Rio de Janeiro, March 25, 2011
To: the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Office of the President of the Republic (SDH/PR)
Attn: Minister Maria do Rosário Nunes;
Attn: The National Program for the Protection of the Defenders of Human Rights (PPDDH);
Attn: Special Magistrate for Citizenship
Ministry of Labor and Employment
Attn: Minister of State Carlos Lupi
Ministry of Justice
Attn: Minister José Eduardo Cardozo;
Department of the Federal Police;
Office of Federal Public Prosecutor
Attn: Attorney-General of the Republic Roberto Monteiro Gurgel Santos;
Secretariat of Policies Regarding Women
Attn:Minister Iriny Lopes
Asbestos is a proven carcinogen which is directly responsible for the death of many asbestos workers, has been banned in 66 countries, and which in Brazil has been banned in four states as well as in a number of our counties and municipalities and capital cities.
Nevertheless, the Federal Executive Power has not yet taken a definitive position against the use and sale of asbestos fiber nationally, even after the historic decision of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) which on June 4, 2008, which gave its sanction to the law of the State of São Paulo banning asbestos, and thus reversed previous judicial findings which had prohibited states from passing legislation which was more restrictive than federal legislation.
Brazil is one of the greatest producers, consumers, and exporters of asbestos in the entire world.
It is used in almost 3,000 industrial products, among which asbestos-cement roof tiles and water tanks, which are bought and used by people from the low-income sectors of the population, who experience the greatest levels of exposure and thus the highest risks of contamination.
To resolve this difficult situation, the Brazilian Association of People Exposed to Asbestos (ABREA) and a few dedicated people who are highly qualified to deal with asbestos, have fought to expose and denounce the continuation of a reality which constitutes an attack on people’s health and life---especially on the health and lives of the poor. Members of ABREA and their allies have suffered from constant attempts to isolate, silence, threaten, intimidate, persecute, and criminalize their campaigns to bring justice to asbestos victims and to ban asbestos. These attempts have already been highlighted in the report “On the Front Line: Defenders of Human Rights in Brazil, 2002-2005,” which was prepared and written by the groups Global Justice and Terra de Direitos (Land of Rights) http://fdcl-berlin.de/fileadmin/fdcl/Publikationen/relatoriodefensores2005.pdf
In addition to these last facts, there is a long history of threats and aggressions against Fernanda Giannasi because of her professional and social engagement on the side of the victims of asbestos. Among these are a number of criminal, civil, and administrative actions initiated by companies which have been exploiting and manufacturing asbestos products over the past three decades. These companies—which have constituted themselves into the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute (IBC) constitute a powerful lobby, comparable only to the tobacco lobby in size and economic power. In fact the IBC has been able to overturn a law creating the Social Organization in the Public Interest (OSDIP), in a demonstration of its power to overcome the bounds of regulation. We must ask ourselves: in the name of what public interest has the IBC been able to attack Fernanda Giannasi to the Commission on Ethics of the Ministry or Labor and Employment?
In their most recent actions in which they attempt criminalize her work; there have been repeated attempts to remove Fernanda Giannasi from her function as an inspector in the Regional Superintendence of Labor in São Paulo. Take, for example, the attempt of SAMA, of the ETERNIT management group, to file a complaint regarding Inspector Giannasi in the 14th Federal Branch in Brasília (Trial No. 53186-06.2010.4.01.3400), which attempts to “REMOVE SAFETY INSPECTOR ‘FERNANDA GIANNASI’ FROM CARRYING OUT INSPECTIONS OF THE AUTHOR OF THIS COMPLAINT [SAMA] IN REGARD TO OPERATIONS WHICH CONCERN ASBESTOS” and which fortunately had its complaint disallowed.
The companies Transportadora (Transporter) Cortes Ltda. and Cortes Armazéns (Warehouse) in City of Guarujá, who are responsible to ship 65% of Brazilian asbestos production, also attempted to remove Inspector Giannasi from her official duties, so they could act in open defiance of the law in the São Paulo, a state which bans asbestos.
At first these asbestos companies were successful in their lawsuit with the Federal Court of the City of Santos, which ruled safety engineer Giannasi should abstain from inspection the properties of the company because of her involvement in the social struggle to eradicate the carcinogenic fiber, alleging “a lack of impartiality in her actions.” However, that decision was overturned in the Regional Federal Tribunal of the 3rd Region of São Paulo, (Decision No. 7642/2010 in DAMAGE TO INSTRUMENT No. 0000023-72.2010.4.03.0000/SP filed by the Federal Union).
Dissatisfied with the judicial defeats mentioned above, the companies who are involved in the exportation of asbestos have once again sought protection first of all in the Federal Justice of Santos, which requested that the Federal Police open an investigation--- (IPL no. 5-1217/09-DPF/STS/SP) to investigate possible deviations in conduct by a public servant for “abuse of power”. Unfortunately, the local police authority, Dr. Cassio Luis Guimarães Nogueira, was fooled into error by the companies which accused the public servant, even though he had been informed about the decision of Regional Federal Tribunal.
It became clear that even though they were not totally successful in their goals, the asbestos companies have been able to utilize its charges as a trump card to play against the impeccable conduct of public servant Giannasi, who has been able to constantly prove the illegal acts committed by these companies.
Now is the time for the Federal Public Prosecutor of Santos to carry out an analysis of the conclusions reached by the police inquest and to decide whether or not to indict Engineer Giannasi. If this happens Fernanda Giannasi will be obliged to appear before the court to defend herself against the unjust and frivolous accusations of the asbestos lobby, which is extremely eager to maintain her far away from their activities. Defending herself costs time and energy, and forces her to use up more resources, diverting Fernanda Giannasi from her work as a safety inspector and from her project of eradicating asbestos from the state of Sao Paulo.
In the face of these treats we, the people and organizations united in the Brazilian Environmental Justice, stand firm:
We hope that the Ministry of Labour will support her devoted public servant and will guarantee continuity to her work, which earns dignity and respect for her profession of safety engineer and when it follows up on complaints related to asbestos by disciplining those companies which are destroying the health of the workers and their families.
We strongly encourage the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Office of the President of the Republic (SDH/PR) to pay full attention to this case, and that it marshal all possible means and mechanisms at its disposal for the protection of Fernanda Giannasi, and that the Secretariat pay a great deal attention to issues related to the exposure to asbestos, uranium, agricultural poisons, and other agents and activities which profoundly affect people and communities surrounding the workplaces in question, to help guarantee the elemental right of these communities and people to a safety and balanced environment.
We also ask that the Federal Police prove true to its constitutionally defined mission and open up inquiries and investigations regarding the threats we have detailed in this document, and that it will be able to identify and investigate the people responsible for the threats to Citizen Fernanda Giannasi.
If necessary we hope that the Federal Police will bring in Interpol, if necessary, to help with the investigation. Interpol has already been advised of the existence of threatening letters from anonymous authors, letters which constitute an assault to human dignity.
We request that the Federal Prosecutor, as the guardian of democracy, carry out an investigation of the facts we have presented and take the appropriate measures to arrive at a solution to this case.
When dealing with certain businesses and certain sectors of society who have a personal interest in the perpetuation of the use of asbestos, who will not hesitate to manipulate research data to prove their case, who engage in job blackmail and threats to eliminate jobs, to the actual attempt to make criminals out of those question the use of asbestos and who even resort to violence…we solemnly reaffirm our total commitment to a total ban of asbestos and our total solidarity with Fernanda Giannasi and the victims of this deadly product.
Brazilian Network for Environmental Justice (RBJA)