"Poison rain" is a tactic used by agribusiness entrepreneurs to spray pesticide on large plantations. However, it is also a way of harming farmers and indigenous people who live off the land.
On January 25th, an illegal aerial pesticide dump bathed a Tembé indigenous territory and a Landless Workers Movement (MST) encampment, both located in the Santa Luzia do Pará municipality, in the northeast of the state of Pará. The city is located near the town of Capitão Poço, where 24-year-old indigenous leader Isac Tembé, was shot with several times in the chest last Friday (January 12th).
Health and environmental and damage
Considered an environmental crime, the "poison rain" resulted not only in damage to plantations, but also in breathing difficulties, allergies and itching among farmers. According to an MST member, a pregnant woman became ill because of the poison.
Nailce Verônica, is a geography teacher who lives in the Campino Quintino Lira encampment and was a victim of the illegal aerial poison dumping. She is part of the MST and says that, since 2017, communities in the municipality of Santa Luzia do Pará have been suffering a series of attacks.
"For farmers and landowners, it is better to pour poison on communities than to pay people to work the land, or do a juquira [cut bush manually and remove weeds from the plantation]. In 2018, it was in the Piracema community, here close to us and close to [Tembé] villages. When it was last week, since Monday, aerial spraying started over our camp. Fazenda Bom Jesus, which is in the municipality of Viseu, which is owned by squad of entrepreneurs - that we do not know the name of. They started spraying aerial poison, and this poison directly affected our plantations, causing not only environmental damage, but also damage to people's health ", she says.
Veronica lists some of the symptoms that hit the residents of the community and destroyed 59 plots of land.
"Many felt itchy and their eyes burned, itchy bodies, shortness of breath. The stench of the poison was very strong. According to some people we know, the poison that was sprayed is Tordon, which kills everything," she says.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply’s article 10 of Normative Instruction No. 02, from January 3rd, 2008, prohibits the aerial spraying of pesticides in areas located at 500 meters or less from villages. The indiscriminate use of pesticides causes head and throat aches, diarrhea and fever in people.
Report confirms contamination
At the request of the community, a report prepared by the town of Santa Luzia do Pará’s environmental department, confirmed the illegal dumping of pesticides at the Quintino Lira camp and on indigenous land belonging to the Tembé people.
"We visited one of the areas and visually verified the effects of the wind-driven product on cassava plants, which had wilted leaves, as well as the symptoms already demonstrated in the other plants in the communities as previously mentioned", says the document.
The area sprayed by poison has been occupied by MST farmers since 2007. The place is now called Quintino Lira Camp, an estate formerly known as Fazenda Cambará.
Since 2018, families around the Bom Jesus Farm have been suffering from aerial pesticide attacks. However, the camp had never been directly affected until January 25th, 2021, when they were directly sprayed by the "rain".
Jesus Gonçalves, a lawyer from the Para State Society for the Defense of Human Rights (SDDH), explains that the entity wants measures from the Secretariat of Public Security and Social Defense of Pará (Segup), as well as a survey of environmental licenses.
"We have already sent a complaint to Segup and to municipal bodies but the situation remains the same. What we have asked the government of Pará to do is investigate and check whether there are environmental licenses and if there were concessions, in what situations they were made, because the area being sprayed is directly affecting communities, not only the Quintino Lira camp, but also surrounding indigenous communities", says Gonçalves.
In a press release, the Secretariat of Public Security and Social Defense of Pará said that "it logged the complaint and forwarded it to the Civil Police for investigation. However, there is the possibility that in part, the jurisdictional responsibility will fall upon the Federal Police, as it deals with indigenous land. ".
Edited by: Rodrigo Durão Coelho