Deforestation in Rondônia, Brazil: Frontier Urbanization and Landscape Change
James Kezar IV Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
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Chapter II: Setting Context
This chapter builds upon the introductory chapter to provide a more detailed discussion of the context in which deforestation in Rondônia has ta ken place. As mentioned in the theoretical discussion at the end of chapter I, the focus of this review is on processes and structures that have led to the emergence of urban places in Rondônia. Figure 3 presents a schematic representation of how the components of this structure relate to one another, and to the research question. Items on the macro side are taken as the structure that has resulted in the object "urbanization." That is, these macro relationships are taken as the context with in which regional processes take place. The "micro" side of the diagram includes contingent relationships between the object "urbanization" and the phenomenon of deforestation. It would, of course, be possible to frame these relationships differently, with urbanization itself constructed as a contingent phenomenon, varying according to variability in the particular situations from which urban forms arise at the sub-regional scale. Although Browder and Godfrey (1997) have done some of thi s work at the level of the Amazon as a whole (see below), for the purposes of the present research, sub-regional variations of urban phenomena within Rondônia are not considered.

The existing literature on urbanization and the context within which it has taken place are the focus of this chapter. The contingent relationships between urbanization and deforestation are the subject of the research project described in subsequent chapters. Urbanization in Rondônia resulted in simplest terms from the rapid growth of what was initially an agrarian population in a region in which the climate and soils were not conducive to the support of extensive agriculture. The rapid population growth in turn was encouraged by state activities both in the region and elsewhere in the country. These in turn resulted both from the geopolitical concerns of the Brazilian state and policies intended to maximize the economic return from the nationís physical resources. These policies in turn were shaped by Brazilís p osition in the world economy, particularly in the wake of Brazilís external debt crisis. The environmental constraints on agriculture, combined with international pressure on the Brazilian state, led to the curtailment of rural-settlement programs, and contributed further to urbanization. In addition to describing these relationships in greater detail, this review provides a comparative analysis of urbanization elsewhere in Latin America, particularly in frontier regions.

    Figure 3: Relationships Between Urbanization and Other Objects


Note: Arrows represent causal relationships. Since the systems involved are open, the relationships shown should not be understood as exhaustive. The unspecified objects shown in relation to deforestation (A, B, C, and D) are intended to demonstrate this point. Similarly, the unspecified objects shown in relation t o urbanization itself are intended to demonstrate that urbanization itself could be constructed as contingent, as discussed above and illustrated by the work of Browder and Godfrey (1997).
    1. The Significance of the Amazon Basin

To understand the events of the late twentieth century in the Brazilian Amazon, it is important first to understand the unusual appeal of the region for outsiders throughout the centuries since it was first encountered by Europeans. This appeal has been shaped by the apparent abundance of resources in the region, its strategic importance to Brazil, and finally by its role in Brazilís overall economic agenda. This section describes both how the regionís natural resources have been understo od since Europeanís first became aware of it and how the region has figured in Brazilís geopolitical thinking. The subsequent section describes the regionís role in the recent history of Brazilís economy and economic policy.
      1. Resources

In almost five centuries since the Spanish navigator Vicente Yáñez Pinzón first entered the mouth of the Amazon River i n 1500, the river has been a mystery to be unraveled, and its basin a territory to be brought under dominion both by monarchs and by scientists. Because of Spainís interests elsewhere, it was not until after the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvarez Cabral made landfall near Recife in 1540 that Europeans first exercised sustained interest in the region. Although the Portuguese had dominion, however, they had not much time for science, and so it was a succession of other Europeans, beginning with the Fre nch and ending with the English, who claimed the Amazon for their own exploring grounds (Stone 1985, 36-37; Smith 1990, 2).

Many of the early writings on the Amazon extolled the abundance of its natural resources and its potential for development. The words of Alfred Russell Wallace, the English naturalist, are typical of many Europeans who visited the region:

    I fearlessly assert that here the primeval forest can be converted into rich pasture land, into cultivated fields, gardens and orchards, containing every variety of produce, with half the labor, and what is more important, in less than half the time that would be required at home (quoted in Wagley and Miller 1976, 6).
The geographers Humboldt and Agassiz and the North American writer Matthew Maury also were among those who thought that the Amazon's riches only waited to be developed by outsiders. In 1853, Maury claimed that Brazil, by not developing the Amazon, was attempting to "lock up and seal with the seal of ignorance and superstition and savage barbarity the finest portions of the earth" (quoted in Hecht and Cockburn 1989, 75). It befell the "free men" of the world, such as himself, to expose such an outrage.

When Professor and Mademoiselle Agassiz toured the region, she wrote that colonization was needed, so that all civilizations could share in its wealth. She indicated that North Americans would be able to help Brazil develop its resources. In fact, North Americans have been among those who beli eved most fervently in the bounty of the Amazon and have attempted in vain to develop that bounty. Foremost among these were Henry Ford and Daniel Ludwig. Ford, whose cars needed rubber tires, was pushed by the United States government and pulled by the Brazilian government to try to establish a rubber plantation in the Amazon. In 1927 he purchased one million hectares of rain forest-covered land in the eastern Amazonian state of Pará. The land was given the unimaginative name of Fordlândia, an d soon a monoculture of rubber trees was established on a North American plantation model, with housing, a school and other facilities shipped en toto from Michigan. The soils were unsuitable for the project, labor was scarce in the region, and Ford's people were too determined to impose North American corporate culture on the project. In 1945, Ford pulled out, losing nearly ten million dollars (Hecht and Cockburn 1989, 97-99).

Ludwig was a latter-day Ford who lost an even greater fortune bec ause of his enthusiasm about the potential of the Amazonís resources to make him money. Impressed by the apparent productivity of the rain forest, he decided that he could use it to corner the world paper market. Land was inexpensive, so in the 1970s he was able to buy more than one and a half million hectares -- an area larger than the state of Connecticut -- on the Rio Jari. He had it planted in a monoculture of gmelina, a fast-growing pulpwood species. Like Ford, he had not taken into account the poverty of the regionís soils. His trees did not produce as expected, the soil was depleted, and Ludwig lost an estimated US$ 1.5 billion in the process (Reier, 1990).

Despite Mouryís fears to the contrary, Brazil eventually came to view its Amazon region in terms similar to those long held by many foreigners. From a world-system perspective, this can be understood in the context of Brazilís position in the world economy. An important ideological aspect of the expansion of the world economy has been commod ification, or "assigning only economic value to things, ... making them sellable in markets for profits" (Barbosa 1993, 110). In this view, biological systems such as the Amazon rain forest come to be "perceived as either reservoirs of raw materials or impediments to development" (Barbosa 1993, 111). Brazil eventually came to adopt both views with respect to the Amazon region, which came to be regarded, paradoxically, as both "the green hell and the Eldorado, an obstacle to civiliza tion and the giver of wealth" (Barbosa 1993, 116).

Hall (1989) argues that if Brazil got a late start in its earnest efforts to exploit the Amazon, it certainly has tried ever since to recover lost time. The Grande Carajás project (PGC) sought, over the period 1981 to 1990, to convert 11 percent of Brazil's national territory, that was previously "virgin forest into an industrial and agro-livestock heartland" (Hall 1989, 41). The program was built around the worldís largest iron min e, located at Carajás, in the Tocantins drainage southwest of Belém, Pará. Although this project has been more successful financially than the efforts of Ford and Ludwig, it has nonetheless resulted in environmental destruction disproportionate to its benefits.

Hall quotes President José Sarney as saying in 1986, "Who has Amazonia need not fear the future" (Hall 1989). This comment echoes the judgments of many over the years that the Amazon held a rich bounty, waiting onl y to be harvested. In all of these cases, the promise of vast resources has been exaggerated, with the efforts to exploit the riches of the Amazon bringing ruin to the land without even yielding the expected benefits to the exploiter. The stories related here are emblematic of attempts to exploit the resources of the region without an adequate understanding of the constraints imposed by the ecology of the rain forest biome. More importantly, Sarneyís remark is emblematic of the Brazilian stateís view of the region as a commodity. Combined with the longer-standing geopolitical interests in the region described below, this view helps to explain the stateís actions in the region in the latter third of the twentieth century.

      1. Geopolitics
Close to one half of the Amazon Basin is in the domain of Brazil's neighbors, and the greatest length of Brazil's international borders are in Am azonia. Moreover, the Amazon has historically been controlled, sought, or at least coveted by foreign powers partly because of the persistent belief in the great wealth of its resources described above. For these and other reasons, the Amazon region had geopolitical importance for Brazilian state long before it was prized for its resources. Much of the literature on deforestation in the Amazon has failed to address the "political, economic, social and strategic factors" responsible (Hurrell 1991, 197-1 98), but among those who do address these issues, balance is difficult to achieve. Some (e.g., Bunker 1985; Mahar 1989) describe the leading role of the state in developing the Amazon region, but pay scant attention to geopolitical factors, while others (e.g., Hecht and Cockburn 1989) over-emphasize geopolitics without recognizing the importance on the state's economic model as a driver of development policies in the region. Geopolitical ambitions in Brazil have figured prominently in the development of the region, however, and so are given some consideration here.

In an effort to place the settlement and economic development of Rondônia in a broad context, Coy (1987) identifies the open frontier as an important concept in Brazilian history, particularly in connection with European colonization in southern Brazil in the nineteenth century and the expansion of coffee into São Paulo and Paraná in the early twentieth century. The association of the open frontier with westward expansio n began under the regime of Getúlio Vargas. In 1930, under the Estado Novo, Vargas promoted the integration of the semi-arid sertão of central and northern Brazil. By 1938 the Vargas regime was proclaiming the Marcha para Oeste, borrowing both the terminology and the substance of North American frontier expansion. The March to the West was later promoted by President Juscelino Kubitschek, who moved the capital to Brasília and began large-scale highway building projects in the Amazon region (Coy 1987, 276-277).

The Escola Superior de Guerra (ESG), a military academy and the intellectual center of geopolitics in Brazil, was particularly influential during the military regimes of 1964 to 1985. Geopoliticians of the ESG, which trained Brazil's military officers, emphasized internal security and the effective occupation of Brazilian territory. The internal security doctrine, espoused by General Golbery, was intensified by the linha dura (hard line) element that too k power in 1967. According to Hepple (1986), Golbery never imagined the brutal extremes to which his ideas would be taken in Brazil as a whole, and as a result he crafted the abertura (opening), which led eventually to the end of military rule.

The ideas of Golbery and others of the ESG are in some measure responsible for Brazil's efforts to occupy the Amazon region during the military period (Hecht and Cockburn 1989). The need to expand the national ecumene into the Amazon was framed in thre e ways. First, it was determined that Brazil's linear development along the coast was too constrained, and that perpendicular expansion should be undertaken along both a southern axis and a northern axis. The former would open up the Center-west region and the latter the Amazon. Second, Golbery argued that Brazil had developed as an archipelago and there was a need to unify the nation by filling in the gaps. Finally, some geopoliticians viewed the Amazon as a core strategic area of the Americas, analogous t o MacKinderís European Heartland (Hepple 1986).

Geopolitics did not cease to be important with the 1985 ouster of the military government, because the military continued to play an important role in the development of policy in Brazil. Nor did geopolitical thinking within the Brazilian military establishment remain static; traditional geopolitical goals of settling the Amazon remained important within the military, but an alternative vision of national security now competed with the traditional view . The social conflict arising from the rapid development and environmental degradation have more recently been viewed as threats that potentially outweigh the benefits of settling the region.

    1. Economic Policy in Brazil, 1950 to 1996
Brazil's regional economic and settlement polici es comprise another important component of the context in which the urbanization of the Amazon region has occurred (e.g., Hecht and Cockburn 1989; Mahar 1989). This section describes regional development policies in Amazonia in the context of relevant economic policy considerations at the national level. The focus is on the period since approximately 1950, when the Brazilian government first began to play a very high-profile role in the national economy.

Drawing heavily on Baer (1989), but using a periodization developed by Graham et al (1987), this discussion is divided into five historical phases. The first period (1950 to 1963) is characterized by an emphasis on import-substituting industrialization. During the second phase (1963 to 1973), the policy environment shifted gradually toward export-substituting growth. In the third phase (1973 to 1980), both agricultural and manufactured exports were expanded dramatically. Th e fourth phase (1981 to 1993) began with the recession of 1980 to 1981 and continued through the initiation of the Real Plan. External debt amassed during the third phase was of major importance in the fourth phase. The final phase (1994 to 1996), includes the period from the beginning of the Real Plan through the period covered by this dissertation.

      1. Import Substitution (1950-1963)
        1. National Economic Policy


According to the work of Raúl Prebisch and the Economic Commission for Latin America, Latin American economies were disadvantaged in their development because of the expanding gap in the terms of trade between their exports (commodities) and their imports (manufactures) (Kay 1989, 31-35). More specifically, the post-war experience of Brazil was that of over-reliance on the export of just a few agricultural commodities. In the period 1945 to 1949, for example, coffee, cotton and cocoa com prised nearly 60 percent of Brazil's exports by value. Over half of Brazil's exports in this period went to just two countries: the United States and the United Kingdom. This concentration of exports left the country's balance-of-payments status vulnerable to fluctuations in demand for these traditional commodities (Baer 1989, 50-51).

Although some have challenged the validity of Prebisch's analysis (e.g., Williams 1971, 12), the Prebisch Thesis was extremely influential among Latin American policy makers in the 1950s. To correct the imbalance described by Prebisch, the Brazilian government, like others in Latin America, instituted a policy of Import Substituting Industrialization (ISI). The purpose of ISI was to promote industrialization through the protection of infant industries while preventing the erosion of the country's foreign exchange reserves.

Protective tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports comprised the chief instruments of Brazil's ISI policy. By discouraging foreign competiti on, the policy fostered the growth of selected domestic industries, especially manufacturers of consumer products. The policy simultaneously gave favorable treatment to the import of energy and intermediate goods and unfavorable treatment to finished consumer goods.

Advocates of ISI believed that the success of consumer-goods industries would lead to an industrial "take-off," in which the growth would spread to other sectors. Although the ISI policy as implemented in Brazil succeeded in its short-te rm goal of advancing domestic consumer-goods industries, it did not achieve the long-term goal of a take-off to general economic growth. Several contradictions inherent in the policy prevented the take-off. First, it was difficult to wean domestic industries from the protection afforded them by the ISI policy. Second, because these protected industries were not competitive in comparison to foreign producers, the potential market for their products was limited to Brazil. Moreover, this market was only availa ble to them for as long as the ISI policy was in place. For all of these reasons, the ISI policy did not allow for the expansion of exports, and Brazil began to incur debts with suppliers of intermediate goods. At the end of the period, the mounting balance-of-payments pressures forced Brazil to begin to move away from its ISI strategy (Baer 1989, 70).

        1. Agricultural Policy

The pessimism of Prebisch and others about the long-term implications of reliance on agricultural exports was partly responsible for Brazil's adoption of an ISI strategy. The resultant industrialization drive penalized agriculture in a number of ways. First, the overvalued exchange rate penalized exports, most of which were agricultural commodities. Second, quotas and restrictions prevented farmers from exporting their products -- except for coffee, whose growth was encouraged -- until the domestic market was supplied. These restrictions had the effect of forcing agriculture to subsidize industrial growth by providing cheap food to the urban population, thereby allowing industry to minimize wages. Policy makers generally regarded the agricultural sector as inherently unproductive and hence deliberately directed resources away from it. Late in this period, however, policy makers recognized the danger of polarization between the industrial and agricultural sectors, and began to debate structural reforms that would reduce this disparity (Graham et al 1987, 2-3) .
        1. Regional Development Policies in Amazonia
The Amazon region had been economically important during the rubber boom of the early twentieth century, but by the time of the ISI programs of the 1950s it was once again economically insignificant to Brazil. In 1960 the vast area of Amazonia had only 2.5 million people, and real per capita income in the region was only half of what it had been in 1910 (Mahar 1989, 9-10). Amazo nia played no part in Brazil's ISI programs.
      1. Transition To Export Expansion (1963-1973)
        1. National Economic Policy

Beginning in this period, Brazilís economic-development policies were strongly influenced by neo-classical growth theory, which emphasizes the role of resources in the accumulation of capital. Brazilís economic planners, many of whom were exposed to neo-classical economic theory at the Unive rsity of Chicago, endeavored to increase per-capita productivity by directing the utilization of economic resources, including labor, land-based resources, and capital resources. In the Amazon region, this re-allocation of resources was achieved through a combination of government expenditure for infrastructure resources, fiscal incentives to attract capital resources, and directed-settlement programs to attract labor resources. In all three cases, these resources were to be directed toward the enhanced uti lization of land-based resources, which was seen as likely to result in an overall increase in economic productivity.
The military regime that took over in 1964 emphasized the control of inflation, the elimination of price distortion, an increase in savings, modernization of capital markets, incentives to invest in essential sectors, the attraction of foreign capital, and large government investments in infrastructure and heavy industries (Baer 1989, 78). The first several years of the military regi me were characterized by economic stagnation that had continued from the ISI period, but by 1968 the regime began to enjoy success in the form of very rapid industrial growth. The seven-year boom that began in 1968 was facilitated by the substantial industrial capacity that had been idle during the stagnation. Industrial growth was not, however, without costs: the fiscal incentives given to favored industries were equivalent to 50 percent of total taxes (Baer 1989, 83).
        1. Agricultural Policy

During the period of transition, the net penalization of agriculture was reduced, but the new military regimes eliminated incipient efforts at land reform. They also continued to neglect investment in agricultural research and rural health and education programs. During this period the government eradicated coffee trees to reduce the oversupply that had accumulated during the 1950s. This allowed for the relative expansion of domestic food crops and laid the foundation for the eventual expansion of non-coffee agricultural exports, particularly soybeans and citrus products. It was also during this period that some benefit accrued to agriculture from the previous ISI programs: Brazil could now produce its own capital inputs for agriculture. The period of 1963 to 1973 saw a number of changes in agriculture that were transitional to the striking expansion of agricultural exports that was to follow.
        1. Regional Development Policies in Amazonia
The Amazon regained significance after the military took power in 1964. As described earlier in this chapter, the military regimes saw the development of the Peruvian and Venezuelan Amazon as a geopolitical threat, and began a series of programs intended to occupy the region. At the same time, the development of the Amazon region also was encouraged by the promise of great mineral wealth. Operation Amazonia, enacted in 1966 and 1967, committed Brazil to the occupation the Amazon region, and to its integration with the rest of the country. This was to be achieved primarily through road construction, agricultural colonization and industrialization undertaken by the National Integration Program (PIN). Through the PIN, the government provided funds for the construction of 15,000 kilometers of roads, including the Transamazon, Cuiabá-Santarém, and Northern Perimeter highways. Not only would the highways link the Amazon region with Northeast, the South and the Southeast, but they would also make available land for settlement within a 20-kilometer band on either side of the highways. The irrigation of 40,000 hectares of land also was to be funded by the PIN (Mahar 1989, 23-25).

A related effort to promote growth specifically in Rondônia was undertaken by the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). The POLONOROESTE (northwest pole) program was a colonization program administered by INCRA to "p romote the socio-economic integration of the region through the productive and orderly absorption of ... populations leaving other regions" (Amparo and Pinto 1987, 48). The INCRA programs provided 100 hectares of land to each family that would commit to farming it. Most of the rural colonization projects were located along BR-364 (the major southeast-to-northwest trending highway shown on Figure 1), particularly in the central municípios of Pimenta Bueno, Cacoal and Ji-Paraná (Wesche 1977 ). The government also created small service centers -- known as Urban Nuclei of Rural Support (NUARs) -- where families could obtain medical and educational services. Rolim de Moura, a city in south-central Rondônia, is an example of a town that began as a NUAR.

In addition to the provision of infrastructure, the national government offered generous fiscal incentives to those who invested in agriculture or industry in the Amazon region. Consistent with the neo-classical growth theory describe d above, the incentive programs favored projects that would provide employment, generate foreign exchange and use local resources. Monitoring of projects was difficult, however, and many projects, particularly cattle ranches, were subsidized at great cost without actually providing the promised benefits (Hecht and Cockburn 1989). In fact, the projects often displaced indigenous or caboclo economies that employed more people more productively than did the new projects (Wagley and Miller 1976).

Settlement projects in the Amazon were also intended to relieve population pressure in the Northeast, where the inequitable distribution of land was increasingly problematic. Rather than address the land tenure issues directly, the government chose to offer subsidies to people who would leave the Northeast and settle in Amazonia. Programs intended to absorb modest numbers of migrants from the Northeast later had the unintended consequence of encouraging massive migration from the South and Southeast that e xceeded migration from the Northeast. A major reason was the increasing number of displaced farmers in regions other than the Northeast, such as São Paulo and Paraná described above in the discussion of the agriculture sector. Other reasons included the completion of BR-364, linking the Amazonian territory of Rondônia to the Center-South of the country, and exaggerated expectations of the productivity of farm land in Rondônia (Martine, 1990).

      1. Rapid Export Growth And Increasing External Debt (1973-1980)
        1. National Economic Policy

Beginning in 1973, Brazil embarked on a vigorous program of export expansion, as the program of attempting to direct the utilization of national resources continued. Investment in export-oriented enterprises, however, would be financed in large part through external borrowing. The timing of the success of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ( OPEC) in raising energy prices was propitious -- in the short term -- for Brazilian policy makers (George 1988). The world banking system had ample capital, and in order to put the petrodollars to productive use, banks and development agencies encouraged developing countries to finance development through increased borrowing. Brazil was among the leading borrowers, funding a huge state-led industrialization program with borrowed funds. The resultant economic growth was impressive, but was not sufficiently r apid to service the loans.
        1. Agricultural Policy

It was not until the 1970s that Brazilian agriculture was once again viewed as a potential engine of economic growth. Export barriers were reduced and incentives to export were even instituted. In order to promote exports, particularly of soybeans, subsidized credit was expanded to the extent that it almost equaled agricultural output (Graham et al 1987, 5). Agricultural outp ut was greatly improved, but with several attendant costs. Despite some investment in agricultural research, most of the increase in production came from the expansion of crop areas, rather than from any improvement in yields. Moreover, land became increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer, larger farmers, while crops for export or energy displaced food crops, particularly in the South and Southeast of Brazil. These changes encouraged the migration of many displaced agricultural workers from the South and even the Center-West to other regions, even as agricultural output in these regions increased.
        1. Regional Development Policies in Amazonia
By the middle of the 1970s, the government changed its regional development strategy, essentially abandoning the directed-settlement approach of PIN. The new strategy was to continue trying to accommodate the influx of population -- particularly from the South -- but not to encourag e any more migration. Instead, fifteen growth poles would be established throughout the Amazon region, with the purpose of encouraging large-scale, export-oriented projects in livestock, forestry and mining.

The subsidized credit that became increasingly important throughout Brazil during this period was particularly important for large-scale agriculture in the Amazon region. Subsidized rural credit committed to Amazonia increased nine-fold between 1974 and 1980. Although the bulk of this credit was allocated to crop production, a substantial amount was given to livestock projects. The subsidies were particularly generous: credit was available at nominal (unindexed) interest rates well below the inflation rate. Not only were the subsidies generous in absolute terms, but they were also more generous for projects in Amazonia than for projects elsewhere, thereby diverting agricultural investment from other parts of the country. The credit subsidies contributed to increased environmental damage by encoura ging the grazing of cattle in unsuitable areas (Hecht 1985). The credit subsidies also increased the concentration of wealth in the Amazon region, because credit was available only to those who had titled land. To the extent that credit subsidies went to wealthy landowners and to non-crop activities, the incentives failed in their declared aim of contributing to the absorption of population from other parts of Brazil.

      1. The Debt Crisis and Resolution (1981 to 1993)
        1. National Economic Policy
          1. The Latin American Debt Crisis
Throughout the 1980s, many countries in Latin America, including the major economies of Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela, faced a crisis in their external debt relations. An understanding of the dynamics of this crisis in the region as a whole is helpful in understanding Brazilís responses, which are described in the second part of this section. The debts tha t were incurred in the 1970s began to weigh heavily on Latin American economies. Spending on development was often reduced because of commitments to debt service.

Several factors combined to trigger the debt crisis in Latin America (George 1988). These include domestic fiscal policy, world macroeconomic trends, declining commodity prices (important for countries, such as Brazil, that remained dependent upon commodity exports for a significant portion of their foreign exchange), and initial overlendi ng (Dornbush, 1989). To control the run-away inflation of the 1970s, several governments deliberately overvalued their currencies. This resulted in trade imbalances, which were offset by international borrowing. Capital flight, also funded by external borrowing, ensued. Thus the capital that was initially borrowed by Latin American governments did not stay in the borrowing countries, and was unavailable for productive investment. The extent of capital flight in Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela ranged from U S $16 billion to US $30 billion for the period 1976-1984, representing a significant proportion of external debt. Capital flight from Brazil was somewhat less over the period, at about US $9 billion, presumably because much of the money was invested in fixed capital goods and infrastructure (Frieden, 1989).

Banks in the core countries played a twofold role in creating the debt crisis. First, surplus deposits of OPEC dollars in the 1970s would not generate profits for the banks if they were not inves ted, so large loans to Latin America were made. Indicators that these loans may have been very risky were ignored. Overlending, however, would not by itself have triggered a debt crisis. The crisis came about when debtors were denied the credit needed to "roll over" loans and fund development. Without external credit, capital investment was sharply reduced. In the short term, debtors made some progress in reducing their non-interest accounts, but this was at the cost of decapitalizing their economies. Impro vements in production and personal income over the long term were not possible in the absence of investment capital.

A typical approach to outstanding debt during the 1980s was to renegotiate loans before they matured in order to prevent defaults, which are undesirable for debtors and creditors alike. Rescheduling included extending the maturity of the loans and providing new loans to capitalize interest payments. Defaults were avoided, but at the cost of enormous net transfers of resources to credi tors. The banks argued that the increased cost of credit was justified by the riskiness of the loans, but the banks had already been compensated for that risk by initial high interest rates (Devlin, 1985). The rescheduling both increased interest payments to the banks and forestalled the large capital losses they would incur if the debtors were to default.

The cost of debt service in Latin America was high. In terms of economic growth, the decade of the 1980s was lost in Latin America, because few i nvestments were made, and all of the gains made in trade balances went to debt service. The austerity that was required to make interest payments might have been worthwhile if it had enabled Latin American governments to borrow investment capital. In fact, however, the sacrifice did not result in any benefits to the debtors, but only served to delay capital losses for the creditors.

          1. Brazilís Debt Crisis And Responses
Unfortunately for the economy Brazil, the loans that had funded the stunning growth of the 1970s were made at floating interest rates. Thus, when capital markets constricted during the global recession of 1980-81, interest rates soared, and Brazil's debt burden began to grow unmanageable. A self-imposed orthodox adjustment failed to resolve Brazil's debt situation. In 1982, Mexico declared a moratorium on debt repayment, leading the International Monetary Fund to impose an external adjustment program on other borrowers, including Brazil, as a condition for new loans.

As in other countries, the adjustment program improved Brazil's external accounts, but failed to bring about stabilization or balanced growth. The adjustment resulted in a recession that lasted from 1981 through 1983. The recovery began in 1984, but the 1980 level of per capita GDP was not reached again until 1986. This recovery was faster than those experienced elsewhere in Latin America, but nonetheless the recession was serious in Brazil. During th e adjustment period of the early 1980s, the sectoral structure of the economy changed, with services, particularly financial services, growing at the expense of industry. Income became more concentrated during the adjustment period, with lower income groups disproportionately absorbing the impact of adjustment.

The improvement in Brazil's external accounts during the adjustment period resulted first from reducing imports by constricting demand and later from increasing exports. By 1985, exports and wages were growing again. In part because this growth occurred within the context of a highly indexed economy, severe inflation returned to Brazil. President José Sarney faced inflation, debt, and stagnation. In February 1986, he announced the Cruzado Plan, in an effort to de-index the economy. Initially, there may have been social consensus in favor of the plan because of agreement on the need to break the cycle of indexation. In the end, however, the Cruzado Plan failed, causing the loss of currenc y reserves, the return of inflation, the loss of purchasing power for labor, and the return of recession in 1987 (Baer 1989, 190).

        1. Agricultural Policy

Baer (1989, 342-358) indicates that export diversification and expansion remained a priority for the agricultural sector during the 1980s. This is not surprising, given the need to increase foreign exchange in light of the debt crisis. Baer also indicates that domestic food production continued to be neglect ed, and that Brazilian agriculture continued to rely on area expansion, rather than yield enhancement, to maintain productivity. Other evidence (Alvez and Contini 1988; Rezende 1989) suggests that, although this was the case between 1940 and 1970, the relative importance of area expansion began to decline as early as the 1970s. Between 1960 and 1970, area increases were responsible for 65 percent of the annual growth in production; between 1970 and 1980, area expansion was responsible for only 45 percent of growth. The experience varied by crop and region, however: increased production of soybeans between 1973 and 1982 was based largely on increasing the cultivated area, whereas maize production during the same period increased primarily as a result of improved yields. These trends continued to foster outmigration from the producing regions.
        1. Regional Development Policies in Amazonia
As a result of austerity measures related to the debt crisis, credit subsidies were phased out, and by 1985 credit availability had returned to the relatively low levels of the early 1970s. By 1987, credit subsidies in the Amazon region had been eliminated (Hurrell 1992). Some fiscal subsidies persisted during this period, however, owing particularly to the political power of interests in São Paulo who benefited from their continuation (Mahar 1989, 48-49).

The reduction of credit subsidies to large land owners and cattle ranchers was in one sense beneficial, b ecause it reduced the incentives to clear forested land in the region. The reduction in credit availability had some unfortunate consequences, however, for small- and medium-scale agricultural enterprises. Just as the subsidy was being eliminated, some small holders had been attempting to make a transition from annual crops to tree crops, which would involve less land clearance and reduced soil erosion. Without the credit subsidies, these farmers could not purchase appropriate inputs for the development of tree crops, and were forced to continue clearing land for annual crops. The abrupt removal of credit subsidies thus ironically had the consequence of encouraging deforestation and erosion by pushing small farmers back to a reliance on untenable monocultures.

In addition to fiscal constraints, international and domestic ecopolitical pressure forced Brazil to reconsider its rural settlement projects and other major development projects in the Amazon region (Barbosa 1993, 109). Although domestic politi cal pressure had long been present, new pressures were brought to bear in the late 1980s and 1990s. Brazilís dependent relationship with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund put it in a position of needing to cooperate when these institutions came under pressure from environmentalists in core countries, particularly in the United States and Western Europe. During the 1990s, the ideology of sustainable development has been ascendant. This was manifested most clearly during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, in which unprecedented public attention was focused on questions of environmental protection and economic development. Sustainable development had become "a screen behind which resources are being allocated and decisions made" (Wilbanks 1994, 541). These include decisions on the part of institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which are increasingly sensitive to claims that they have funded projects (such as major hydroelectric or road-building p rojects) that are not sustainable.

      1. The Real Plan (1994 to 1996)
        1. Brazilian National Economic Policy



In February of 1994, after the failure of a series of economic plans that relied heavily on indexation, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who was then Minister of Economics but who would become president on January 1, 1995, introduced the Plano Real (Real Plan), which avoided some of the problems of previous plans (Coes 1995, 167-1 72). Rather than index wages, the Real Plan simply converted wages in the beginning of 1994 to transitional Reference Value Units (URVs), which were then used as the basis for free negotiations of salaries. Prices also were not indexed, but rather were anchored by a link between the URV and the U.S. dollar. When the new currency was officially introduced on July 1, 1994, the Real itself was also linked to the dollar, but the link was not formal, as it had been in full dollarization plans such as those used in Argentina. The results of the Real Plan were improved balance of payments, increased foreign investment, and a reduction in inflation rates. In the summer of 1996, many considered the Real overvalued in dollar terms, but it was still trading at parity with the U.S. currency.
        1. Regional Development Policies in Amazonia
Even in the mid-1990s, the government continued to show some interest in rura l development activities in the Amazon region, but the focus of government attention had begun to shift toward the promotion of economic growth in urban sectors much earlier, with the creation of the free trade zone in Manaus (Despres 1991). The extent to which this trend has spread to Rondônia in the 1990s is discussed in Chapters IV and V.
    1. Urbanization in Latin America
Because urbanization is Rondônia is, in a sense, the fulcrum of this analysis, this section presents a review of relevant literature on the development and form of urban places and urban systems in Latin America generally and Rondônia specifically. The discussion begins with an overview of the origins of the Latin Amer ican city, the development of urban networks in Latin America, particularly in frontier areas; the form of Latin American cities; and the problems associated with their rapid growth in the twentieth century. Brazilian examples are emphasized, especially as they contrast with Spanish America. The geographic literature on the emergence of frontier urban systems is reviewed. This discussion is selective, with an emphasis on aspects of urbanization in Latin America most relevant to the experience of Rondô nia, and concluding with the literature on urbanization in Rondônia itself. The implications of the present research for this literature are discussed as part of the conclusions in Chapter V.
      1. The Latin American City

Drawing on Vance (1970), Sargent (1997) describes a mercantile model of the development of urban systems in Latin America, in which the urban systems evolved in a series of phases, including "exploration, initial settlement, expansi on of the network, and in-filling of the network" (Sargent 1997, 153). These phases were not synchronized, with some areas undergoing the final phase just as others were experiencing initial European exploration. Nonetheless, Sargent provides a general periodization of the development of Latin American cities (see Table 3), which have long been an important part of the human landscape of the region, even prior to European colonization. The conquest did, however, result in a reorientation of urban syste ms toward Europe. Both coastal and inland towns were part of an urban network that facilitated both the political control and extraction of resources from a region at the periphery of Europeís mercantile system.

Table 3: Periods of Urbanization in Latin America

        Approximate Periodization Trend Description
        1492 to 1600 Creation of urban framework Rapid founding of towns in both Spanish and Portuguese colonies
        1600 to 1820 Adjustment of urban framework In Spanish colonies, relatively few new towns were established, except in central Chile and far northern Mexico (later southwestern United States)

        In Brazil, many new towns emerged in regions that were settled as the Portuguese moved beyond the immediate coastal zone

        1820 to 1930 Early modern period - broadening ties to industrial countries Newly independent countries turned their attention toward non-Iberian Europe and the United States

        Dominant cities emerged, particularly national capitals and/or major port cities

        In Brazil and Argentina, expansion continued into areas not already effectively occupied

        After 1930 Rapid growth of urban centers Large-scale rural-to-urban migration and the emergence of primate urban regions, usually centered on national capitals or major ports
Source: After Sargent 1997, 140.
During the first period, most Brazilian towns were coastal ports, whereas Spanish towns emerged primarily in are as that had either mineral wealth or a dense population of indigenous people. In both cases, relatively few Iberians were present; in the Spanish colonies, the labor force consisted primarily of indigenous people, whereas in Brazil the small and rapidly declining indigenous population was replaced with imported slaves. In Spanish colonies, towns were founded with three objectives: expansion of empire, exploitation of mineral and agricultural resources, and conversion of local people to Christianity. In many cases, all three objectives would be met; for example, Guadalajara, Puebla, and Oaxaca were founded in the 1530s in regions that were already densely settled and where abundant agricultural resources could be exploited. These and smaller towns in central Mexico functioned as both administrative and religious centers, and comprised a heirarchy of cities and towns centered on Mexico City itself. In Spanish America, the form and location of colonial cities served to dominate the countryside, and impose a dist inctly urban culture. Spanish residents were clustered around the cathedral, goverment buildings, and commercial zone near a central plaza, and were thus easily defended against attack (Godfrey 1991).

In Brazil, the crown distributed land in the form of large, elongated captaincies, each of which extended from a relatively narrow frontage on the Atlantic coast. Land itself was the basis of the captainsí economic and political power, as they were able to distribute the lands as they pleased for the f ormation of plantations. The towns formed on the coastal margins of these captaincies were therefore not centers of power, but rather were subservient to the rural landholders in their hinterlands. The initial function of these towns, which were formed along Brazilís entire southeastern coast between the 1530s and 1550s, was to facilitate the export of agricultural products. The domination of Brazilian towns by rural landowners was in marked contrast to dominant role of towns in Spanish America (Godfrey 199 1). After 1550, Jesuit missions were established on the outskirts of some of the towns. Brazilís urban system was to retain its strong littoral orientation until the discovery of gold in the late seventeenth century.

During the second period, the urban hierarchy of Spanish America experienced gradual shifts as administrative decisions favored some towns over others, gradual in-filling as new towns emerged between established urban centers, and the rise and fall of some mining centers. In Brazil, how ever, this was a period of the expansion of both rural and urban settlement into new areas. As late as 1650, Brazil had few towns beyond the immediate coastal zone. The discovery of gold and diamonds, beginning in Minas Gerais in 1693 and later in Mato Grosso, led first to mining camps and later -- as the emphasis shifted from panning to vein mining in about 1720 -- to more substantial settlements. During the gold rush of 1725 to 1750, some of these towns grew rapidly, with Vila Rica do Ouro Prêto (li terally, "Rich Town of Black Gold"), reaching a population of 60,000. By the end of the century, it had declined to 8,000 persons, and many of the other mining towns had been reduced to villages, and many of the smaller mining camps had simply disappeared. In other mining districts of Brazil, however, the needs of the mining activities often were a catalyst both for the expansion of agriculture and for the growth of towns, including way and taxation stations along the routes leading to the mining districts themselves. Military considerations also led to the creation of some towns: in the south to protect gold shipments and in the north to secure Brazilian territory against other colonial powers, including the Dutch, the English, and the French. The latter was the impetus for the founding of Forteleza in 1609, Belém in 1616, and Manaus in 1674. In these cases, missions followed soon after the forts. Each of these cities, isolated from most of Brazilís population centers, remained small until t heir growth was spurred as a result of the boom in rubber exports in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Throughout the development of urban places during the colonial period, most of Latin Americaís cities had remained relatively small, especially in comparison to the great size many of them would attain in the late twentieth century. The third phase -- one of transition from small administrative centers to large metropolis -- did not occur at a uniform pace throughout the region. The early emergence of some of the large cities -- such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo -- was associated "with the expansion of commercial agriculture tied to increasing federal expenditures, the development of industry, and large-scale [international] immigration" (Sargent 1997, 164).

During the final period, the rapid growth that had been limited to only a few major cities became even more rapid, and expanded to many cities throughout the region. During the second half of th e twentieth century, heightened natural increase and rural-to-urban migration led to the extremely rapid growth of a large number of urban places in Latin America, while migration from outside the region became an insignificant factor. By the 1990s, the region had several dozen cities of over one million population, with Brazil alone having at least twelve. At the close of the twentieth century, the literature on urbanization in Latin America focuses on the growth of these megacities, and on the problems th at have been associated with that growth. In Brazil as elsewhere, these problems have included the lack of access to housing, services, and employment. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, one-third of the population lives in some five hundred squatter settlements, known as favelas (Godfrey 1991). Although rural-to-urban migration continues, the problems of Brazilís megacities are now well known, and provide a strong disincentive to migrate.

      1. Emergence of Frontier Urban Systems in Amazon ia

In order to emphasize geographic research on aspects of Latin American urbanization most relevant to the experience of Rondônia, this section describes geographic research on the emergence of frontier urban systems elsewhere in the Amazon region. A discussion of the particular trajectory of events that led to urbanization in Rondônia is presented in another section later in this chapter.

Brown et al (1994) review early, theoretical research on the emer gence of urban places in frontier regions. Bylund (1960), Olsson (1968), and Hudson (1969) described a three-stage process of initial migration from outside the region, subsequent spread within the region, and finally competition among places within the region. The research was concerned with the "maturing" of an urban system and the emergence of a central-place hierarchy. Subsequent local studies (Henkel 1982 and Findley 1988, cited in Brown et al 1994) focus on individual behavior in spec ific locations, but describe similar stages. Browder and Godfrey (1990) describe this maturation as a series of stages by which a peripheral region becomes incorporated in the larger economy. At each stage, the degree of incorporation is exhibited in a particular settlement form (see Table 4).

        Table 4: Levels of Frontier Urbanization
        Level of Economic Integration Urban Form
        Native subsistence Village
        Resource extraction Expeditionary settlement (e.g., mining camp)
        Peasant agriculture Pioneer settlement
        Consolidated landholdings Local service centers
        Rural depopulation County service centers
Source: After Browder and Godfrey, 1990.
        1. Theoretical Perspectives on Frontier Urbanization



More recently, however, Browder and Godfrey (1996) have argued that such stage models do not adequately address the complexity of frontier urbanization in Amazonia. Simplistic regional archetypes of the Amazon region as Green Hell, El Dorado, or Earthís Lung have obscured the heterogeneity of this increasingly urban region. The urbanization has itself arisen from a variety of causes that cannot be characterized by any single model of frontier urbanization. Urbanization in each "frontier space" resulted from distinct processes and has taken a distinct form as a result. Southern Pará, for example, is characterized as a "corporatist frontier" because of the importance of government-sponsored capitalist development projects in that space, whereas Rondônia, which was settled by autonomous s mall farmers, is a "populist frontier," characterized by relatively weak connections "to the capital-power-class structure of Brazilian society" (Godfrey and Browder 1996, 443; Browder and Godfrey 1997, 12).

Despite the importance of differences in the urbanization process among and within sub-regions of the Amazon, Godfrey and Browder do make some generalizations about urbanization in the region. First, they find that "urban" and "rural" zones are not as dist inct from each other as they may be in other regions. Although urban centers do provide services for rural hinterlands, other dynamics are in play. Strong rural-urban transportation links and occupational mobility result in a fluid migration between city and countryside. Second, the government role in urbanization has been highly variable. Thus, although a unified ideology was important in settling the region, there has been no corresponding ideological impetus to its urbanization. Third, they conclude urba nization in the Brazilian Amazon is not supported by the regionís own economic base, but rather by external forces at both the national and international levels. The connection between local resources and urban economies, which has tended to be a factor limiting urban growth in other frontier regions, has been broken in the Amazon case (Godfrey and Browder 1996, 444).

In subsequent work focused on the urbanization process itself, Browder and Godfrey (1997) have further elaborated their discussion of theoretical frameworks of frontier settlement. They review six major theoretical perspectives on frontier urbanization, including central-place, mercantile, diffusion, intersectoral-articulation, capitalist penetration, and world-systems theories. The first three of these may be classified as formal theories; that is, they focus on the spatial form of frontier urban networks. The latter three theories are structural, in that they focus on the structural relationships between frontier regions and the global economic context in which they emerge. The remainder of this section describes all six theories, and the ways in which Browder and Godfrey find them relevant to the Amazon case. Their relevance to the more specific case of Rondônia is discussed in Chapter V below.

Browder and Godfrey find that recent work tends to emphasize process over form in the development of frontier frameworks, with increasing attention to outside forces and historically specific developments, but that linear transition models continue to dominate. They argue that each of these perspectives is concentrated on a single "master principle," no one of which is sufficient to describe the form in which urban systems have emerged in the region as a whole (Browder and Godfrey 1997, 51-53).

          1. Sequential Theories

Of the six theories described by Browder and Godfrey (1997), three -- central place, diffusion, and mercantile -- are sequential theori es, in which a pattern of urban places emerges according to a series of stages. Central place theory conceives the frontier as a homogenous plane, in which urban places are specialized according to their size and location within an emerging hierarchical pattern. Regional growth is autonomous, with rural areas increasingly integrated as the settlement system evolves in a manner that maximizes the efficiency of spatial interactions.

Christaller (1966) describes urban places as a hierarchy of centers i n which places at each level are less abundant than those at the level below but contain a greater variety economic activities. Christallerís model shares with other neoclassical models in economic geography the assumption of an isotropic plane as an initial condition. If this ideal condition could be satisfied, the model predicts a spatial distribution of service centers organized in a hierarchy, organized in a series of nested hexagons (Figure 4). Each cell in the hexagonal grid at a given level of the hi erarchy represents the range of a good or service available in the nodal center of that cell. The hierarchy exists because goods or services are available at a variety of ranges, from lower-order goods with many, small nodes to higher-order goods with few, large nodes.

A related concept is the rank-size rule, which predicts that the nth city in a country or region will have 1/nth the population of the largest city (Rubenstein and Bacon 1983, 366). When city sizes are plotted against t heir ranking using a logarithmic scale, the inverse relationship appears as a straight line.

Figure 4: Ideal Central-Place Hierarchy

Lösch (1954, cited in Gore 1984), building on Christaller, developed a normative model in which the presence of such a hierarchy is indicative of equilibrium and of healthy regional economic dev elopment. Gore (1984) provides a thorough critique of Central Place as a normative model:

If more commodities are produced for the consumers on the plain, it is possible to visualize a series of such networks of market areas, all with a different hexagonal mesh which is determined by production costs, transport costs and elasticity of demand. In determining the general equilibrium, Lösch rejects the ideas that these nets of hexagons `can be thrown at will over our plainí and instead co-o rdinates their location so that all of them have at least one centre in common (the regional metropolis) and then rotates them around the center until the greatest number of production locations coincide. This operations clearly has no relationship whatsoever to real world processes ....

...we suddenly have crowds of economic areas on a plain we have deprived of all spatial inequalities at the outset. (Gore 1984, 34-35)

Goreís central argument is that the patterns descri bed by equilibrium models such as this do not provide a sound basis for economic development policy. Although patterns of this kind have been observed in developed countries, their presence is not an indicator of a healthy economy and their absence does not indicate underdevelopment. He makes this argument because departures from such models, such as the presence of a primate city or regional income imbalances, have been viewed by planners as spatial problems, resulting in economic development programs that he considers misguided. For this reason, Central Place Theory is not used in a normative way to evaluate the economic health of Rondônia, but it is used descriptively relative to the structure of Rondôniaís urban system.

Diffusion theory draws on sociology and cultural geography to explain the emergence of a hierarchical, hexagonal-lattice pattern of growth in a homogenous plane that is similar in form to the pattern predicted by central place theory. The diffusion of innovations from m ajor centers to lesser centers is the historic force that originates this growth, rather than an abstracted tendency toward an equilibrium state of maximum transportation efficiency.

In mercantile theory, by contrast with both of the above, the frontier is not seen as an isotropic plane awaiting settlement, but rather as a region with a particular natural-resource endowment of interest to those outside the region. As such, the focus of urban growth is on "gateway cities," and the location of settlement is ordained not by internal transportation efficiencies, but rather by the location of natural resources and the positioning of transportation nodes oriented to the outside. As in central place theory, the process of urban-system development is sequential, with a dendritic -- rather than a hierarchical -- pattern the end result.

          1. Structuralist Theories
    Browder and Godfrey (1997) also review three structuralist theorie s of frontier urbanization that are focused on forces outside the frontier region and are decidedly non-linear. The first of these is neo-Marxist intersectoral articulation theory (1997, 35-36, 51), which postulates a rural-urban duality in peripheral, frontier regions that replicates the duality found elsewhere in dependent industrialization. That is, industrial activity in frontier urban settlements is subsidized by the subsistence activities of workers, which take place outside of the capitalist economy. This allows for a labor safety valve to operate, even as wages remain below reproduction costs. In frontier areas, this theory would predict large numbers of people working in both rural and urban informal sectors.

    Like articulationist approaches, capitalist penetration theories focus on the ways in which frontier urbanization serves the ends of capital accumulation. The approaches differ, however, in several respects. First, the focus in capital accumulation theories is on latifundios and t heir supporters within the state, rather than on the peasantry. Second, whereas the articulationist view describes the preservation of pre-capitalist modes of production in support of the accumulation of capital, the capitalist penetration model argues that capitalism disolves the peasantry, even in peripheral areas in which it was previously irrelevant to the accumulation of capital. Finally, whereas the former perspective emphasizes the role of appropriated labor in the accumulation of profits, the latter emphasizes the role of appropriated lands. In this final respect, the capitalist perspective is relevant to the work on "frontier cycles," in the Amazon region, including that of Foweraker (1981), Sawyer (1984), Ozorio (1992), and Ozorio and Campari (1995). In this work, the concentration of land in the hands of a relatively few land owners leads to the "closing" of the rural areas of the frontier, and ultimately serves as an important cause of frontier urbanization. In Browder and Godfreyís (1997) work, this perspective is relevant to the emergence of "corporatist frontiers." These are urban places or systems that have emerged in association with major capitalist/statist enterprises. The most notable of these is the extensive urban network surrounding Grande Carajás in the south of Pará, but Vila Eletronorte -- which is now an enclave in Porto Velho, but which was a separate urban space at the time of their f ieldwork -- is another example. In these cases, urbanization begins "as the artifact of capital," rather than as "the result of a gradual transition from peasant to proletarion relations of production" (Browder and Godfrey 1997, 39).

    A third sructuralist approach to frontier urbanization, based on world systems theory, emphasizes extractive export economies in the periphery and the orchestration of the overall global economy in metropoles, including London, New York, and Tokyo. T he application of this body of theory in the Amazon has linked frontier expansion to the expansion of transnational capital investment. Boom cycles in this investment result in the concentration of labor in extractive sectors and the breakdown of the subsistence sector, by which frontier regions become dependent on interregional imports of food. During investment bust cycles, labor is stranded and forced to move into the cities of the region. An important implication of this connection of the frontier to gl obal capital is that it "engenders in diverse Third World [sic] peoples a unifying materialist consumer ethic at the expense of local beliefs and cultural values," so that frontier urban centers such as those in the Amazon region have become both "staging arenas for producer surplus appropriation and holding areas for workers temporarily displaced by ebbs and flows in extractive cycles" (Browder and Godfrey 1997, 42). Furthermore, the frontier urban network becomes, in this view, merely a series of conduits by which surplus from the region is channeled to higher levels in the world system.

    For Browder and Godfrey, structuralist interpretations lead to some important generalizations about the Amazonian frontier. It is a region in which labor surplus can be absorbed, in turn reducing pressure on urban wages in the core of Brazil. Moreover, the expansion of urban places in the frontier serves an important consumer function, which in turn facilitates the extraction of surplus v alue from the region. Browder and Godfrey have no illusions about the current state of articulation of these urban places to the world system, though. They recognize that Amazon cities, with the possible exception of Manaus, remain "a distant resource frontier ... of little direct interest to transnational industrial and financial capital" (Browder and Godfrey 1997, 46).

    In the end, Browder and Godfrey find that the way in which cities on the periphery become integrated into the world eco nomy depends "upon their abilty to mobilize capital through commercial or production activities." This results in significant heterogeneity in the relations of frontier cities to world capital, even within the Amazon region itself. Manaus, for example, is articulated directly to the world network of cities because of its status as a free trade zone and its "biophysical location in the heart of the worldís largest remaining sanctuary of wild germ plasm." Even lower-order cities "have played a provisional role in regimenting production in specific corners of the Amazon periphery," including the Rolim de Moura (Rondônia) complex in the case of mahogony and southern Pará in the case of gold (Browder and Godfrey 1997, 45).

Because of this variability, Browder and Godfrey draw on "critical realism" to argue for a "pluralistic theory" of "disarticulated urbanization" in the Amazon region (1997, 83). That is, they use a theoretical frame work that is broadly similar to that adopted in this dissertation, in order to draw on a variety of theoretical perspectives that help to explain the multiple phenomena of urbanization in the Amazon region. The degree to which they find these particular approaches useful in what they term the "populist frontier" of Rondônia is discussed in some detail later in this chapter. In Chapter V, these formal and structuralist approaches are discussed once again, in light of my own findings in Rondônia.
        1. Environmental Impacts of Urban Growth in Amazonia
As part of their most recently published work on urbanization in the Amazon region, Browder and Godfrey (1997, 312-344) address several aspects of its environmental impacts, which they had raised in their earlier work (Browder and Godfrey 1990). The impacts that they address include changes in the intensity of land use as rural properties come into the possession of urban residents; the expansion of hydroelectric projects to meet urban and industrial demand; and the public-health conditions on the urban peripheries of the region.

Browder and Godfrey (1997, 313-317) attempt to address the question of whether urbanization would lead to more or less intensive use of land resources. They postulate that modernization theory would predict intensification of land use as increasing amounts of farm land come into the possession of urban dwellers. If this were to prove true, then urbaniz ation would lead eventually to less extensive use of land resources and a reduction in deforestation. Based on their survey of farm owners in Rolim de Moura, Rondônia, however, they conclude that urban owners of rural properties in the Amazon region are more inclined toward extensive uses, including idle land and pasture, than are rural-resident land owners. They speculate that the urban residents who own rural properties have access to additional means of accumulation, and view their rural properties as passive (speculative) investments and weekend retreats.

The expansion of hydroelectric development in the Amazon region has resulted both from the stateís desire to reduce its dependency upon energy imports and from the rapid growth of urban populations within the region. The stateís regional electric-power utility, ELETRONORTE, has identified eighty sites in the Amazon basin for potential hydrolectric development. Although the rivers of the region have ample stream power, the relatively low top ographic relief requires that large areas be inundated to achieve economic power generation. It is estimated that the completion of dams at the eighty potential sites identified by ELETRONORTE would result in the loss of 100,000 square kilometers of rain forest cover.

Browder and Godfrey describe the impacts of just three operational dams, which already have resulted in the loss of 6,450 square kilometers of rain forest, about ten percent of total deforestation as of 1990. These dams include two ver y large projects, Tucuruí in Pará and Balbina in the state of Amazonas, and the relatively small Samuel Dam in Rondônia. The two larger dams resulted in the loss to flooding of about 2,400 square kilometers of rain forest each.

The Tucuruí Dam was built to serve three markets: the growing city of Belem, Pará, the massive Grande Carajas mining project, and the national electric grid. Its construction led to rapid urban growth in the immediate vicinity of the dam, bo th in a planned company town and in the village of Tucuruí itself. The inundation of the reservoir resulted in the displacement of approximately 30,000 people from seventeen upstream villages. The company contracted to clear vegetation in advance of the flooding used large quantities of the defoliant dioxin (Agent Orange), exposing thousands of rural residents. Increased incidence of malaria has been observed, and increases in schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and leishmaniasis are expected as a resul t of the construction. Finally, water quality and constraints on migration have resulted in the disappearance of several species of fish from rivers in the vicinity of Tucuruí.

The Balbina project was developed to supply electricity to the growing industrial city of Manaus, Amazonas. It has resulted in fewer social dislocations than those associated with Tucuruí, but the project has been a greater waste of resources. Equivalent areas of rain forest were inundated by the two projects, b ut the Balbina project generates only about 112 megawatts of electricity -- compared to at least 3,960 megawatts produced by the Tucuruí -- because it is a shallow reservoir of slow-moving water located in flat terrain. Moreover, because no attempt was made to salvage wood in advance of the inundation, the vegetation is slowly decomposing in the relatively slack water, contributing to high maintenance costs.

By comparison, the environmental impact of the Samuel Dam on the Rio Jamarí in Rondônia have been less severe than those of the two larger and earlier projects described above. The Samuel Dam, built to supply local demand within Rondônia, inundated 560 square kilometers and produces 217 megawatts of electricity, resulting in far less clearing per megawatt of capacity than the Balbina project. After the closing of the Samuel Dam, ELETRONORTE made some efforts to reduce the impacts on wildlife, rescuing some 16,000 animals from the rising floodwaters. The reservoir at Samue l Dam contracts by up to 40 percent in the dry season, increasing the threat of malaria in a location that already had extremely high incidence of the disease. Upland deforestation has continued since the closing of the reservoir, potentially limiting its economic longevity.

Finally, Browder and Godfrey describe local environmental impacts that result from the rapid expansion of peri-urban settlements, to which they ascribe between 60 and 80 percent of all urban growth in the region (1997, 339). Hou sing in these settlements, they report, is typically self-built, and the peripheral location and rapid expansion of these settlements precludes the adequate provision of infrastructure. The local environmental consequences include traffic congestion and its attendant air pollution and water pollution from the inadequate provision of sewerage systems. Serious health consequences result from standing water in poorly-maintained streets, inadequate garbage collection, and poor water quality. In Porto Velho, lan d in the control of elites, the military, and ELETRONORTE is unavailable for settlement, contributing to "leapfrog" development and deforestation to accomodate the unnecessarily rapid growth of peri-urban settlement in ecologically sensitive areas.

    1. The Frontier Experience of Rondônia

So far, this chapte r has described the existing literature (including some published only after the completion of fieldwork for the present research) on three broad themes: economic policy in Brazil, the political-economic function of Amazonia, and the nature of urbanization -- particularly frontier urbanization -- in Latin America. This final section traces the particular trajectory of changes in settlement and land-use patterns in Rondônia, particularly during the period 1970 to 1996.
      1. Rondôniaís Rural Frontier
As a result of the unexpectedly strong response to the regional development programs of INCRA in the 1970s, rapidly growing populations emerged along an axis extending from the southeast of the state of Rondônia toward the capital city of Porto Velho in the northwest. Coy identifies a later, secondary spread of settlement away from this axis in several directions (Coy 1987, 278-280; Martine 1990, 4). In addition to the ra pid growth in frontier population as a result of economic and policy drivers, Coy documents important land-tenure stratification in the region. Between the initiation of the INCRA program and Coyís observation a dozen years later, many of the original 100-hectare land grants plots were fragmented, and the ownership of land was then concentrated in the hands of a few (Coy 1987, 291-292).

The expansion of roads into Rondônia and the extension of financial incentives for settlement of the region drew speculators known as grileiros, who obtained land -- often cleared by the original grantees -- and put cattle to graze on it (Hecht and Cockburn 1989, 169-174). The land rush created conditions in which land prices increased astronomically and land changed hands frequently and often fraudulently. In some areas, the land rush resulted in over-subscription of the territory: that is, deeds were granted on more land than existed in a place. Although many migrants to the frontier settled on small par cels as intended, these often were consolidated into the larger holdings of ranchers (see especially Coy 1987), many of whom were wealthy urban Brazilians who were holding land as a hedge against inflation. Cattle ranches, therefore, frequently served more to mark the territory as part of a speculation scheme than to make money qua ranches. As a result, up to 85 percent of the land cleared in Rondônia has been used to graze cattle (Hecht and Cockburn 1989). Combined clearing of land for agricul ture and ranching (which for reasons that should now be obvious cannot readily be discriminated as categories) destroyed an estimated fifteen percent of the forest in Rondônia between 1975 and 1988 (Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 1988). By 1993 seventeen percent of the state was deforested (EMATER-RO 1995, 25).

This pattern of land speculation and consolidation resulted in the rapid growth extremely large farms (latifundios) in Rondônia, even as land was deconcentrated by the distribution of middle-size farms. At the same time, the number of extremely small farms (minifundios) multiplied, as "part of the survival strategy of migrants who have been unable to obtain or retain a plot of their own in settlement projects" (Martine 1990, 34). Between 1970 and 1985, the number of farms smaller than 10 hectares increased forty-fold, while their average size declined (Table 5). Meanwhile, farms larger than 1,000 hectares grew more than three-fold in total area. As early as the 1970s, the reproduction of Brazilís dual system of minifundio and latifundio land ownership was recognized on the Amazonian frontier (Foweraker 1981), and the same structures persist into the 1990s (Ozorio 1992; Ozorio and Campari 1995). The minifundio/latifundio phenomenon is a long-standing problem of land distribution in many parts of Latin America. The latifundio is a large land holding of a single owner, much of which may be left idle, because possession of lan d is associated with political and economic power, whether the land is used productively or not. In regions where much of the best land is held in latifundios, the land that is left over is divided among a large number of families, each of whom will have only a small piece of land, known as a minifundio. The minifundio/latifundio system favors wealthy land owners, allowing them to control both local land and labor markets, and to pay wages below subsistence levels.

Table 5: Farm-Size Distribution in Rondônia
Farm-size Class (ha)
Less than 10 Number of farms
Total area (ha)
Average size (ha)
10 to 50 Number of farms
Total area (ha)
Average size (ha)
100 to 200 Number of farms
Total area (ha)
Average size (ha)
200 to1,000 Number of farms
Total area (ha)
Average size (ha)
More than Number of farms
1,000 Total area (ha)
Average size (ha)

Source: Martine 1990.

Labor absorption on latifundios in Latin America typically is low, because a significant portion of land is left idle. On the latifundios of Rondônia, labor absorption is low for at least three reasons:

The minifundio-latifundio dichotomy was maintained in the 1970s by a combination of private and state-sanctioned violence. Although private rural violence used to consolidate land holdings threatened the Brazilian stateís monopoly on the legitimate use of force, Foweraker (1981) argues that Brazil was obliged to tolerate private violence because of its position as a semi-peripheral state. That is, the minifundio-latifundio system emerged in relation not only to dominant classes withi n Brazil but also in relation to a world economic system in which the Brazilian state played a constrained role. A variety of scholars have linked urban growth in Rondônia with the changes in rural land and labor markets described above. Schmink (1988) and Schmink and Wood (1992) have described these changes as the successive closing of frontiers. Ozorio (1992) argues persuasively that the labor surplus generated by the reproduction of minifundio/latifundio land-distribution patterns in the Amazon has led to the dislocation of new settlers. Martine (1990, 31-37) has shown that urban population growth was a concomitant of rural population increase in Rondônia after 1970. Martine describes a pattern of stepwise migration whereby new agricultural settlers in Rondônia find themselves landless after only a few years, and move to urban places.

The rapid growth of urban places in Rondônia in the 1980s has been considered principally in relation to the closing frontier described above (Browder and Godfrey 1990; Mitschein et al 1989; and Volbeda 1986). In neighboring Acre, the growth of urban places has been understood in part as the result of violent conflict over land (Bakx 1990). Bakx takes the analysis of Martine and Ozorio a step further: not only have colonization projects led to landlessness in the rural frontier, but federal colonization schemes have also "functioned as mere stepping stones on the road to landlessness and poverty in the shanty towns of the state capital" (Bakx 1990, 49). Browder and Godfrey (1990), building on Martine's work, have described a typology of frontier closure that often leads to the formation of towns and cities in formerly remote, rural areas, and eventually results in population being concentrated in primate cities at the município (county) level. Their analysis of Ro ndôniaís urban settlement is described in further detail below.

Browder and Godfrey (1997, 143-156) contrast the recent growth of Porto Velho with that of Manaus and Belém. All three cities emerged at the turn of the twentieth century in connection with the regional boom in the export of latex. All three experienced signficant growth in the latter part of the twentieth century, but Browder and Godfrey (1997, 156-158 a nd passim) emphasize that the trajectory of this growth has been very different in the three cases, and that no single model can explain the pattern of urban growth in the Amazon region. The relative roles of federal incentives, corporate investment, and unplanned settlement have been highly differentiated among the regionís cities.

Browder and Godfrey (1997, 143-149) describe Porto Velho as a city in relative decline in two ways. Even as the city continues to grow, they consider it in declin e relative to Manaus and Belém, which they see as better articulated to the world economy. Even though the city has continued to grow throughout its history, this growth is relatively less than the growth both of the better-articulated centers of Manaus and Belém. Only Manaus continues to be closely articulated to the circuits of world capital, and remains the dominant city within its sub-region. They argue that Porto Velho and Belém, in contrast, are both less connected to world capita l and less dominant within their own subregions. Despite its continued growth, its importance as an administrative center, and its nominal military importance, they describe Porto Velho as disarticulated from the urban system of its own state. They emphasize the reduction, between 1950 and 1991, of Porto Velhoís share of state population from 74 to 26 percent, rather than its absolute increase from 27,000 to 294,000 residents during the same period. For Browder and Godfrey (1997, 144), "Porto Velhoís r elative demographic importance within Rondônia has plummeted more dramatically than has been the case in Belém." In desribing the reduction of the capitalís primacy in such terms, they are clearly emphasizing the structuralist theories of frontier urbanization over the formal theories, for which reduction of primacy central to the development of urban hierarchies on the frontier.

As in the other metropolitan centers, the recent growth that has occured in Porto Velho has occurred pr imarily in peri-urban settlements described both by Browder and Godfrey (1997) and by Bakx (1990) as "shantytowns." Browder and Godfrey report results of a 1993 survey of 293 households in five peri-urban neighborhoods surrounding Porto Velho, including Jardim Eldorado, Esperança da Comunidade, São Sebastião, Ulisses Guimarães, and União de Vitória. The results of this survey, which were not available prior to the fieldwork described in this dissertation, are summarized in Table 6. Although they continue to use the term "shantytown," Browder and Godfrey conclude from this work that the stereotype of these neighborhoods housing only marginal populations is erroneous. Moreover, the fact that most of the settlers were born in the Amazon (North) region leads Browder and Godfrey to conclude "that Porto Velho does not serve as a magnet for displaced or failed farmers" who originated in the South or Southeast, as are some urban places in the int erior of Rondônia. Based on the very minor importance of extractive sectors in the employment of residents in these neighborhoods, they also conclude that "peri-urban neighborhoods of Porto Velho definitely are not reservoirs of peasants and agricultural day laborers (Browder and Godfrey 1997, 153)." From the data on location of employment, they conclude both that the urban periphery is "largely self-sufficient in employment generation," but well integrated with the city center and not closely connected to surrounding rural areas (Browder and Godfrey 1997, 154-155).

Source: After Browder and Godfrey 1997, 150-151 I have read the existing literature as explaining Rondôniaís urbanization in terms of well-known processes operating at both the national and regional leve l. As Browder and Godfrey (1997) have demonstrated, urbanization has not been a monolithic phenomenon within the Amazon region. It is also possible that significant variations in urbanization have occured at the sub-regional level within Rondônia itself. Such variations would potentially result in differential outcomes for deforestation, but such potential variations have not been explored in this dissertation.

To summarize, urbanization initially occurred in large part because population gro wth was encouraged in an area whose soil resources could not sustain a sizable rural population. The population growth in turn resulted in large part from two major sets of government initiatives. The first of these were intended to attract settlers to the region both for geopolitical purposes and for the purpose of putting its resources to economically productive use. The second set of initiatives were agricultural policies which were not intended specifically to affect migration to Rondônia, but whi ch had this consequence because of the displacement of agricultural workers from other regions. I have argued that both sets of initiatives arose in part from Brazilís position in the world system: the first simply because it reflected the commodification of Brazilís natural environment, and the second because of Brazilís need to generate foreign exchange in order to service external debt.

Only the most recent literature (Browder and Godfrey 1997), which was not available at the time of the fieldwor k described below, points to recent change in the dynamics of frontier urbanization in Rondônia. That is, only in the 1990s has a shift occurred in the origin of new migrants to Rondôniaís cities. This does not contradict earlier explanations of frontier urbanization in Rondônia, but rather points to recent and fundamental change in the nature of that urbanization. Even at the time of Browder and Godfreyís 1993 fieldwork, it was not yet clear how thorough that change would be. Further disc ussion of changes in the nature of frontier urban places in Rondônia is presented in Chapter IV below.

Deforestation in Rondônia, Brazil: Frontier Urbanization and Landscape Change
James Kezar IV Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
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