Frei Gilvander Moreira.
We must, making ours Dom Oscar Romero's words, say: "Employees of COPASA, you are not obliged to follow an order of superiors that tells you to interrupt the provision of water that quenches the thirst of the poor people, for this order is against the will of God, that wants abundant life for all. In this case, the employee has the right to object on the grounds of his conscience, and say: "that I shall not do. My conscience does not allow it." And act as the tractor driver that, hearing the cries of an officer with an eviction order in his hand, got down from the tractor and, with tears in his eyes, said: "I shall loose my job, but I shall never run my tractor over the house of a poor family."
"If to cut the water that quenched the thirst of the 1,086 homeless and landless families of Acampamento Dandara COPASA is using that a protocol signed with the court, that prohibits the provision of water in irregular occupations, the action is illegal. Sílvia Helena, when a legislative chairwoman in Belo Horizonte, in 2004, during the year of the Fraternity Campaign, presented an amendment to the Organic Law of the municipality, article 150, establishing that the basic services do not depend of the regularity of the division of the soil or of the building. It aims at guaranteeing water for everyone, and has already been accepted by the municipality, currently integrating our Organic Law. The power of the municipality comes from the fact that it is the power that grants the sewage and water services in the Capital, it being the able for COPASA and the Public Ministry to establish unilateral terms."
SUEZ (a transnational water company) that provides water in South Africa, installed public water taps in the poor neighbourhoods and put, by their side, a mechanism that makes the water flow by inserting a pre-paid card. The norm is: only he who pays can drink. In Brazil there already is abusrdity of the pre-paid system, in Tocantins' water service. Exploitation with the most fundamental good for life! To the transnational companies it does not matter whether the children are kept without water, if mothers cannot cook, or if it is imposible to have any hygiene without water. The only thing that matters is the cash flow obtained by the control of the most essential good. The transnational companies have been expelled from many cities in the world, and now it is time to expell them from Brazil as well. Water must have a communitarian management. Transnational companies, as well as big announcers and the controllers of the media, ilude us with beautiful propaganda and the support of bad politicians. Away with the transnational companies. To resit is necessary. The sociologist Maurílio Libânio reflects that:
However, the transnational companies have brought a new and absurd paradigm. "Only he who pays can drink water". What a sadness it is to find water, a good essential for life and a fundamental human right, transformed into a commodity. Whenever the transnational companies advance in the water systems and are able to privatise, through direct concession or through acquisition of shares, the State systems or those who were subjected to communitarian management abandon the provision of services to put their actions in strive of "obtaining financial results". We may list many examples to show the defiling of the provision of services for the obtaining of abusive profits for the shareholders, disconnected from our reality. COPASA has sol shares in the world market, and today has got 75% of them in the hands of foreigners. For having established as its objective obtaining profits (it is in its yearly report, published in newspapers), it denies water to hundreds of people who live in poor neighbourhoods of interior cities, denying making the connection even if the plumbing is already installed. There is the payment of R$400.00 for the connection to be made. Comparing municipalities under the dominion of COPASA to those that have got the water provision administered by their own city, the tariffs are up to five times more expensive, even in equivalent residencies. Why must our population be sacrificed and undergo difficulties in otder to pay the abusive bills that generate results that are not reverted to our communities, state and country?
Rui Nogueira, in his artcile "Only he who pays can drink water", considers that: "Jesus Christ approaches the well, source of water to the region where the samaritan is. "Only he who pays can drink water". Described in such manner, the scene is shocking. There are those who become wrathful for this is not the paradigm, the model that exists in our minds. It is shocking because of the figure of Christ, and because it goes against the subconscious idea we all share that water is the essential good for all of our lives, a universal good, that cannot be denied. The figure of Christ is not connected to the mercenary mentality, and a proof of this is that he whips the salesmen in the temple. To reinforce the point, in Brazil there prevails the tradition of not denying water to those who are thirsty.
We should take as an example the hospitality of Abraham, that offered water for his guests to wash their feet (Genesis 18,1-5); the solidarity of Jacob, that takes the rock out of the well so that Rachel may quench the thirst of her flock (Genesis 29,10); Moses' decision of guaranteeing the right to water for the daughters of Jethro (Exodus 2,16-17); the generosity of the widow of Sarepthe that, in the middle of a drought, does not hesitate in giving to the prophet Elias a glass of water and a piece of her last bread (1 Kings 17, 10-11); the courage of Abdias, employee of the palace of king Acab that, even fearing the wrath of the systematic monarch, feeds the prophets with bread and water (1 Kings 18,4); the wisdom of the prophet Elysium that makes drinkable the waters for the use of the people (2 Kings 2, 19-21) and manifests his strength healing, in the Jordan, the leprosy of the Syria Naamã and making float the ace that had fallen in the river (2 Kings 5,15; 6-6); the daring of Judith that knows how to surpass the vigil of the enemy soldiers who controlled the sources of water, wanting to defeat the people through drought (Judith 7, 13-14; 12,7-9). By proceeding in such way, in gratefulness for water, we become living water. "He who follows me, from within himself shall flow rivers of living water" (John, 7-38). Rui N
According to the biblical story of the Genesis 2,1-10.15, the land is bound to be a garden of God, and man a gardener. For the people of arid regions, the first work of God was make rain available and irrigating a semi-desert region. One day, the lack of water created drought and hunger in all of Canaã. The Hebrews were obliged to migrate to Egypt (Genesis 47). There they multiplied and were oppressed by the empire of the pharaohs (Exodus 1). The slave Hebrews shouted to God and he came to liberate them, conducting them from slavery to the land of freedom, passing through the Red Sea that split into two parts, letting them pass, between the waters, with dry feet (Exodus 14). A similar event occurred when, later, led by Josiah, the Hebrews, already united in the same Israelite people, crossed River Jordan, with dry feet, to acquire the possession of the land of Canaã (Josiah 3-4).
In the beginning it was water; and from the water was made "flesh": creatures of the entire universe. We are not just sons and daughters of water. We are more. We are water that feels, that sings, that loves, that desires, that creates... The people of the Bible, fruit of the ecumenical encounter of many people and oppressed classes, was born of "tribes" that lived in a semi-arid region, or even in a desert. In the Middle-East, living is more related to the sources of water, that are few, than to just land itself, in the sense of territory. Water is related to the main founding events of the biblical people: creation, the deluge, the exit of Egypt, the entry to the promised land etc. Any biblical project is only sustained close to sources of water, rivers or wells. In the Bible there is an association of water with the word of God. To the people God gave water to drink from a hill, and for 40 years guaranteed them their daily bread and the water to drink.
The Comitê de Solidareidade Dom Luciano, of the Conferência de Religiosos do Brasil – CRB-BH, has sent an open letter to the president of COPASA, that reads: "More than three thousand children, elderly people and worers are in extremely penurious situations. The problem of cutting the provision of water in Acampamento Dandara, besides being juridical, becomes eminently humanitarian. We therefore kindly plead that COPASA urgently reinitiates the provision of water, and we suggest as a temporary measure that a fountain be installed or that water-tanks are installed. One can cannot kill a population of drought!"
It is worth mentioning that, in this camp, live 1,086 families that fight for obtaining housing, work and dignity. There are children, adults and elderly people, deprived of the fundamental right to life, worsening the already extremely precarious sanitary conditions. The delay of this situation will lead to the proliferation of infectious diseases, dehydration cases and a strong deterioration of hygiene conditions. It is, therefore, a matter of public health. It must also be noted that the conduct of COPASA is not in accordance to the principles of the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, nor to the International Human Rights Treaties or to the Organic Law of the municipality of Belo Horizonte. The nature of the occupation in nothing interferes with the concession of public services, especially in the case of such an essential good, as water, source of life.
After cutting the wire fence, in a couple of days 1,086 impoverished families had taken shelter in the camping. There are hundreds in the waiting list. They soon asked, through an official document, to COPASA – Companhia de Água e Saneamento de Minas Gerais –, that water be installed in the camp. As COPASA did not agree to install water, the occupiers improvised a connection with but five taps for the collective provision of all families. But is soon came to pass that on 14 May 2009 COPASA, with the use of police force, interrupted the clandestine arrangement for the provision of water to Acampamento Dandara.
In the morning of 9 April 2009, a holy Thursday, around 130 homeless and landless families, organised by Brigadas Populares, Fórum de Moradia do Barreiro and MST – Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – occupied a terrain (of approximately 40 ha – 400,000 m2) that had been abandoned for more than thirty years in the Céu Azul neighbourhood, Nova Pampulha, Belo Horizonte.
"I was thirsty and thou hath giving me to drink... Every time thou denieth water to one of these small folk, it was to me that thou hath denied water", said Jesus. (Mathew, 25,42.45)