Chico Méndez and the Seringueiros

Chico Méndez and the Seringueiros

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By Raúl Dargoltz

Natural products have been used to improve food for centuries. (salt, vinegar, jerky) but the amount of chemicals, additives, used today are impressive and uncontrolled, especially in the third world.

1984, Bhopal, population 700,000 in India. The massive leak of methyl isocyanate, used to manufacture pesticides, causes a serious accident with 3,000 deaths and 400,000 victims who did not receive any compensation from the transnational company Unión Carbide, which owns the plant. The company was not convicted.

Year 1987. Two surgeons checking the garbage dumps of Goiana, one of the poorest states in Brazil, discover a metal tube. When splitting it in two a very white stone is released that radiates a ray of light that blinds them. They rub their brown bodies with the strange stone and glow, illuminating the darkness of their poverty. That night no one slept in the favela, they danced zambas, bossa nova and celebrated until they fell asleep. When they woke up they felt strong nausea and thought they were indigestible from excess food and drink. But their still phosphorescent bodies began to swell and feel the effects of white light, radioactivity, which flies through the air, kills and mutilates forever. Goiana was the largest nuclear catastrophe in history after Chernobyl, caused by Cesiun 137, radioactive material dumped by a medical clinic in landfills. The owners of death remain unpunished. Cuba received in solidarity the dozens of the sick garotos ... (1)

Year 1994. Argentina is a very poor town in the impoverished Santiago del Estero in the Argentine Republic. Thirty tons of gammexane are buried near the abandoned station of the privatized railways. The multinational Imperial Chemicals Industries (ICI) and Zeneca, which manufacture the toxic substances, denied any participation in it. The Federal Court of Santiago del Estero has not yet convicted those responsible. Argentina spent many years with the poison in its entrails until it was taken abroad. How important were the poor of Argentina for María Julia Alzogaray, the Menemism Secretary of the Environment who today enjoys her freedom and bonuses!

A few days ago, Miriam Nélida Aguilar, a neighbor of the Parque Barrio in our city, reported to the surrogate federal prosecutor Pravia the presumption that the emanation of the PCB from the electricity transformer equipment put the health of her five children, herself and the children at risk. neighbors of the neighborhood located ten blocks from downtown. Sandra López, a professor of letters, also declared, in whose path the transformer was installed in 1992 and that she suffers from disability due to Churg Strauss syndrome, caused by environmental factors, which brings together auto-immune diseases such as allergic rhinitis, diabetes, etc. Other residents of the place have died of cancer. The EDESE Company has disclaimed responsibilities stating that it has not used PCBs in transformers since 2003 and that users of the electricity distribution service should not be concerned about this issue since the company fully complies with the law.

PCB (derived from Poly Chlorinate Biphensyls) has been manufactured on a commercial scale since 1929 and is used in vast industrial applications, including in closed electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors. In 1977, USA, one of the largest producers, prohibited its production, importation and its multiple applications. However, and that's the worrying thing, it was not banned in Third World countries. In Argentina it should only be eradicated in 2010.

In the North, the progress of research, legislation, the action of environmentalists, have reduced the impact of pesticides and chemicals that are so serious on health. But with the "double standard" policy, the laws that regulate these products in the North do not apply in the South. Carter enacted Law 12,264 that prohibited the export to "unaware" nations of unauthorized products in the US. Cowboy Reagan abolished it out of inconvenience: "... Imposing controls on our exports would lead to costly regulation."

What is required in the US and the European Union in terms of toxicity, carcinogenic effects and threats to the environment, is not applicable abroad. In France, Great Britain and Switzerland the export of medicines is free. "A pesticide that is dangerous in Switzerland is not dangerous for Latin America?" Asked Le Monde on 11/6/1982 when describing how Ciba Geigy sold Galegron (Fundal, alias Chlordimeform) in Latin America while it was banned in Switzerland since 1976, as it had been shown the great toxicity and that it produced vomiting and problems in the urinary system. In 1983 Ciba Geigy tested the product on six Egyptian teenagers while earmarking $ 6 million to improve and reduce her employees' contact with the poison. (2)

Natural products have been used to improve food for centuries. (salt, vinegar, jerky) but the amount of chemicals, additives, used today are impressive and uncontrolled, especially in the third world. Most fruity-flavored treats don't have a hint of fruit. The flavor comes from tartaric and citric acids. Fruit juices are 10% natural fruit, hopefully, and additives, including cyclamate, a sweetener suspected of being carcinogenic. Artificial flavors are the result of a chemical cocktail of very strange names. About 2,000 synthetic additives consume a person per day, reducing those authorized in the First World for rashes, allergic asthma, hives, etc. that produce.

The UN drew up in 1987 a list of agrochemicals whose consumption was prohibited, severely limited or not approved by the government, but these are recommendations without any mandatory character. According to the WHO (World Health Organization) around 500,000 people per year suffer from poisoning by inhalation of pesticides. 40,000 of them die a year. These data must be quintupled because they were extracted from countries with good medical services.

Even the poor European cows have gone crazy. They are drunk on poisons and agrochemicals and sadly they lost their sanity and their traditional bonanza. Our vaquitas will continue the same penalties that were always strangers. Nothing surprises me anymore in this desensitized world where producing and consuming without limits is the logic of multinationals that ignore the internal consequences (economic, social and political imbalances) and external (depletion of natural and human resources).

We must return to nature and fight so that they do not continue to prey on Pachamama and our people. Let us remember the words of Chico Méndez, a trade unionist of the seringueiros (rubber collectors) assassinated in 1988 by the hitmen of the Brazilian landowners: "AT THE FIRST THING I THOUGHT THAT I FIGHTED TO SAVE THE RUBBER TREES. LATER I THOUGHT THAT I WAS DOING IT TO SAVE THE AMAZON JUNGLE. NOW I KNOW THAT I AM FIGHTING TO SAVE HUMANITY ..."

(1). Eduardo Galeano, "Memory of Fire", XXI Century, 1986, Mexico.
(2). Bouguerra, Mohamed Larbi: "Poisons de Tiers Monde", La Decouverte, Paris, France, 1985

* By Raúl Dargoltz, Master in Social Sciences, Conicet researcher, director, playwright. (published in the edition of El Liberal of 05/21/05)

Video: 5 Frases de Chico Mendes (May 2022).


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