We have stood down our blockade of the pig iron cargo ship Clipper Hope in the Amazon. And have an assurance from the Vice-Governor that the pig iron industry, senior police and legal reps will meet with us to address our evidence that the industry is linked to deforestation and slave labour.

This is good news and real progress since the industry has previously failed to engage. But we will only truly celebrate when we see further action from the pig iron industry, and the Brazilian President herself.

First a round up of events: Early this morning, several teams of climbers went with boats to occupy the port of Sao Luis in Northern Brazil. They were acting on new evidence showing how the pig iron industry is linked to deforestation and slave labour in the Amazon.

One team climbed onto a pile of pig iron on the dock, and waited for several sweltering hours until police arrived. Others occupied cranes in port, while more climbed cranes on the Clipper Hope cargo ship. Immediately after, the Rainbow Warrior sailed into port and occupied the space next to the cargo ship. This pig iron was not going anywhere, and the poker game had begun.

 

27 May 2012  

Pig iron pile with Greenpeace banner on left. Rainbow Warrior in position on right.
© Rodrigo Paiva / Greenpeace

 

As police arrived, we received a call from the Vice-Governor of Maranhão state saying he too was on his way. As federal police waited for his response, he made a call from the port gates to Paulo Adario of Greenpeace Brazil. He told Paulo that he had sent urgent messages to senior figures in the pig iron industry, summoning them to a meeting at the Governor's palace on Monday. They were being asked to come to the table prepared to find a solution to the many problems we have found within their business.

Meanwhile our climbers withstood the unrelenting heat of the Amazon sun, rationing water and slapping on sunscreen regularly. After some time, word came through that the industry had agreed to attend, along with unions, lawyers and senior police figures. Paulo was happy with the news - this was a major development for the campaign. This is now a real political process, at the palace, through which to pursue our demands and fix this industry once and for all.

I'm told this is a major step for an industry that has so far failed to engage in any meaningful way. This is good news not only for the Amazon. Our action was also carried out on behalf of local people here who have been fighting for years to reform the pig iron trade. Slave labour still exists in this region, where people are forced to work in charcoal camps to feed the industry's never ending appetite for wood charcoal.

As our activists returned to the Rainbow Warrior, the crew of the Clipper Hope emerged onto their deck to applaud our climbers, which was a very generous gesture considering the sustained blockade we had imposed on their ship. We applauded them back, appreciating their peaceful treatment of our activists.

 

27 May 2012  

Activist welcomed back on board the Rainbow Warrior
© Marizilda Cruppe / Greenpeace

Now the real work begins. Not only here in Maranão, but also in Brasilia where Greenpeace is trying to win support for 'zero deforestation' - a new law that would protect the Amazon while allowing economic development to continue. When it comes to protecting the environment things are rarely perfect, but today was certainly a good day for the rainforest and for the people who call it home.