MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

Journalist Nortbert Suchanek speaks on behalf of the
Guarani Mbyá People
of Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina

“The government always says that nuclear energy is safe and clean. There's an emergency plan for the villages of he white people, but for the villages of the Indigenous people there is no emergency of evacuation plan if there is an accident.”

– Norbert Suchanek

In the name of the Guarani Mbyá, I want to say thank you all for being here. I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not Brazilian and I’m not a Guarani. I’m only a concerned journalist and a concerned citizen who 20 years ago, very far from here in the desert on a very cold night, had a dream. A dream of marrying one day in an Indian village. For years I had forgotten this dream until last year, when I married in the village of the Guarani Mbyá.

My name is Norbert Suchanek and I am here in the name of the Guarani Mbyá people of Brazil. They live in the southeastern part of Brazil, in Paraguay, and the northern part of Argentine. There are three atomic power plants on the traditional lands of the Guarani people. Two function, and the third has been in construction for many years now, but it seems that the government will now finish it. And the latest news from the government of Brazil is that they want to build 4–13 more nuclear power stations in Brazil. Brazil, too, has lots of uranium. They have the sixth largest uranium deposit in the world. There are two functioning uranium mines in Brazil at the moment. One is in Minas Gerais, which is nearly at its end. They will use it for waste storage. The second uranium mine is in the state of Pahia.

Chief Vera Mirim of Village Sapukai Bracui speaks via videotape to the IWUS attendees. An excerpt from his speech is at the bottom.

Most of the people think there are indigenous people in Brazil only in the Amazon rainforest. This is totally wrong. The whole part of Brazil is indigenous land. There are lots of indigenous people around Rio de Janeiro, Salvadoa, Sao Paulo, in the dry regions of Brazil, and along the coastline, not only in the Amazon rainforest. On the coastline between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, there are more than ten villages of the Guarani people. Some of the villages are inside the forest, some are inside the big cities like Sao Paulo. During the ‘70s when they built the three atomic stations, two power stations were built on traditional land. One of these reactors is the same type of reactor built at Three Mile Island. There have been little accidents around this reactor. It never functions really perfect – there are always problems. But officially there is no information about radioactivity or any problems. The government always says that nuclear energy is safe and clean. There’s an emergency plan for the villages of the white people, but for the villages of the indigenous people there is no emergency or evacuation plan if there is an accident.

The village of Sapukai is fifteen to twenty kilometers in distance from the power station. The village is nearly inside the Atlantic forest, but because it’s a national park, Indigenous people are not allowed to use it, only tourists. They cannot use it, just this village, so they cannot plant many things to survive. They depend on selling handcraft. With the selling of handcraft they buy tobacco and corn. Most of the indigenous people in Brazil don’t have any reservations. The movement to create reservations was made by the scientists in the ‘80s in Brazil, and most of the reservations were created in the Amazon. Now there is a process that the villages that still exist, like the Guarani in the southern part of Brazil, will be demarcated in the next few years.

Brazil now has the power to make its own nuclear fuel. Until today, most of the uranium mined in Brazil was transported by ship to Canada for enrichment and came back to the coast of Rio de Janeiro. All the nuclear waste is deposited beside the atomic power station. There is no other waste management at the moment in Brazil. They say they dispose of it in the hole in the rock beside the atomic power station, but these rocks are not really stable rocks. This region between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is an earthquake region, so if you make a waste deposit inside of those rocks it’s not very safe.

The main problem in Brazil is the lack of information. There’s really no information about the danger of the nuclear industry, about uranium mining. Nobody is telling the people what the danger is. It’s important to know that the nuclear industry program is originally the program of the Brazilian dictators. A big dictatorship from the 1960s until the ‘80s created this atomic power program which is still in existence. There is not really a change in leadership in Brazil from the dictatorship to the so-called democracy. All the military chiefs, all the people who tortured, are still in their function. Many people were killed during the dictatorship, disappeared secretly like in Argentine, but still today the same people are more or less in the same place. Only the president changed.

The Chief once explained that there was, some years ago, an accident, but it wasn’t official. One day when he went out of the village, there was many cars running from the atomic power plant, and people were yelling, don’t you hear the sirens, the emergency ring? There was a lot of fear, there was a lot of car crashes along the road, but there is really no exact information about this accident.

Brazil has the sixth largest uranium deposit in the world, but at the moment only 25% of the territory of Brazil is prospected for mining. There are still 75% of the country of Brazil to be prospected to see if there are more uranium sites of the land. The government is hoping so. The next two years will be critical for the future of the nuclear industry in Brazil, and of course very critical for the future of the indigenous people there. Brazil needs information from outsiders, to come to Brazil and tell the Brazilian people that uranium mining is dangerous. The Guarani people don’t need money and they don’t need education from white people. In fact, the white people of Brazil needs to get educated that uranium mining is a danger and the uranium industry as a whole is a danger to the whole of Brazil and the rest of the world. This needs to be done, because at the moment there is no NGO doing that job.

VOICE OF JOAO DA SILVA,
CHIEF VERA MIRIM,
VILLAGE SAPUKAI BRACUI

My village here is a big community. I have many grandchildren. Many families. This is why I am very worried about the Nuclear Power Plants. Because my village is close to them. Very close! This is why I am concerned.

There is big danger, big risk. Perhaps there is a leak. It happens an accident with the Nuclear Power Plants. My village will be effected. Clearly my village will be affected! Very certainly! Because it is very close to the power plants.

Those responsible should talk to us. We Indians, we are human beings. Like the white people too. We are human beings. We have flesh, bones, blood. And many things to tell.

And the death? In death we are equal too. Indians die, white man also die. White man feels pain, we Indians feel pain too.

I am struggling for 94 years. I have already seen many things.
Have experienced many things. Have gone through my suffer. But still I am not allowed to win my struggle. I am 94 years old. And still there are a lot of things to struggle for.

Translation by: Márcia Gomes O. Suchanek & Norbert Suchanek.

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"I saw many Navajo people living in mining camps, in temporary shelters, small trailers, even tents. I can still remember our mothers would have those baby formulas, those powders, and the only good drinking water they could find was coming from the mines. Fathers would bring these jugs back home for cooking purposes or to mix with baby formulas."
— Gilbert Badoni



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