize what he and his friends are up to in the Amazon. They should be stopped. To Find Out More II ■ 1GHLY recommended reading is Ushelton Davis’ Victims of the Miracle: Development and the Indians of Brazil, the source of much of the information in this article. He is director of the Anthropology Research Center (ARC, 59 Temple Place, Boston, MA 02111), whose newsletter and bulletins are the best source of information and suggested action on the Brazilian Indian’s critical struggle. The writings of Jorge Amado, Carolina Maria de Jesus and Machado de Assis, the music of Milton Nascimento, Hector Villa-Lobos and Chico Buarque, and the work of many other fine writers and artists are becoming more readily available here. Allow them to open a door to this rich, exciting, disturbing culture. It’s been a one-way exchange for far too long. 8 Clinton St. Quarterly