illegal logs

From 1998  to the present, the Dutch manage sizable land holdings in Amazonas Brazil's largest province is home to much of the region's tropical rainforest. The claimed land ownership was accompanied by land grabs (Portuguese: “Grilagem"), crimes against humanity and illegal logging. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of virgin wilderness fell prey to the ruthless greed of adventurers and creative financiers from the lowlands.

Sao Paulo, 28th Januari 2001, A parliamentary commission charged with investigating the occupation of public land in the Amazonas state reports on its findings. One chapter is devoted to the role of foreigners in the region.

The Committee concludes that by far the most important foreign landowner in the state is the Dutchman Gerardus Laurentius Joseph Bartels, who together with Ms Monica Janette Bartels acquired various plots of land in the region. In total, this concerns a staggering 367,000 hectares. The land is partly registered in the region around the city of “Barreirinha” on the Andirá river, and is part of Bartels' company Eco Brasil Holanda-Andirá Ltda. Another part is located near the city of Itacoatiara, and is owned by Reflorestadora Ltda, a subsidiary of Eco Brasil.

The committee points out that, under the circumstances, Bartels as a foreigner may not own more than 2,750 hectares on the basis of Brazilian law. His land ownership is illegal…

Bartels is - at that point in time - consul honoraire for the Netherlands in Belèm, the capital of the adjacent state “Para”. In previous years he has taken over the land for pennies on the dollar from indigenous residents and farmers in the area. 

Then – in 2001 – things had been going on in the region around Barreirinha for several years. In March 1999, the governor of the state of Amazonas authorizes the president of IPAAM to take action against Dutch people who were reported to be logging illegally at a 50-minute boat ride from the city of Barreirinha. IPAAM is the state agency that deals with (among other things) licensing and enforcement of logging licenses. The governor – Amazonino Mendez – is doing so after he received alarming signals from Thiago de Mello, an internationally renowned poet, who lives in Barreirinha. He is an ex-exile from the military dictatorship that engulfed Brazil between 1964 and 1985.

IPAAM chief Vicente Nogueira visits the city, imposes an embargo on all logging activities in the region, and dispatches military police to the scene. They meet four Dutchmen, who introduce themselves to him as owners of “Eco Brasil Holanda-Andirá”. On presentation of Nogueira's enforcement request, the Dutch say they will continue their activities. When they then announce that they will be evicting 2,000 indigenous families working in the area from their land, the governor announces that he will deploy military police to enforce the embargo. In the worst case, he will proceed to capture the Dutch.

The latter does not happen. What does happen is that the military police, in a joint action with the Indigenous “Sateré Mawé” population, clean up the area in a 10-day operation. 5 logging locations are closed. Environmental inspectors find 3,000 tree trunks submerged in tributaries of the Andira River. An apparent attempt to escape the watchful eye of the environmental inspectors.

250 loggers lose their jobs. They direct their anger at the poet Thiago de Mello. They threaten to ambush and kill him. De Mello is placed under protection.

These incidents are the prelude to 20 years of land occupation and illegal deforestation by Dutch residents and Brazilian associates. You can read more about it in The Tocantins Forest.