Dutch Neo-colonialism in Brazil (Panel)

Amsterdam Collective for Democracy in Brazil initiated an event about Dutch neo-colonial relations with Brazil. The event looked at Dutch economic ties with the Brazilian political and corporate elites and how these affect the Brazilian population, in particular Indigenous peoples, nature and the global climate.

Watch back the event below:

Background event:
The Netherlands is a major business partner to Brazil and has not been deterred by the record of human rights’ abuses by Bolsonaro’s government, nor by the coup d’Etat against the president Dilma Rousseff in 2016. This event informs the public about Dutch neocolonial relations with Brazil, presenting a first-hand testimony from a Brazilian Indigenous leader and discussing a set of actions for the weakening of corporate power and control of nature in Brazilian territories.

In 2019, the first year of Bolsonaro’s mandate, deforestation in the Amazon was the highest in 11 years, accounting for over 10 thousand square km of cleared forest with a further increase of 23% in 2020. Also Brazil currently has the third highest number of Indigenous people being killed in the world according to data from Global Witness.

Extra background & reading tips on Dutch Neo-Colonialism in Brazil:

Dutch Neo-colonial investors in brazil :
The Dutch government is complicit in the destruction of the Amazon by advising and aiding the Brazilian government on infrastructural projects to get resources out of the Amazone in relation to trade agreements. More information about this can be found in a report by Both-ends called “Complicity in Destruction: how Northern consumers and financiers sustain the assault on the Brazilian Amazon and its peoples” and in the article “Zo helpt de Nederlandse Overheid mee aan de vernietiging van de Amazone” written in OneWorld. Also the EU Mercosur trade-agreements are increasing the climate crisis and impact on the Amazon as can be found in a report from Grain and a report from Friends of the Earth. Also the Intercept wrote an extensive article about Bolsonaro’s policies that are colonising the Amazone and oppressing Indigenous people in Brazil.

Besides these trade-agreements and governmental alliances, also commercial banks and pension funds are complicit in the destruction of the environment and human rights violations. Both Ends for this purpose made a “Fair Finance Guide.” This chart illustrates how 21 banks, insurers and pension funds that are currently active in the Dutch market are also involved in soy and beef-driven deforestation in the Amazon region. To be specific, 6 out of 7 Dutch banks, 5 out of 9 insurance companies and 10 out of 10 Dutch pension funds have financial relationships with one or more deforestation-risk companies.

To find out which banks have more ethical investment policies one can take a look at the “Eerlijke bankwijzer” initiative. This initiative maps and ranks Dutch banks on their ethical or non-ethical investments in different sectors, this way you can make sure to put your money at the right bank.

Colonial History: Dutch Brazil
Did you know that ‘Dutch Brazil’ was the most important colony of the West India Company during the so-called ‘Dutch Golden Age’? This period of Dutch colonisation and occupation of Brazil also contributed to the ideological development of ‘free trade’ in Europe, which you can read more about in “Dutch Brazil and the Making of Free Trade Ideology” by Arthur Weststeijn. A larger overview and list of reading-tips about ‘Dutch Brazil’ can be found here.

Another important fact is that banks and insurance companies, like today, have historically been involved in providing the financial infrastructure and means for colonial businesses. An example of this is the involvement of Dutch bank ABN-AMBRO in the trans-atlantic slave trade and plantation system in both east and west side of Dutch colonies. An article providing examples of this can be found in OneWorld article titled “How Dutch Banks made Profit from Slavery

In conclusion, for centuries former colonies have been plundered, environments destroyed and people oppressed for the extraction of profit and goods for western markets, governments and corporations. As one of the speakers explained, the current extraction industry in the Amazon is a from of “organised crime.” The Dutch government and financial institutions continue to profit from and are complicit in maintaining this colonial ‘business as usual’ with a ‘free trade’ ideology that is based on centuries of theft.

this blog post was made possible with the input of Amsterdam Collective for Democracy in Brazil. Partner organizations for this event were Transnational Institute (TNI), the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Both ENDS. Original link to the event can be found here.


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