With the key to his new house finally in hand, Raimundo Alves, 81 years old, tries to adapt. He likes to spend his time taking care of the recently planted lettuce, orange and lemon plants and watching, sitting at the table on the balcony, the movement of people and trucks in the new Bento Rodrigues, still under construction.
“Our little house was for the poor, but it was ours, we built it ourselves, it had a lot of history. There was nothing, but we were happy. Today we pretend that we were, but we are not happy. The sadness is always with us”, he said.
In old Bento, little is left of a history spanning more than three centuries: of most of the houses, only debris remains. The only noise is that of birds, and the ruins of the municipal school have been taken over by weeds. The Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Mercês is one of the few buildings standing.
“It’s sad to see everything end like this. It was nice and peaceful to live here, everyone misses it, this is where we wanted to be today”, said housewife Ana Paula Salgado, 30, when visiting the old village.
Around 40 million cubic meters of mining waste destroyed communities and ways of survival, contaminated the Doce River and its tributaries and reached the Atlantic Ocean, in Espírito Santo. In all, 49 municipalities were affected, directly or indirectly, and 19 people died.
In this year, families who had to leave their homes in 2015 have started to receive the keys to new properties, but there is still a long way to go. In the new Bento Rodrigues, 248 planned, 168 works have been completed, according to the Renova Foundation, an entity created to repair the damage.
In Paracatu de Baixo, out of a total of 93, 66 are completed. In total, in the two resettlements, 72 properties were handed over to residents.
In Gesteira, Barra Longa district, in the Central Region, which was also affected by the tailings, the resettlement model is different: an agreement provides for the transfer of R$ 126 million from Renova to the city hall, which will be responsible for infrastructure and urbanization works and the construction of 36 houses.
Retired Marcos Muniz, aged 60, has been waiting eight years for a new home. His house, in the new Bento Rodrigues, is still in the design phase and, to this day, he and his family live in a property rented by Renova in the center of Mariana.
“I had a life project in old Bento, I was already retired and wanted to spend time working with my plantations and livestock. My life has been at a standstill for eight years, I’m anxious to end this anguish that we suffer. […] Will I be alive to see it? The delay is too long”, he lamented.
In the new Bento, the wide streets with large, modern houses bear little resemblance to the old district, which is about 10 km away. The structure resembles that of a gated condominium – the entrance is even controlled by the Renova Foundation.
There, the longing for life in the old community is always present, but residents also want to give way to the hope of a new beginning.
The bar owned by merchant Darlisa das Graças Euzébio, 57 years old, Dona Una, it was one of the main meeting points in the old district and, for about two months, it has been installed in the resettlement. While all the neighbors don’t arrive, she transformed the establishment into a restaurant, which mainly serves construction workers.
“I really miss everything, the community, the events. Here we are starting little by little. I want to continue”, he said.
Eight years later, No one was held criminally responsible for the tragedy. The defendants – there were already 26 and now there are 11 – will begin to be interrogated this Monday (6). despite 19 deaths caused by the dam collapse, they no longer answer for murder.
Among natural persons, 21 were reported for qualified homicide, flooding, collapse, serious bodily injury and environmental crimes, and one for presenting a false environmental report.
Furthermore, over the years, the Court has blocked criminal proceedings in relation to several defendants, i.e. Many people who had been reported are no longer responsible for the tragedy.
Currently, the process has 11 defendants – the four companies and the following individuals:
- Ricardo Vescovi de Aragão (CEO of Samarco at the time of the disaster);
- Kleber Luiz de Mendonça Terra (director of operations and infrastructure at Samarco);
- Germano Silva Lopes (operational manager at Samarco);
- Wagner Milagres Alves (Samarco operational manager);
- Daviely Rodrigues Silva (Samarco operational manager);
- Paulo Roberto Bandeira (Vale representative in Samarco Governance)
- Samuel Paes Loures (engineer at VogBR).
The top five account for qualified flood, collapse and 10 environmental crimes. Paulo Roberto Bandeira, for three environmental crimes, and Samuel Paes Loures, for one. Due to the delay in processing the process, two environmental crimes prescribed.
“I have great expectations that the criminal conviction of companies and individuals will occur at the beginning of 2024. […] The MPF is absolutely convinced that the production of evidence was sufficient for the conviction. Although we do not agree (with the withdrawal of the murder charge), we respect the decision and are doing our best to achieve the maximum possible condensation for these crimes”, said Public Prosecutor Carlos Bruno Ferreira da Silva.
In addition to criminal proceedings, public civil actions are being processed in court seeking to repair the environmental and socioeconomic damage caused by the dam collapse.
Initially, two main actions requesting the condemnation of the companies were filed. Over the last few years, the Court divided the process into 12, for topics such as health and housing, initiating an action for each of them. None have been tried so far.
Last month, Justice institutions requested the early judgment of part of the actions, such as those dealing with compensation for collective moral damage. They ask for a sentence of approximately R$100 billion against Samarco, Vale and BHP.
For the Public Prosecutor Carlos Bruno Ferreira da Silva, the repair actions carried out by the Renova Foundation are insufficient.
“Unfortunately, after eight years, the feeling for everyone who works in Rio Doce is of a complete lack of reparation for those affected and the environment. […] The scenario in Rio Doce is bleak,” he said.
According to Renova, until August this year, disbursed R$32.6 billion in repair and compensation actions. Of this value, R$ 13.1 billion were used to pay compensation and R$2.5 billionemergency financial aid, for a total of 431.2 thousand people.
However, the MPF considers that they were affected, directly or indirectly, 49 municipalitieswith a total population of 2.4 million of people.
“Obviously, broader compensation is expected for those affected. […] The petition aims to guarantee better compensation for people and the community as a whole”, said the prosecutor.
Renegotiation scheduled for December
Last year, companies offered R$112 billion, but the MG government did not agree with the payment method. Negotiations continue, and The expectation now is that the new agreement will be signed by December 5th.
“The agreement has been improved, it seems to us that it is a ready-made agreement, there just needs to be good will from everyone at the table, especially the companies. […] The great advantage of the agreement is to achieve definitive and immediate reparation for society”, stated Public Prosecutor Carlos Bruno Ferreira da Silva.
According to Joceli Andrioli, member of the national coordination of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), lack of participation of those affected in defining the terms.
“Until now we have not had the right to participate in the renegotiation process. […] Brazil needs to provide concrete results on how to repair highly complex socio-environmental crimes. Mariana happened, Brumadinho happened. Today the judicial system can’t cope, and the Brazilian state has its back to this,” he said.
In a statement, the federal government stated that “there is still no consensus between the parties regarding the renegotiation measures and the allocation that should be given to the resources that will be received as compensation.” The Union further declared that “disagrees with any prospect of an agreement that would enable the application of resources received outside the Rio Doce Basin”.
The government of Minas Gerais said it is committed to “fair compensation for those affected by the dam collapse.”
The Federal Regional Court of the 6th Region (TRF-6), which is coordinating the discussions, stated that The expectation is to close the agreement by the end of 2023.