Tag: Brazil

What Mining Companies Can Learn From the Brumadinho Disaster in Brazil

Rafael Augusto B.L. de Oliveira | Brazil

On the afternoon of January 25th, one of Vale’s tailing dams located in Brazil, Brumadinho, which was used to store remains of minerals extracted, burst. Consequently, an entire mining operation and a small town were almost entirely wiped from the map. The company responsible, Vale S.A is a Brazilian multinational corporation that conducts metal refinement and mineral extraction operations. It’s one of the largest companies in the logistics sector in Brazil. The Brumadinho disaster could’ve been avoided if the tailing dams were subject to regular inspection and proper maintenance. The worst of all is that this isn’t the first time Brazilian citizens have to suffer at the hands of unscrupulous, dishonest greedy entrepreneurs who put their profits over the wellbeing of their employers.   

In 2015, Samarco, another big player in the mining extraction business, had one of their tailing dams burst in the town of Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The burst occurred due to lack of regulations. Greedy mining Corporations fail to provide better safety measures and maintain their equipment properly. In the end, those involved in the mining operations and the population of a town close to it paid a big price for their negligence.  

Samarco’s tailing dam burst in Mariana, Brazil 2015 

Vale’s tailing dam burst in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil 01/25/2019 

Tailing Dams

Every mining operation produces several kinds of wastes no matter what type of mineral they are extracting. This is where tailing dams come in hand. Unlike a normal dam, which is only used to store water temporarily, tailing dams are normally used to store byproducts of a mining operation after their extraction.  

As a consequence, this makes a tailing dam much more dangerous in case it breaks. Unlike a normal dam, which will flood only nontoxic liquids if it breaks, a tailing dam can flood liquid, solid materials or a slurry of fine particles into the environment. And since these materials are usually toxic waste, they can be very harmful to the environment. Not only they can make the soil infertile but they can also be a fatal health risk to those who come into contact.

Who do we hold Responsible?

The government and the company’s department of engineering are also to blame for the Brumadinho disaster. Had they made more frequent inspections and better maintenance of the tailing this entire disaster could’ve been avoided. This burst tailing dam was built with a method that has already been banned from other Latin American countries such as Chile and Peru for safety reasons. 

Arrests

Several members of the mining company, are currently under arrest. From engineers who were responsible to maintain the tailing dam to top Vale executives. As of now, Brazilian law enforcement issued a total of five arrests warrants and seven search warrants. They suspect that the company failed to uphold proper safety measures and masked it by falsifying documents about the current state of the burst tailing dam and its environment. 

Aftermath

As of now, some of the search and recovery efforts made by are beginning to slow down due to the belief that most of the victims are already dead by now. The death toll will be around 200. Thus, making their Brumadinho disaster one of the worst human disasters in the history of Brazil. 

After all those tragic occurrences Vale’s Chief executive Fabio Schvartsman, has stated to the press that after carefully reviewing the Brumadinho disaster and the company’s future projects, Vale’s executive board has decided to shut down all of their remaining tailing dams and freeze 10 mining operations scattered in Brazil. They plan on implementing safer means of storing mineral wastes and slowly decommissioning their dams. 

Impact on the company’s budget

According to financial experts at Vale. This massive shutdown of operations will make the corporation halt the production of 40 million tons of iron ore. This translates to a big financial loss in exportations to the company, especially to the Chinese market.  

Things don’t look any brighter for the company’s future. Shareholders and families of victims of the Brumadinho disaster are suing the company. It will be a long time until the company can recover from this.

Hopefully, both the Brazilian government and mining companies will take precautions to avoid future catastrophic accidents such as this one. This mistake costed several lives and almost an entire town and its environment wiped from the map. I wonder if Vale S.A will remain the largest iron ore and nickel producer in the world. Nevertheless, humans’ lives should never be at stake for more profit by greedy entrepreneurs. 


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The President of Brazil Proposes Arming the Population

By Thomas DiGennaro | Brazil

Brazil, since 2003, has been subject to some of the strictest gun regulations in the world, along with one of the highest murder rate in the world. To put that in a comparative perspective, the murder rate is 30.8 per 100,000 persons. Tremendously higher than the United States murder rates (less than 6 per 100,000 persons since the 1990s), despite the fact that in Brazil, owning a firearm without a license is a jail-able offense up to four years; issuing of license are limited to police, security officials, and hunters/sportsmen; and proof of residence, employment, technical and psychological capacity are all license requirements. These requirements are a part of the Disarmament Statute which took effect in 2003. There was a slight decline in Brazil’s murder rate after the passage of said legislation, but that rate continued to rise again shortly after and is still on the rise today.

Newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro ran on the platform of being tough on crime, hoping to combat the murder rates as countless politicians from every country on the face of the Earth have. However, his plan to combat crime is a tad different; make firearms more accessible to the general public. A former army paratrooper, President Bolsonaro stated in a post-election interview that being “politically correct” and disarming everyone isn’t the solution, supporting that claim with the fact that the regulations from the Disarmament Statue have not made progress towards disarming criminals. His campaign offices displayed across the front door, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”, the all too familiar argument American gun owners try to make their leftist counterparts privy to.

Bolsonaro’s promises have inspired hope in many, as supporters have flocked to shooting clubs to register for firearm safety and training. “I’m not going to run around the streets with a gun in my hand, but a criminal might think twice if normal citizens could be armed,” one Brazilian citizen and supporter of Bolsonaro’s proposals says. Brazilian gunmaker Taurus Armas SA stock rose almost 90% in anticipation of sales to be made during Bolsonaro’s term.

“Every honest citizen, man or woman, if they want to have a weapon in their homes should be able to have one,” says Bolsonaro, and it will certainly be interesting to see what kind of legislation is passed to relax gun laws and what effect this will have on Brazil’s murder rates.

Whatever may happen in Brazil, or anywhere else around the globe, one thing is certain: The fight for gun rights is alive and well in the United States and if we, the law-abiding, armed American citizens, properly educate our children on safety and handling, continue to keep discussion open, and do not compromise away our rights, the next generations may be armed to the teeth as well. This is all the more reason why Americans need to apply Bolsonaro’s mentality to combatting crime and gun violence.


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On Jair Bolsonaro: A Libertarian Perspective

By Daniel Szewc | Poland

Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of the Brazilian Federation is, above all else, controversial. What is it that this man truly supports? More importantly, is it compatible with the Western vision of liberty and libertarianism?

A divisive figure, Bolsonaro managed to garner 55% of the vote by capturing two things: A stark reaction to the corrupt socialist government before him, and sympathy support from his being stabbed during a rally.

Trump of the Tropics?

Many people equate Bolsonaro to the American President, calling him “the Trump of the tropics”. At first glance, this is plausible: first and foremost, he used populist rhetoric to gain traction. Secondly, he played on the fact that he wanted to get rid of corruption, calling himself a non-corruptible person. This, of course, is just like Trump, who said that he would “Drain the swamp”.

Moreover, the political and the media mainstream gave both mainly negative attention. In the case of Bolsonaro, they often attributed him with racist views. For example, a news station edited an interview with him to make it seem like he said that his son wouldn’t marry a black woman because of his good upbringing. Bolsonaro actually said that his son wouldn’t marry a man for that reason. Of course, that also is a highly incendiary comment and this is not a defense of his often brash statements. Instead, it merely points out that the media often mischaracterizes both figures. The last similarity is the appeal to better times. In fact, this was a strong tool, for times now in Brazil are dire.

In contrast to Trump, Jair Bolsonaro’s pro-gun standpoint does not come from conservatism or legal values, but instead from libertarian ethics of freedom. Moreover, his idea to radically liberalize gun laws was his own idea, not one to please crowds. He wants to do it as a means to reduce gun violence by arming the weak. To do this, Bolsonaro would remove the Statute of Disarmament, a 2003 law that heavily limited civilian firearm use. Often seen shooting guns himself, the new president is likely to fulfill this promise.

Bolsonaro and Liberty: Mixed Signals

Before his campaign, Bolsonaro posted a video in which he claimed that democracy was a failure. Thus, his authoritarian position will make it unlikely that he cedes power to interest groups. However, Bolsonaro often spoke with sympathy towards the military dictatorship from decades ago. In fact, he only had one objection to it: they didn’t kill enough communists. A reactionary en masse, he claims that “Pinochet did what had to be done”.

Despite this, he has also said, “As long as you don’t rape, kidnap, you don’t commit armed robbery, you won’t go to jail- that’s all, damn it!” In saying so, he appears to be, in some ways, an advocate for a very small state with few laws. Famously, he has sentiments that oppose state programs that show very young children the nature of homosexuality. In a non-elegant fashion, he states that people can be gay wherever they want, as long as they do not indoctrinate the youth.

Contrary to his libertarian view on laws is his support of torture for violent criminals. Bolsonaro believes that they do not have the same rights as nonviolent individuals.

Above all, Bolsonaro believes in the right to private property. He emphasizes such heavily in many speeches, including his inaugural address. In fact, he proposes enormous tax cuts and curbing spending. The exception, in his case, is military spending. A captain parachutist, Bolsonaro has long been a supporter of a large military, which runs contrary to libertarian values. Despite this, he generally wants to end state industrial complexes and enterprises. A supporter of a relatively free market, he wants to increase private enterprise and deconstruct bureaucracy.

An Unknown Foreign Policy

When it comes to foreign relations, we only know a few vague ideas. Bolsonaro wants to end strong relations with the leftist states in the region, including Venezuela and Cuba. In exchange, he hopes to pursue strong ties with countries that can trade more with Brazil. Social media can actually give a good clue as to where Brasilia may be looking to for foreign relations. The day of the election, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, congratulated the new leader. Just one day later, Bolsonaro met with the ambassador to Israel. The president-elect, even during his campaign, said that Palestine is not a country and should not have an embassy.

Matteo Salvini, the right-wing vice prime minister of Italy, was also happy to congratulate Bolsonaro. However, it is unclear whether this was for strategic or ideological reasons. The strong rivalry of America and Israel against China and its client states is getting stronger globally. It is very possible that Brazil could play a key role in tipping the scales one way or another. This is especially true if Bolsonaro compromises the political system and commits a coup, which he has hinted at. In such a case, no internal political powers could force him to re-establish the current system. Thus, befriending the authoritarian leader could be very beneficial to smaller nations like Italy.

Brazil is most capable of effectively ousting Venezuela’s Maduro through the means of military intervention. America could, but it would severely hurt their relations with China. All of this, thus, lies at the feet of Bolsonaro. He has the potential to take the country towards or away from liberty, and only time will tell which route he prefers.


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Latin America: The Most Bizarre Political Landscape in the World

By Ricardo Tremblay | United States

I love bringing a foreign perspective to this organization. Being Canadian & Chilean, and having spent time in both countries for a respectable amount of time, it really is interesting seeing how my countries’ political climates differ from the United States. Something I noticed recently, however, is how particularly unique the political landscape is in Latin America.

Let me explain.

Chile, Argentina, and Colombia are all Latin American countries with surprisingly high standards of living. In Chile, for example, while the absolute bottom class members do live in inhumane conditions, the vast majority of the population enjoys a lifestyle much like most Americans do. There is class division, of course, meaning you’ll find lush and vibrant neighborhoods as well as crime-heavy slums. But once again, it really is not much different from the States.

What is really intriguing, though, is how utterly unstable Latin American politics are compared to many other developed countries in the world. If you thought the political drama in the United States was bad right now, go have a quick gander at Venezuela, or Colombia. Venezuela really needs no explanation, but Colombia’s situation is a little more interesting.

First of all, Marxism is popular in Colombia, and to an uncomfortable degree. In fact, ever since the 1960s (yes, that’s before Pablo Escobar came into play), there has been frequent terrorist attacks in the country by the National Liberation Army. ‘ELN’ for short, this terrorist group is still causing trouble in the country. A ceasefire agreed upon by the ELN and the government of Colombia recently ended on January 8th, 2018. Merely hours after the ceasefire expired, the ELN resumed their terrorist attacks on Colombian industry.

Colombia isn’t the only country in Latin America experiencing this bizarre phenomenon though. Other highly developed Latin American countries have just been completely politically unstable since their founding. Chile has had the most successful and attempted coup d’etats in history, with the most recent being in 1973. It occurred when Augusto Pinochet installed a right-wing government after successfully overthrowing the previous Marxist government, led by Salvador Allende. In Brazil, they have elected a goat, a clown and a rhinoceros to Sao Paulo city council. That rhino, by the way, received over 100,000 votes.

Latin America is a really bizarre place, but it is fascinating at the same time. I love Chile, and I believe that the entire continent has immense potential to become dominant world superpowers. But first, please stop electing clowns into office, both figuratively, and literally.


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