illegal logs

From 1998 to the present, the Dutch have owned extensive land holdings in Amazonas. Brazil’s largest state is home to much of the region’s tropical rainforest. The claimed land ownership went with 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 of Januari 2001.  A parliamentary commission charged with investigating the occupation of public land in 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 banks of the Andirá River, and is part of Bartels’ company “Eco Brasil Holanda-Andirá Ltda“. The remainder is located near the town of Itacoatiara, and is owned by “Reflorestadora Ltda“, a subsidiary of Eco Brasil.

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

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

By then – in 2001 – things had turned bad in the region around Barreirinha for several years. In March 1999, the governor of the state of Amazonas authorized the president of IPAAM to take action against Dutch people who were logging illegally at a 50-minute boat ride from the city of Barreirinha. IPAAM is the state agency that deals with logging licenses and enforcement thereof. The governor – Amazonino Mendez – did so after he received alarming signals from Thiago de Mello, an internationally renowned poet, who lives in Barreirinha; an ex-exile from the military dictatorship that reigned Brazil between 1964 and 1985.

IPAAM chief Vicente Nogueira visited the city, imposed an embargo on all logging activities in the region, and dispatched military police to the scene. They met four Dutchmen, who introduced themselves to him as owners of “Eco Brasil Holanda-Andirá”. On presentation of Nogueira’s enforcement request, the Dutch said they would continue their activities. When they then announced their intent to evict 2,000 indigenous families working in the area from their land, the governor announced that he would deploy military police to enforce the embargo. In the worst case, he would proceed to imprison the Dutch.

The latter did not happen. What did happen however, is that the military police, in a joint action with the

Indigenous “Sateré Mawé” population swept the area in a 10-day operation. 5 logging locations were closed. Environmental inspectors found 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 lost their jobs. They directed their anger at the poet Thiago de Mello; threatened to ambush and kill him. De Mello was 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.