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The neo-developmentalism and its contradictions in the Brazilian Amazon

by Dion Monteiro, Activist of the Xingu Vivo Movement and Ph.D. candidate in Social Sciences at Unicamp

During the 1990s, until the beginning of the 21st century, the so-called neoliberal project was implemented in Brazil. The model implemented was based on the principles preached by the Washington Consensus (deregulation, minimal status, economic and financial globalization, privatization, etc.). With the implementation of this doctrine, public sector investments in the Amazon region – which had been slowed down since the mid-1980s – was slowed even further. However, the difficulties presented by neoliberal policies, which stabilized the economy but did not implement an income distribution process, made it possible to strengthen another political and economic proposal for the country. The election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in 2002, supported by a broad political front, brings with it the neo-developmentalist ideology.

Neo-developmentalism is a politico-economic model guided primarily by financial and structural support for large enterprises. It supports the high-tech development of the primary sector as a result of neo-extractivist processes with high technological capacity and global market potential (CASTRO, 2016; GUDYNAS, 2016). It combines the production of commodities, some with high added value, aiming at the accumulation of foreign exchange from the export of products. It also aims to reinvest in the national economy and the distribute part of these gains through job creation and the creation of social income distribution policies.

In the Amazon, the implementation of the neo-developmentalist project was favoured by the Growth Acceleration of Program (PAC). For instance, three major civil work were presented: the Santo Antônio and Jirau Hydroelectric Plants, on the Madeira river/RO, and the Belo Monte Plant, on the Xingu river/PA. Other large infrastructure projects, which were not foreseen in the PAC, but were part of this logic – expecting to receive subsidies from the BNDES – could also be identified, such as the five hydroelectric plants that the Federal Government planned to build in the Tapajós and Jamanxim rivers, in the State of Pará, among other infrastructure projects. It is worth mentioning that, after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the political instability that Brazil still faces today, the construction project for these 05 hydroelectric dams did not continue.

The impacts of the neo-developmentalist project, with regard to Amazonian socioenvironmental processes, are immense, among which the following stand out: mass migration to the places where infrastructure/economic projects are being built; overload of public health and education; rising rates of violence in rural and urban areas, including burglary and homicides; intensification of drug trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents; increased prostitution for men and women; growth in deaths by traffic accidents; escalation of expropriation and expulsion of local communities, riverside communities, fishermen, indigenous people, farmers, and residents of the urban peripheries, victimizing thousands of people; greater vulnerability of biomes of inestimable importance for the environmental and climatic balance of the region and the planet, promoting the disappearance of endemic species; increased deforestation and increased illegal logging; intensification of pollution of rivers that guarantee transport and serve as a source of water and food, supplying most of the protein ingested by the indigenous peoples of the region, among other impacts verified since the implementation of neo-developmentalism in the Amazon (ISA, 2015; VILLAS-BÔAS et all., 2015).


CASTRO, Edna. Saberes criticos  sobre a America Latina a partir da perspectiva da Pan-Amazônia. III Jornadas de Estudios de America Latina y El Caribe. Setembro de 2016. No prelo.

GUDYNAS, Eduardo. Transições ao pós-extrativismo: sentidos, opções e âmbitos. En: Descolonizar o imaginário. Debates sobre pós-extrativismo e alternativas ao desenvolvimento. Gerhard Dilger, Miriam Lang & Jorge Pereira Filho, org. São Paulo: Fundação Rosa Luxemburgo, 2016. pp 174-212.

ISA – Instituto Socioambiental. Dossiê Belo Monte: não há condições para a Licença de Operação. São Paulo, Instituto Socioambiental, 2015. 55p.

VILLAS-BÔAS, André et all (org.). Vozes do Xingu: coletânea de artigos para o dossiê Belo Monte. São Paulo, Instituto Socioambiental, 2015. 172p.

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