Too Much Monkey Business? The Son of the Monkeyman Speaks

https://i0.wp.com/img.timeinc.net/time/reports/environment/heroes/images/roosmalen.jpg
Roosmalen the monkey man, controversially accused misappropriator of public funds and smuggling facilitator (r.)
. His son (not shown) is president of ACT.

Biopiracy is a negative term for the appropriation, generally by means of patents, of legal rights over indigenous biomedical knowledge without compensation to the indigenous groups who originally developed such knowledge.[1] A classic case is that of the Rosy Periwinkle (Madagascar Periwinkle).[2] Research into the plant was prompted by the plant’s traditional medicinal role and resulted in the discovery of a large number of biologically active chemicals, including vincristine, a lucrative agent useful during chemotherapy. Vincristine was initially patented and marketed by Eli Lilly. It is widely reported that the country of origin did not receive any payment.[3] Biopiracy allegedly contributes to inequality between developing countries rich in biodiversity, and developed countries served by pharmaceutical industry exploiting those resources.

Part III in a series. Previous installments:

VASCO VAN ROOSMALEN discarded the possibility of any bioprospecting by Dr. Mark Plotkin, or any relation between Plotkin and Shaman Pharmaceuticals or Aveda Corporation, saying that he worked only to protect the rights of indigenous communities, having become a recognized spokesman for their collective intellectual property rights. However, questioned about the mention on Dr. Plotkin’s Web site of bioprospecting activity for Shaman, he contradicted himself, saying that ACT as an institution has no knowledge of Shaman, but acknowledges that “its president, as a private citizen, has a right to contact whomever he likes.”

The Amazon Conservation Team — the head of its Brazilian affiliate is the son of the controversial Dr. Marcus “I am a martyr to science” Von Roosmalen — defends its relationship with USAID and the Brazilian federal indian affairs agency in Hearing No. 19 (May 18, 2005) of a special commission of the Brazilian congress on biopiracy.

Question to be answered: Larry Rohter has suggested the Brazilians are paranoid about biopiracy issues.

Are they?

VASCO VAN ROOSMALEN, Representante da Amazon Conservation Team – ACT Brasil: discorreu sobre a criação e objetivos, respectivamente, da ONG americana Amazon Conservation Team – ACT e da OSCIP Equipe de Conservação da Amazônia – ACT Brasil, ressaltando que ACT foi autorizada pelo Ministério da Justiça a se instalar no Brasil. Já a ACT Brasil pauta seu trabalho na legislação indigenista vigente no País, em especial nos preceitos constitucionais que garantem às sociedades indígenas sua condição de atores políticos legítimos. A elaboração dos projetos é de responsabilidade de uma equipe multidisciplinar constituída por brasileirose se dá a partir das demandas indígenas, e nunca acontece sem o acompanhamento das autoridades brasileiras. Citou como um de seus objetivos mais valiosos fazer com que os parceiros indígenas tenham voz, que sejam ouvidos e respeitados pelo Poderes instituídos. Enfatizou que jamais ingressam em terra indígena sem os devidos convites formais das suas organizações.

VASCO VAN ROOSMALEN, representative of Amazon Conservation Team (ACT Brasil): He explained at length the creation and objectives, respetively, of the American NGO Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) and the Brazilian “public-interest civil-society organization” (OSCIP) Equipe de Conservação da Amazônia (ACT Brasil), emphasizing that ACT was authorized by the Ministry of Justice to operate in Brazil, and that ACT Brasil plans its work based on current Brazilian legislation governing indigenous affairs, and in particular on the constitutional principles that guarantee indigenous societies their status as legitimate political actors. The planning and execution of its projects is the responsibility of a multidisciplinary team made up of Brazilians and are based on the demands of indigenous peoples, and never takes place without the oversight of Brazilian authorities. He cited as one of its most valuable objectives to help indigenous peoples have a voice, that they be heard and respected by government authorities. He stressed that they had never entered indigenous territory without the proper formal invitations from their organizations.

The image “https://i2.wp.com/i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/ACT21.png” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
CPI of Biopiracy, final report, 2005. Citations for “Amazon Conservation Team.”
Forbidden to enter areas and interact with Indians. Did it anyway. Worked with USAID and said it didn’t. So say a number of witness. Nonsense, says the ACT president, who founded an NGO for his father the monkeyman and funded it. Reading …

Quanto ao financiamento das atividades da Amazon Conservation Team, afirmou serem os recursos provenientes: 75% de fundos particulares e 25% de agências de cooperação internacional, como Banco Mundial, OEA e USAID. A ACT Brasil, por sua vez, recebe recursos exclusivamente da ACT americana. Garantiu que a ACT não atende demandas pessoais dos índios, só repassa recursos para as comunidades indígenas visando ao bom andamento dos projetos amparados por convênio com a instituição. Segundo ele, os parceiros indígenas são cientificados da origem e volume dos recursos que financiam seus projetos, e a ACT é proibida dereceber qualquer tipo de apoio de empresas de petróleo, de biotecnologia, de laboratórios farmacêuticos, ou de outras indústrias similares. Rebateu a denúncia de falta de transparência na condução dos convênios, expondo como se deu a participação da comunidade, que não se restringiu às lideranças, e o acompanhamento da FUNAI em todas as etapas de negociação. Acerca do documentário feito pela NHK em conjunto com a comunidade Kamayurá, em 1999, lembrou que ele gerou um processo, que foi apurado e concluído, e, em nenhum momento, a ACT foi citada ou envolvida nesse processo.

As to the financing of ACT’s activities, he said that 75% comes from private donors and 25% from international cooperation agencies, such as the World Bank, the OAS and USAID.

USAID is an international cooperation agency?

He swore that ACT does not respond to requests of a personal nature from Indians, but only allocates resources to Indian communities in order to facilitate projects based on agreements between ACT and those communities. According to Vasco, Indian partners are educated about the origin and amount of the funding for these projects, and ACT is prohibited from receiving support from any oil companies, biotech firms, pharma labs, or similar industries.

They were accused of doing so, through, as they say in Brazil, “laranjas” — “cut-outs, fronts, Abramoff-pipelines.”

He rejected the notion that its negotiation of these agreeements lacked transparency, explaining how the participation of the community was obtained, not confining the dialogue to leaders, and how FUNAI oversaw the negotiations at every stage. Regarding the documentation created by NHK in partnership with the Kamayurá community, in 1999, he recalled that this generated a lawsuit, which was investigated and concluded, and that at no time was ACT cited or implicated in this lawsuit.

Leu alguns trechos do parecer da FUNAI no âmbito do processo nº 0515/03, em que se determina o arquivamento do processo da denunciante Regina. Contestou a possibilidade de bioprospecção de plantas medicinais pelo Dr. Mark Plotkin e sua relação com a Shaman Pharmaceuticals e a Aveda Corporation, afirmando que ele sempre visou à proteção dos direitos das comunidades indígenas, tornando-se uma reconhecida voz em prol dos direitos indígenas e,especificamente, dos seus direitos coletivos de propriedade intelectual. Entretanto, ao ser questionado sobre a citação existente no site do Dr. Plotkin de realização de bioprospecção para a Shaman, caiu em contradição dizendo que a ACT é uma instituição, não tem nenhum contato com a Shaman Pharmaceuticals, embora reconheça que “seu presidente tem o direito, como pessoa física, de fazer os contatos que ele bem quiser”.

He read some passages from a FUNAI finding as part of Proceeding No. 0515/03 in which it resolves to table the proceeding initiated by the whistleblower, Regina. He discarded the possibility of any bioprospecting by Dr. Mark Plotkin, or any relation between Plotkin and Shaman Pharmaceuticals or Aveda Corporation, saying that he worked only to protect the rights of indigenous communities, having become a recognized spokesman for their collective intellectual property rights. However, questioned about the mention on Dr. Plotkin’s Web site of bioprospecting activity for Shaman, he contradicted himself, saying that ACT as an institution has no knowledge of Shaman, but acknowledges that “its president, as a private citizen, has a right to contact whomever he likes.”

A respeito do Sr. Amauri de Oliveira Nunes, esclareceu ter sido ele sócio da ACT e ter, em conluio com a Sra. Ivete, ex-funcionária, desviado 131 mil e 360 reais, que foram contabilizados no balanço patrimonial como recebimento. Ademais, afirmou não ter conhecimento da ocorrência de um saque, realizado pelos índios que tinham acabado de participar de uma reunião com a ACT, à loja “Para Todos”. Defendeu que o manual feito pelo seu pai, Sr. Marcus Van Roosmalen, não caracteriza biopirataria, porque o nome das plantas são todos indígenas, sem nenhuma outra referência que possa identificar a planta cientificamente, além de não ter sido publicado ou enviado para qualquer instituição que pudesse fazer uso para fins ilegais ou indevidos. Posteriormente, ao ser novamente questionado, disse que o manual tem a descrição da planta de forma botânica e seu desenho.

With respect to Mr. Amauri de Oliveira Nunes, he explained that he had been an ACT associate, and had, in partnership with Mrs. Ivete, a former employee, embezzled R$131,360, which were accounted for as revenues in the balance sheet. Further, he stated that he had no knowledge of any looting, by Indians who had just met with ACT, of the “Para Todos” shop. He argued that the manual compiled by his father, Marcus Van Roosmalen, did not constitute biopiracy, because the names of the plants are all indigenous, without any other reference that might identify the plant scientifically, as well as the fact that the manual was not published or sent to any institution that might have used it for improper or illegal purposes. Later, questioned on the matter again, he said the manual contains a botantical description of the plant and a drawing of it.

Afirmou que seu contato com o Sr. Otacílio Antunes, à época Presidente da FUNAI, foi breve, cerca de duas reuniões, e que talvez ele não se lembrasse por receber muitas pessoas à época. Quanto ao projeto de mapeamento cultural desenvolvido com a comunidade do Xingu, asseverou que a escolha do conteúdo do mapa e da legenda a ser utilizada foi dos índios. As plantas medicinais, por exemplo, foram incluídas genericamente com este termo. Não foi repassado nenhum recurso para as comunidades indígenas, mas, em discussão com a FUNAI, decidiu-se pelo repasse de um salário mínimo para cada pesquisador indígena que ia participar do mapeamento. Ainda sobre este projeto, disse não ter sido usado o GPS, embora atualmente haja interesse das comunidades em função das constantes invasões que sofrem.

He stated that his contacts with Otacílio Antunes, then president of FUNAI, were brief, no more than two meetings, and that perhaps he did not remember this because he met with many people during this period. As to the cultural mapping project developed jointly with the Xingu community, he testified that the selection of the contents of the map and the legend to be used was made by the Indians. The medicinal plants, for example, were represented generically under that label. No funds were provided to the Indian community, but, in discussions with FUNAI, it was decided to pay a minimum salary to each indigenous research assistant who was going to take part in the mapping. On the same project, he also said GPS was not used, although the communities are interested in GPS because of the constant invasions they suffer. 

Relatou que a partir de um pedido da própria liderança do Xingu, que pedia mais esclarecimentos sobre o projeto, encaminharam um pedido normal para a FUNAI, solicitando autorização de entrada na área para poder discutir esse assunto. A partir daquele documento, receberam um ofício da FUNAI, de no máximo 13 linhas, dizendo que a ACT estava proibida de entrar nas áreas indígenas por orientação da presidência, sem informar mais nada. Ademais, a única coisa de que têm conhecimento é da existência de denúncias, mas nunca ficaram sabendo que houve um processo administrativo, um inquérito, e certamente nenhum resultado a partir disso. Disse que, diante das acusações que pesam contra a ACT e a ACT Brasil, desde o ano de 2003, recorrem à FUNAI, pedindo a instauração de um processo administrativo para a apuração das denúncias; recorreram ao Ministério Público, solicitando a abertura de uma investigação formal e séria, de modo que seja garantido o sagrado direito de defesa e a ACT possa dar andamento a suas atividades. Disse que, atualmente, a ACT está realizando atividades, em conjunto com associações indígenas e com representantes indígenas, fora de suas terras.

He reported that based on a petition from Xingu community leaders themselves, requested clarifications about the project, they sent a normal petition to FUNAI, asking for permission to enter the area to discuss the matter. Based on that document, they got a FUNAI finding of no more than 13 lines forbidding ACT to enter indigenous territory, by order of the FUNAI president, without further explanation. Further, the only thing he knows is that charges were leveled, but he never knew that administrative proceedings were started, or an investigation, and certainly not any results based on those proceedings. He said that given the accusations against ACT and ACT Brazil, since 2003, they have appealed to FUNAI, asking that an administrative proceeding be opened to investigate the charges; they appealed to the Public Ministry to aske for a serious, formal inquiry, to guarantee ACT its sacred right to due process, and so that ACT could continue with its activities. He said that currently ACT is engaged in activities in partnership with indigenous associations and representatives, outside their territories.

Quanto ao relacionamento da ACT com a FUNAI, disse que até a denúncia de 2003 foram desenvolvidos projetos e sempre foram bem recebidos em discussões amplas com a FUNAI. Atribuiu a denúncia, principalmente, a problemas internos da FUNAI, entre a Sra. Regina, que denunciou, e os funcionários Rogério Eustáquio e o José Augusto, citados como envolvidos. Só que em nenhum momento essa denúncia,que é tão grave, motivou a abertura de um inquérito dentro da FUNAI. Em nenhum momento a ACT pôde se defender. Falando a respeito da região do Xingu, assim a definiu: “o Xingu hoje é um andar de pessoas e instituições”, referindose ao grande número de instituições e pessoas físicas que fazem parceria com as comunidades indígenas, para fins que a eles pareçam interessantes.

As to ACT’s relationship with FUNAI, he said that until the 2003 charges emerged, they developed projects that were also well received during wide-ranging discussion with FUNAI. He attribute the charges, principally, to internal problems at FUNAI, between Regina, who leveled them, and two employees, whom she implicated. But at no time did this very serious charge lead to an internal inquiry at FUNAI. At no time was ACT given a chance to present a defense. With respect to Xingu, he said: “Xingu today is a [coming and going] of individuals and institutions” — referring to the large number of institutions and private individuals who partner with indigenous communities for purposes that the communities seem to find interesting.

Apontou o Instituto Socioambiental – ISA como uma das que tem trabalhos no Xingu, inclusive com infra-estrutura dentro da área, para a execução de um trabalho similar ao trabalho que a ACT faz. Ressaltou, ainda, que a USAID financia mais de 20 instituições no Brasil, na sua maioria brasileiras, citando como exemplo o Grupo de Trabalho da Amazônia – GTA, representado pelo Sr. Fábio Abdalla, e o próprio ISA.

He identified the [Socioenvironmental Institute, ISA] as one of those that work in Xingu, including work on infrastructure in the area, performing work similar to that of ACT. He emphasized, however, that USAID finances more than 20 institutions in Brazil, most of them Brazilian, citing as examples the Amazônia Working Group (GTA), represented by Fábio Abdalla, and the ISA itself.

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