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Brazil: Combate Racismo Ambiental (Fight Environmental Racism)


Check here Combate Racismo Ambiental profile page on our website.
How/when did the idea of creating this blog happen? I had the idea in 2007. I registered the domain, got myself a web host and, without telling anyone I spent two years trying to build the website. Because I had no experience whatsoever, of course I didn’t manage to go much further than defining what I intended to do and some attempts at formatting. In 2009, my good friend Ricardo Álvares, from CEDEFES, learned about what I was trying to do and decided to embark with me on this challenge. After trying for some time to use website format, he proposed instead to create a blog, which he already had experience working with. We went ahead with the project (meaning he went ahead with it, I was only making suggestions at the time) and, after a few months of experimenting, we officially released Environmental Racism Combat, at the beginning of January 2010. Where do you get your content? Who is responsible for managing it? At first, it was compiled only from the mailing lists I had subscribed to, as well as some newsletters, like Adital, Ecodebate and Unisinos. Afterwards I subscribed to some Latin American mailing lists also, and broadened my newsletter subscriptions. I would then select the news to be included in the blog. Nowadays the situation is quite different. The blog gets reports, news and articles from people and organizations that have no connection to the Environmental Racism Work Group. And even though the majority of them come from Brazil, some of the material comes from other Latin American countries. Quite a few of the people that contribute to the blog are very dedicated. I don’t know a lot about them, just that we are fighting for the same cause and that the blog is a very important instrument that enables us to do so. About two years ago, I received and then published a very interesting article about the energy question, sent by someone I did not know at all. Days later Osvaldo Sevá, from UNICAMP, sent me an e-mail asking for the source, because he wanted to cite the article in his work. I was very proud. For the first time I could say that the “source” was the blog. Moreover, in the last report of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT, in its Portuguese acronym),the blog was also cited. When I told Ruben Siqueira of the CPT how pleased I was, he told me that it was a deserved victory and I had every right to feel this way. From the operational point of view, as soon as we started, Ricardo and I would post the news on the blog, which in the beginning covered only a few topics. However, that situation only lasted a month. Afterwards it became impossible for him to go on and I had to do it alone. Since I am the one who coordinates the Conflict Map, as well as travelling, writing and speaking at seminars, I eventually had to hire somebody to help me do the posts. Today I have two colleagues working with me. Daniel Levi, from 8am until 12pm, and Ana Paula Cavalcanti in the evenings. On Saturdays the three of us rotate. I also work early mornings, late evenings, Sundays and holidays. How important do you consider the Blog as a platform for discussion of Environmental Racism? I think the blog’s importance has been increasing, and it contributes to the debate in various ways. In Espírito Santo, the state Public Prosecutor’s Office is taking legal action against ArcelorMittal. Prosecutor Gustavo Sena has accused the steel company of committing Environmental Racism, threatening to report it to the European Parliament. His argument is that in Brazil, unlike in Europe, the transnational does not adopt any measures to minimize the pollution that it emits. As a result, ArcelorMittal has decided to discuss a deal to use cleaner technologies in Tubarão (the city in Santa Catarina where the multinational is based). The blog provides access to information and news that is not usually available in the mainstream media. Even when they publish something about it, their articles are not as committed those published on the blog. The comment section of the blog is quite interesting. I don’t know the people that contribute. Sometimes it’s clear that some of them are college graduates while others have a bit more difficulty expressing themselves, but the only thing that matters is that they contribute to the debate. Sometimes you can recognize public servants, Indians, people living in quilombo communities…and other Latin Americans are slowly making themselves more present as well. The Blog has also been used as documentary evidence in the case of a person who was receiving death threats and asked for protection from the Secretary for Security of Rio Grande do Sul. The letter in question was initially published by the state’s Unified Black Movement (Movimento Negro Unificado), then sent to us, and we published it again. Finally, I think we have assumed an important role in relation to the Tenharim tribe of the southern Amazon region. On December 25th 2013, in the city of Humaitá, a large crowd took to the streets, and besides setting government buildings on fire, they also threatened about 150 indigenous people. Since then, we have been reporting anti-Indian and racist campaigns from local blogs and portals. We have been doing it so attentively that the federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público Federal) has even used articles published in our blog to prosecute local journalists, who were ordered to delete all their racist and hateful posts, including the ones posted in the comments section. Today the Blog receives more than a 100 thousand visits per month. We are also doing quite well on Facebook, Twitter and G+ (even though we don’t have much time to work on the last two). I guess that for someone who thought in the beginning about publishing at most five articles, this is a victory.
Interview edited and translated for LAB by Maria Pacheco Fernandes – based on an interview by Abiglacy Rodrigues from ‘Faculdade Nordeste – Fanor’, from Fortaleza, Ceará, in 2012 (in Portuguese).

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