Santarém, Pará state, Amazon, Brazil. 24th March, 2007 A huge
soya processing and shipping facility in the heart of the Amazon
rainforest, which environmental organisation Greenpeace accuses of
being built illegally, has today been closed down by the Brazilian
Environmental Agency IBAMA pending an assessment of its
The facility, built by US commodity giant Cargill in Santarém,
has been at the centre of a controversy after Greenpeace discovered
that huge tracts of the Amazon were being destroyed to grow soya
which is shipped from the facility to Europe, to provide cheap feed
for chicken which is then sold in fast food outlets and
The dramatic development is result of a request by the Federal
Ministry of Public Prosecution (MPF) to "inspect and immediately
stop the operations of Cargill port as well as condemn the
north-American multinational for illegal operation". The Regional
Federal Court (TRF, in Portuguese) confirmed the decision. (1)
According to the Federal Prosecutor in Santarém, Felipe Friz
Braga, "this is a historical decision and it changes the pattern of
lack of governance in the region".
The suspension of Cargill port activities in Santarém is the
culmination of many years of demands by the local communities in
Santarém and those who fight the expansion of soya in the Amazon.
Soya and other products from the agribusiness are key drivers for
deforestation, threatening huge loss of biodiversity and
contributing to climate change.
"This is an important day for the Amazon rainforest and for its
people. Thanks to the non-stop efforts of the Federal Ministry of
Public Prosecution in Pará State, a big step forward has been taken
in enforcing the responsible use of natural resources and bringing
greater governance in the Amazon", said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace
Amazon Campaign Coordinator in Brazil. "We trust that Cargill will
respect the judiciary and conduct a broad environmental impact
assessment (EIA), which will result in concrete measures to
minimize the impacts by its port and soya expansion in the region.
In that way, the company will also confirm its commitment to the
moratorium on further deforestation for soya planting, announced by
the soya sector in Brazil last year" he continued.
Since 2003, Greenpeace has supported the fight of the local
communities who, together with the Federal Public prosecution
office, initiated a campaign against the Cargill's port, demanding
that a proper environmental assessment was carried out. In 2006,
the environmental organization published an extensive investigation
on the impact of soya expansion in the Amazon.
The Greenpeace report, "Eating up the Amazon" revealed that the
world-wide demand for soya has been fueling deforestation of the
world's biggest tropical rainforest. In May last year, Greenpeace
launched a high profile protest in the region, blocking Cargill's
Santarem port with its ship, the Artic Sunrise.
The deadline for IBAMA's inspection at the Cargill port
initially expired on the 12th March, but it was extended by the
Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution at the request of IBAMA.
Since 2000, the MPF has been engaged in judicial battle in order to
have a thorough Environmental Impacts Assessment carried out.
However, instead of complying with the Brazilian environmental law,
Cargill exploited the shortcomings of a complex Brazilian legal
system and, through a long judicial battle, bought time to
construct and operate the terminal without assessing its
potentially enormous environmental impact.
In a last attempt to delay the embargo of the port, on 7th
March, Cargill presented a judicial injunction trying to hinder the
Ministry of Public Prosecution of acting or publishing acts for the
closure of the port. The company also aimed to hinder IBAMA
inspection and the consequent embargo of the port. However, the
Federal Judge in Santarem Francisco de Assis Garcês Castro Junior
denied the company's request a week later.
The Brazilian Judiciary decision signed by the Federal Judge
Dimis da Costa Braga in 2000 is now in force. This demands Cargill
to conduct an Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) to regulate
the functioning of its grain port, constructed at the margins of
Tapajos river in Santarem, in the West of Para state. The
injunction was addressed to the State Secretariat of Science,
Technology and Environment (SECTAM) and it prohibited SECTAM from
granting any further authorization for the functioning of Cargill's
port without the approval of an EIA.
Follows the step-by-step of what has happened during the legal
battle on Cargill's port in Santarem:
1. The judicial process had an injunction back in 2000. This
injunction is an urgent decision, quickly issued to avoid prejudice
to the civil society. In this case, it was granted to suspend the
authorization for the functioning of Cargill's port without the
approval of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
2. Cargill presented seven appeals from this injunction, but was
defeated in every instance for the last seven years. In the
Brazilian Judiciary, the appeals can have suspensive effect, which
means that the decision that is subject of dispute is not valid
while the appeal is being judged. Therefore, even with a contrary
decision from the Judiciary, Cargill could get authorization and
constructed the port.
3. The existence of an appeal does not stop its normal course
through the legal channels. And following its normal course, this
process got its sentence in 2004, from Judge Fabiano Verli, of
Federal Justice in Santarem, condemning Cargill to conduct an EIA.
This decision was considered conclusive because it analyses the
merit of the issue.
4. Cargill appealed against the sentece, with a civil injunction
which is still to be analysed by the Tribunal Regional Federal da
1ª Região (high court, but not the highest). Meanwhile the 2004
sentence is still to be judged, the 2000 injunction is in
5. As Cargill has lost all appeals against the injunction, which
was judged in February 2006, its content must now be complied with.
The Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution was notified in January
2007 and, therefore, requested the Brazilian Environmental Agency,
IBAMA (on the 26th February), to inspect Cargill's terminal in
The Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution yet confirms that no
impact assessment of any kind was conducted for the construction of
Cargill's port. At the time the company requested a license, it did
presented a Environmental Control Plan (PCA), which is more used to
prevent accidents and it is not appropriate for high impacts
activities, according to the Brazilian legislation. The
understanding that the PCA is not adequate and, therefore, the EIA
is necessary was acclaimed by all judges that analysed the
Other contacts: Europe: Daniela Montalto, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace International - mob. + 44 784 710 4436Paulo Adario, Amazon campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace Brazil (currently in Europe) - mob. + 31 646 23 36 95 (also available on + 55 92 8115 8928 Amazon: Tica Minami, Greenpeace Amazon campaign Media Coordinator, in Manaus - mob.: +55 92 8114 4517
Notes: (1) The TRF Federal Judge Souza Prudente ordered the complete fulfillment of the decision made in 2000, which suspended all permits issued for Cargill port in Santarem. The port does not comply with the Brazilian laws which demand Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) for this kind of venture. According to the MPF: "the judicial order ends the multinational's assumption of non complying with the injunction, hinder its activities in the region and ensure that the Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out in order to have the port functioning".
Exp. contact date: 2007-03-30 00:00:00