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Exclusion and Death in Brazil

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development

(March 28, 1993) Through four centuries of Brazilian history, black slaves were the main producers of the richness that sustained the national development and contributed to the flourishing of industrial capitalism.

Lucia Maria Xavier de Castro


The news from the "cross swamp"
is the children feed themselves on light.
Chico Buarque


Slavery was spread throughout all areas of Brazil's economic life under colonization by the Portuguese, from agro-industry to sugar and coffee exports, mineral exploitation and cattle raising n literally all sectors of the economy including housekeeping work, which included not just the keeping of the house itself, but the intimate relations of the white Brazilian children who in the first stages of their lives were nurtured by "Black Mammies". This was an influence on the dominant culture that still is generally unrecognized, but which in fact cannot be underestimated.

When the system of slavery was abolished, blacks were reduced to the status and conditions of tools n considered to be no more than machines consisting of meat and bones, without souls, without feelings, only valued for their work capacity, without human and citizen rights. From the time of the first Brazilian Constitution there was no place in the national model of development for blacks. Foreign workers took their place in the fields and also in terms of new productive processes. Research shows that the immigration process was carried out with the goal of effectively eliminating the black population by whitening Brazilian society.

This kind of exclusion from the system is also reinforced by the RACISM. The idea that black people are inferior, a subrace, lazy, and that they aren't clever enough to study has lasted for decades. Even today, we can see this idea being perpetuated and spread by the public schooling system.

The Brazilian model began with excluding a huge population; such exclusionary practices remain.

According to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), a Brazilian state organ, out of one-hundred-forty-million inhabitants, 65 million are living in poverty n that is to say they do not receive the minimum amount of food necessary to survive. Such poor in 1960 made up 41.4% of the Brazilian population, but in 1987 this group increased to 44.2%. Among them, 34 million cannot afford food; these are the destitute. The destitution is a social state of the population in which generation after generation has been living in the street, under bridges, in slums and around the peripheries of the large cities. They are: beggars, paper searchers, boys, girls, prostitutes, street sellers, the unemployed and the employed under-paid, such as domestic workers. For these people there are no social security benefits, homes, health or education. They survive by transforming the city sites and the urban decay to create an informal market, and it is from this informal marketing that they scrape a living.

Brazil has the second largest black population in the world. Its development model only takes into account the (small) middle class and the wealthy social stratum, so the rest must fight to survive by eating urban garbage, but still all the while believing that this development is to benefit everyone.

For children and adolescents, the situation is at its worst. Out of every 1000 babies now born, 69 die before reaching their first birthday because of diseases caused by malnutrition, as well as the terrible living conditions. So, there are 350,000 children starving to death per year, most of them around the age of five, in a country which ranks fourth among the largest food exporters in the world and sixth in terms of malnutrition. Not to mention the extermination, a systematic method of eliminating poor people. Such extermination has come to be seen from the point of view of the social ideal as something necessary in order to restrain violence by eliminating "bad elements" and disorderly people and also those that do not contribute to society. And in this perverse way of dealing with the social problems comes also the extermination and murdering of children and adolescents.


Brazil-West German nuclear agreement

The official part of the nuclear agreement between Brazil and the Siemens-owned West German "Kraftwerksunion" (KWU) only mentioned the export of eight commercial reactors and reactors for nuclear submarines. But Brazil was also secretly promised facilities to develop its own military nuclear program.

Brazilian-German cooperation predated this agreement by many years. On August 10 and 11, 1944 a meeting took place in Strasbourg, Germany which in one sense marked the beginning of nuclear development in Brazil. The meeting was between top Nazis and economic experts. Facing imminent defeat, the issues they addressed included how to extend Nazi banking and industry interests into the postwar years and how information obtained in war time research could be preserved. This research included the field of rocketry and nuclear power. Plans were made to set up firms in different parts of the world, including Brazil, using the wealth accumulated during the war n wealth mainly made up of international currencies, diamonds and the gold taken from the teeth of extermination camp victims. The goal was to set up a network of Nazi refugees who could continue work towards the restoration of the Third Reich.

This sort of thinking was apparent in a letter sent by members of the Movement for Nazi Reorganization to the Cardinal of Sao Paulo, Brazil after the signing of the 1975 agreement. "Hitler is dead," said the letter's authors, "but he lives on in us, his children who have been reborn the world over. We support the nuclear agreement between Brazil and West Germany because it is one of the ways in which the Aryan race can re-establish its proper role in the world..."

Sources: World Uranium Hearing Grey Book 1992, p.63; "The Nuclear Fix: A Guide to Nuclear Activities in the Third World", Thijs de la Court, Deborah Pick and Daniel Nordquist, WISE, 1982, pp.29-30.

Although the public political orientation in terms of education, health, habitation, etc. is stated by laws (ie, there are laws that guarantee these things), there is a lack of comprehensive planning and resources to implement them. Monumental projects, corruption and political paternalism have interfered with the development of a healthier life for the population. This is because the ideological options of the ruling class form the model of society and nation n a model that inflicts on the majority population a kind of unnecessary development that is overbearing, dirty, burdened, electric and destructive, as with nuclear development.

In 1975, at the climax of the military dictatorship, Brazil signed a nuclear agreement with West Germany to construct eight nuclear power plants and a uranium enrichment facility. This kind of deal displeased many sectors of society because of security and the matter of siting the power stations. And also because the large amount of money needed would have to be diverted from essential social programs. But the government still insists the implementation of these plans is very important for the development of the nation.

Nuclear energy is considered to be the passport to the developed world, advanced technology, and independence; nuclear weapons will transform Brazil into one of the world's powerful countries. In this case, we have to take note of the political relationship with the developed countries with which we have out-standing debts. These external debts put us in a position where we are forced to accept the exploitation of our natural resources and our dignity.

Seeing first some fundamental criteria for the choice of power source, we can see that regional development is not taken into consideration. Brazil's so-far only existing nuclear power station, located at Angra (one reactor operating and another under construction), doesn't bring any progress to the area, not even on the regional level. To build the plant it has been necessary to bring in workers from outside the region. Once the reactors are built, however, there is no further place for these same workers, because the workers now needed for operating the plant must have special skills. Once Angra-1 began to produce energy, the production of 600 MW did not reduce the energy prices in the area, nor did it make changes in terms of new industry to create new jobs; the tax base for the city of Angra dos Reis is still dependant on tourism, thus no new resource was in fact created at all.

The nuclear plant exists for the local population as a myth, something mysterious and beyond understanding. The local people only have contact with the plant when the military comes to carry out exercises for evacuation plans to protect them from some untouchable threat, thus their awareness of the plant is only through their fear of it. This myth also refers to the political power that doesn't require participation of the populace in decision making and that this power can have a direct influence on their lives.

Nuclear Energy doesn't bring any benefits to the people, and for nature, for her ecological systems, its effects are lethal. Nuclear energy pollutes and produces disease, even with low radioactivity. But the waste is the biggest problem for those with this kind of technology n this atomic garbage. There is no solution for this problem. The poor and marginal people see that on a practical level the resources that can be used to create jobs and investments are instead used to develop projects that only create deficit.

To think in a conscious way about development with technological improvement by human hand in a healthy world....we have 65 million poor people who do not have anything to eat, and the nuclear energy produced by us can do no more than illuminate our graves.

Contact: Lucia Maria de Castro, IBRADES, Rua Bambina 115, 222 51050 Botafogo, Rio Janeiro (RJ), Brazil; tel: +55-21-286-8522.