Brazilian mine spill shows how Canadian export credit risks getting tangled up in abuses.

(Above Ground, Ottawa, 11 January 2016) Thomas L. Friedman's "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century" suggests that a level playing field has emerged in the world of global commerce, affording competitors equal opportunity. But this analysis ignores government intrusion in the form of massive loans to favoured players and projects. Case in point: last November’s immense mine spill in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil's worst environmental disaster, which Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff compared to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Fifty million tons of toxic waste flooded the Doce River, leaving a wake of destruction for hundreds of kilometres. At least 19 are dead and thousands have lost their homes and livelihoods. Indigenous Krenak people demanding safe drinking water have blocked the local railway. The Brazilian government is suing the mine’s joint venture owners, which includes Brazilian multinational Vale [formerly INCO], for over $5 billion USD. There is a direct Canadian connection to this venture. Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation, provided Vale with hundreds of millions of dollars in financing for its global operations, most recently in 2014.