Convivial War: How Wall Street Recolonised Brazil (Part One)

In September 2019, Brazilian Minister for Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington D.C. and the pair announced a new U.S.-Brazil bilateral agreement to open up the Amazon Rainforest to private sector development. Araújo called the agreement “…the Holy Grail of Brazil’s foreign policy, at least for the private sector”.

Behind this announcement is the story of how U.S. state and corporate power successfully recaptured political processes in Latin America’s largest economy.

Cross-posted from Brasil Wire.

The Amazon region’s agricultural potential and mineral wealth have long been coveted, and its sovereignty is a debate as old as the Brazilian Republic itself. Levels of access to it for foreign capital under the Wall Street friendly far-right government of Jair Bolsonaro are unprecedented.

To justify this, an entreguista false dichotomy has co-opted the nationalistic talking points of sovereign development, and pits prosperity directly against the protection of Brazil’s rainforest and its inhabitants.

Prior to taking office, Bolsonaro remarked in an interview that the Amazon does not “belong” to Brazil anymore, yet foreign rhetoric over the 2019 forest fires has perversely allowed him to appear as a defender of Brazilian sovereignty – the very opposite of what he, who during his election campaign saluted the U.S. flag at an event in Miami, actually was.

Many of the US and Multinational companies benefitting most from Bolsonaro’s scorched earth strategy in Amazonia share something important, and overlooked, in common: they’re members of Wall Street Lobby and Think Tank, Council of the Americas (AS/COA). Headquartered at 680 Park Avenue, New York, it is also the publisher of its own in-house magazine, Americas Quarterly.

Of its members invested in the Brazilian Amazon, the biggest is so called invisible giant, Cargill, Incorporated. With $115bn in yearly sales, it is the largest privately held company in the world. It is one of the foreign companies most active in Amazonian agribusiness, with the slogan: “helping the world thrive”.

Minnesota-based Cargill arrived in Brazil during 1965, following the U.S.-backed Coup the previous year. Its present day activities include the growing of Sugar Cane for Ethanol biofuel, Cocoa, Cotton and key concern, Soybean cultivation and processing, with its own infrastructure of terminals spread across nine Brazilian states.

U.S. Congress member Henry A. Waxman recently called Cargill “The Worst Company in the World” in an extensive report on its destructive activities, in particular related to Soy cultivation

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