Brazil: Deported Activist Returns to Denounce Mining Company Vale

Among the more than 45,000 people [pt] who participated in Rio+20, one Mozambican was in the spotlight after being deported from Brazil. Jeremias Vunjanhe was prevented from entering the country in order to participate as an observer in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which took place in Rio de Janeiro from the 19-22 of June 2012.

On Twitter Bettina Riffel [pt] summarised in a few characters what Jeremias intended to do at the Conference. According to her:

Jeremias Vunjanhe pretender expor a atuação da Vale em Téte (Moçambiq), onde explora uma das maiores minas de carvão a céu aberto do mundo.

Jeremias Vunjanhe intended to expose Vale's actions in Téte (Mozambique), where they are exploiting one of the biggest open cast coal mines in the world. [Note: Vale is the second-largest mining company in the world and has come under fire for its environmental and human rights record]
Jeremias Vunjanhe. Photo from his Facebook profile.

Jeremias Vunjanhe. Photo from his Facebook profile.

Jeremias is a journalist and advisor to community organisations, as well as a member of the NGO Justiça Ambiental – Amigos da Terra Moçambique (Environmental Justice – Friends of the Earth Mozambique).

In this video [pt], recorded by Friends of the Earth in 2010, and in this interview [pt], from 2011, conducted by the Instituto Humanitas Unisinos (Humanitas Institute of the University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos), he tells how coal extraction in Mozambique directly affects millions of families and causes environmental damage:

O projeto da Vale Moçambique consiste na pesquisa, prospecção e exploração mineira na bacia carbonífera de Moatize, uma das maiores reservas de carvão mineral não exploradas do mundo e de elevadíssima qualidade. (…) Há desrespeito dos mais elementares direitos humanos e liberdades básicas consagradas na Constituição da República de Moçambique e demais legislação em vigor.(…) Também há violação dos direitos à informação, à habitação adequada, ao trabalho e ao digno padrão de vida, às práticas e modos de vida tradicionais comunitários, bem como o acesso e preservação de patrimônios culturais materiais e imateriais.

Vale Mozambique's project consists of mining research, prospecting and exploitation in the Moatize coalfield, one of the largest unexplored mineral coal reserves in the world, with extremely high quality coal. (…) There are violations of the most basic human rights and basic liberties enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique and other laws that are currently in effect. (…) There are also violations of the right to information, to adequate housing, to work and to a decent standard of living, traditional community practices and ways of life, as well as to the access and preservation of material and immaterial cultural heritage.

On his Facebook profile [pt], Jeremias himself confirmed the deportation:

De facto fui deportado do aeroporto Internacional de São Paulo no passado dia 12 de Junho corrente quando eram as 1 horas e 30 minutos. Não me foi dada nenhuma explicação plausível e consistente sobre a decisão do Departamento da Policia.

Indeed I was deported from the São Paolo International airport last June 12 at 1:30am. The Police Department did not give me any plausible, consistent explanation for the decision.

The Comitê Popular da Copa (People's Cup Committee), which brings together civil society organisations and communities affected by infrastructure projects in the cities that will host the FIFA World Cup in 2014, asked [pt] on their Twitter profile:

@comitepopoa Por que Jeremias Vunjanhe entrou na lista do SINPI? Quais são os critérios para inclusão? Outros ativistas estão na lista?

@comitepopoa [pt] Why was Jeremias Vunjanhe put on the SINPI (National Database of Wanted and Banned Persons) list? What are the criteria for inclusion? Are other activists on the list?

Paulo Pavesi commented on the matter [pt] in the post “Jeremias Vunjanhe and Democracy”. He wrote:

O governo brasileiro tem praticado a democracia de uma forma bastante interessante. Expulsando, demonizando, impedindo, calando aqueles que são contrários às medidas políticas ou que expõem o governo de alguma forma.

The Brazilian government has practiced democracy in quite an interesting way. Expelling, demonising, obstructing, silencing those who are against political measures or who expose the government in some way.

Neither the Federal Police nor the National Database of Wanted and Banned Persons justified the action. However, after the mobilisation of more than 100 [pt] national and international movements and organisations, the journalist returned to Brazil on the 18 June, six days after being deported.

The Coletivo Catarse (Catarse Collective) [pt] filmed Jeremias Vunjanhe's arrival in Brazil. In the video [pt], Jeremias gives an interview and recounts what he has heard about Vale, the consequences for Mozambican families and the company's broken promises:

Finally in Rio de Janeiro, Jeremias was able to participate in planned events, such as the Anticorporation March, which generated the launch of the Report on the Unsustainability of Vale, and of the Third International Meeting of those Affected by Vale.

In addition to the NGO Justiça Ambiental, other organisations denounced Vale's activities during the Summit [pt], such as: Articulação Internacional dos Atingidos pela Vale (Interntional Articulation of those Affected by Vale), Via Campesina, Marcha Mundial das Mulheres (World March of Women), Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Commission), the union United Steelworkers (USW), Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre (Xingu Alive Forever Movement, a movement against the Belo Monte dam project) and Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Movement of those Affected by Dams).

In an interview with the Instituto Humanitas Unisinos after Rio+20, the journalist characterised the event's final proposals as “too theoretical” [pt].

After returning to Mozambique, Jeremias shared a thank you [pt] on Facebook to all those who helped during those weeks “of so much incredible turbulence, emotion and adrenaline”. On the 16 July, he denounced [pt] the relationship between the former president of Vale and the President of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza:

Roger Agnelli, antido presidente da Vale entre 2001 e 2011 acaba de confirmar aquilo alguns de nos ja sabiamos. Ele faz parte do Conselho do Presidente de Mocambique Armando Emilio Guebuza. Na verdadeRoger Agnelli tornou-se um super lobbista da Vale e do Governo brasileiro e depois de ter vencido a ofenciva capitalista em Mocambique com o Projecto de Mineracao de Moatize foi escolhido pelo tambem loobista Armando Guebuza para ser um dos seus conselheiros. Como dizia uma companheira ha pouco ele participa de todas as decisões estratégicas do país quanto a mineração e possivelmente a energia e produção agrícola…

Roger Agnelli, former president of Vale between 2001 and 2011, has just confirmed what some of us already knew. He is a member of the Advisory Board to the President of Mozambique, Armando Emilio Guebuza. In reality Roger Agnelli has become a huge lobbyist for Vale and the Brazilian government, and having won the capitalist offensive in Mozambique with the Moatize Mining Project he was chosen by Armando Guebuza, also a lobbyist, to be one of his advisors. As a friend said recently he participates in all the country's strategic decisions regarding mining and possibly energy and agricultural production…

Vale, which is present in 38 countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia, was voted the worst company in the world, by popular vote, in the Public Eye Awards at the beginning of 2012.

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