We, representatives of organizations and social movements of Brasil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic, gathered at a forum on the expansion of the sugarcane industry in Latin America, declare that:
The current model of production of bioenergy is sustained by the same elements that have always caused the oppression of our peoples: appropriation of territory, of natural resources, and the labor force.
Historically the sugar industry served as an instrument to maintain colonialism in our countries and the creation of dominant classes that have controlled, through today, large extensions of land, the industrial process, and commercialization. This sector is based on latifundio ownership, on the overexploitation of labor (including slave labor) and the appropriation of public resources. This sector was created upon intensive and extensive monocropping, provoking concentration of land, profit, and wealth.
The sugarcane industry was one of the main agricultural activities developed in the colonies. It allowed sectors that controlled production and commercializaction to continue accumulating capital and with this contribute to the development of capitalism in
In Brasil, beginning in the 1970s, during the so-called world oil “crisis”, the sugarcane industry began to produce fuel, which justified its maintenance and expansion. The same was repeated in 2004, with the new Pro-Alcohol program, which principally serves to benefit agribusiness. The Brasilian government began to stimulate the production of biodiesel as well, principally to guarantee the survival and expansion of large extensions of soy monoculture. To legitimate this policy and camouflage its destructive effects, the government stimulated the diversified production of biodiesel by small producers, with the objective of creating a “social seal”. The monocultures have expanded into indigenous areas and other territories of native peoples.
In February of 2007, the
Taking advantage of the legitimate concern of international public opinion on global warming, large agricultural companies, biotechnology companies, oil companies, and auto companies now perceive that biofuels represent an important source for the accumulation of capital.
Biomass is falsely presented as the new energy matrix, the ideal of which is renewable energy. We know that biomass will not actually be able to substitute fossil fuels, nor is it renewable.
Some characteristics inherent to the sugar industry are the destruction of the environment and the overexploitation of labor. The principal workforce is migrant labor. As a result, processes of migration are stimulated, making workers more vulnerable and attempts at organization more difficult. The rigorous work of cutting sugarcane has caused the death of hundreds of workers.
Female workers who cut sugarcane are exploited even more, as they receive lower salaries or, in some countries such as
Workers do not have any control over the total amount of their production and as a consequence over their salary, as they are paid according to the quantity cut and not for hours worked. This situation has serious implications for the health of workers and has caused the death of workers through fatigue and the excessive labor that requires cutting up to 20 tons per day. The majority of contracts are through third party intermediaries or “gatos”. This complicates the possibility of achieving workers’ rights, as formal work contracts do not exist. The figure of the employer is hidden in this process, which negates the very existence of labor relations.
As a result, we assume the commitment of:
Expanding and strengthening the struggles of social movements in Latin America and the
Denouncing and combating any agrarian model based on monocultures and concentration of land and profit, destructive of the environment, responsible for slave labor and the overexploitation of the working force. Changing the current agrarian model implies a full realization of a profound Agrarian Reform that eliminates latinfundios.
Strengthening rural workers’ organizations, salaried workers, and farmworkers to construct a new model that is closely cemented to farmworker agriculture and agroecology, with diversified production, prioritizing internal consumption. It is important to fight for a policy of subsidies for the production of food. Our principal objective is to guarantee food sovereignty, as the expansion of the production of biofuels aggravates hunger in the world. We cannot maintain our tanks full while stomachs go empty.
Comissao Pastoral da Terra (CPT) Grito dos ExcluÃdos Movimento Sem Terra (MST) Servico Pastoral dos Migrantes (SPM) Rede Social de Justica e Direitos Humanos Via Campesina