Family members of the 270 victims of the collapse of a mineral waste dam in the Brazilian city of Brumadinho demanded justice this Saturday, in the commemorative events for the first year of one of the greatest environmental tragedies in Brazil.
The cries for justice and sanctions to the mining giant Vale, the world’s largest producer and exporter of iron and to which responsibility for the spill is attributed, were recurring, high and moving in the different acts to remember the first year of the tragedy.
The rupture of one of the dams in which Vale stored waste from the Córrego do Feijao mine, located in the rural area of Brumadinho, municipality of the state of Minas Gerais (southeast), broke down on January 25, 2019 and the avalanche of the waste and the mud it contained caused a tragedy that counts 259 deaths already identified and 11 missing, mostly employees of the mining company itself.
“A lot of sadness and a lot of indignation is what we feel after a year. Indignation because the culprits are not yet in jail and would have to be imprisoned,” Anastasia do Carmo Silva told Efe, who lost one of his children in the spill.
“But we are confident that the complaint made by the Public Ministry will result in something,” added the member of the Avabrum (Association of Victims of Brumadinho Discharge) and mother of mechanic Cleiton Luis Moreira Silva, an employee of Vale de 29 years that died in the tragedy.
Last Tuesday, just four days after the first year of the spill, the Prosecutor’s Office filed the first criminal complaint against those responsible for the tragedy, in which he accused 16 executives of Vale and the killing of Vale and the German firm TÜV SÜD, the consulting company that guaranteed the safety of the dam.
In addition to the criminal offense of doubly qualified homicide against employees, the Public Ministry of Minas Gerais accused the 16 executives, as well as both companies directly, of various environmental crimes, since the dumping of mineral waste affected rivers, forests and communities of the region.
The Prosecutor’s Office decided to denounce those responsible for the crime of homicide because, according to the accusation, by hiding information about the imminence of a collapse in the dam, “they hindered the defense of the victims and made it impossible for hundreds of people to flee” .
According to prosecutors, the mining company had several internal documents stating that the situation of the dam was at risk but “systematically concealed this information from the public authorities and society.”
“I think that these people would have to be imprisoned because they killed 272 people (family members count two women who were pregnant as double victims). And I say” they killed “because I know I had accompanied the process,” Silva said in the interview that He granted Efe after paying tribute to his dead son.
“They knew all the time that the dam was going to break. They had a study that the dam was going to break at night and kill 30 people,” added the Avabrum member before saying totally indignant at not understanding how Those responsible are free and living a normal life.
He added that his outrage is due to Vale knowing about the imminence of the tragedy and did nothing to save the lives of his employees because he was only interested in profit.
“Vale always said that the important thing was life and safety. It’s a lie. Vale treats its employees like animals. It’s a liar, irresponsible and murderous company. Damn company. I expect justice because otherwise it will be proven that it is easy to kill,” said.
“It is not possible that all these deaths will be in vain. Our fight is precisely so that this crime does not go unpunished,” said Josiane Resenda, president of Avibrum and lost a sister (still missing) and a brother-in-law in the tragedy.
“One year and no one in jail. That hurts us,” added Natalia de Oliveira, sister of another victim.
In addition to an act of laying the first stone of the future memorial for the victims, the relatives handed out diplomas to the firefighters in an act in which they emotionally thanked the work of the lifeguards, who, in development of the largest rescue operation in history from Brazil, they say they will only suspend searches when they find the last missing person.
In a year about 3,500 firefighters have invested about 4,200 hours of work in an attempt to locate, identify and deliver their families to each of the 270 victims.
Family members also released white balloons and placed red roses in each of the 270 crosses planted around the Bravo Base, where firefighters concentrate their work.
Shortly thereafter, in a park in Brumadinho that has become a place where family members meet, they deposited photographs of their relatives on the floor, in an equally emotional commemorative act, especially because of the despair of a minor who, in tears, did not He was able to locate his father’s.
Antonio Lacerda and Carlos Moreno