Hundreds Occupy Belo Monte Dam Site in Brazilian Amazon

October 31, 2011 at 7:14 pm (Indigenous, Land Occupations) (, , )

An estimated 600 Indigenous people, fishermen, and others from the Xingu River basin have gathered to occupy the construction site of the Belo Monte Dam project in the state of Pará, Brazil.

Photo by Ivan Canabrava / Illuminati Filmes

The protest arrives one day after the second judge from the Regional Federal Tribunal voted against judge Selene Maria de Almeida’s landmark decision against the Belo Monte dam.

Judge Selene Maria de Almeida’s decision (which is not to be confused with last month’s decision by judge Carlos Castro Martins to suspend the construction of the dam) found that the government illegally issued the project’s environmental licenses because it failed to properly consult affected Indigenous peoples beforehand. That failure, according to judge Selene Maria de Almeida, is a direct violation of Article 231 of Brazil’s Constitution.

“The trial is now tied at one vote in favor, and one vote against,” says International Rivers. “The third and final judge must now give her decision on whether she agrees with the lawsuit that claims that tribes were not properly consulted. The trial has been delayed once more, and will reconvene for the final vote. Either way the final vote falls, both sides are ready to appeal the tribunal’s decisions to the Supreme Court.”

The protesters, on the other hand, have vowed to continue their protest until the Belo Monte dam project is brought to a decisive end.

Help support the peaceful protest: http://www.causes.com/campaigns/158177

Below: a report on the protest from Amazon Watch; and a declaration from the Xingu Alliance.

Hundreds Occupy Belo Monte Dam Site in Brazilian Amazon

Altamira, Brazil – Hundreds of indigenous leaders, fishermen and riverine people from the Xingu River basin have gathered to occupy the Belo Monte Dam construction site in a peaceful protest to stop its construction in Altamira, located in the state of Pará in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. They have vowed to permanently occupy the site and are calling on allied organizations and movements to join them.

The Trans-Amazon Highway (BR-230) has been blocked around the Santo Antônio village, where it passes the proposed construction site. Groups are demanding the presence of a Brazilian government high-level official at the site to initiate a new round of negotiations that are transparent, inclusive and respectful of the rights of local people affected by the dam.

“Belo Monte will only succeed if we do nothing about it. We will not be silent. We will shout out loud and we will do it now,” said Juma Xipaia, a local indigenous leader. “We only demand what our Constitution already ensures us: our rights. Our ancestors fought so we could be here now. Many documents and meetings have already transpired and nothing has changed. The machinery continues to arrive to destroy our region.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) has requested explanation as to why the Brazilian Government did not act to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples affected by the dam, as requested by the IAHCR in April. According to the OAS, the Brazilian Government has an obligation of consulting and informing indigenous peoples who will be affected by the dam prior to construction.

Yesterday, the government of Brazil refused to attend a closed hearing convened by the IAHCR intended to foster dialogue toward resolving conflict and discuss failures in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples threatened by the proposed Belo Monte Dam. Plans for the project ignore international protections such as the right to free, prior and informed consent, and jeopardize the health, livelihood and ancestral lands of thousands of indigenous peoples.

Last Monday, a federal judge in Brazil voted that the environmental licensing of the controversial Belo Monte Dam is illegal given the lack of consultations with affected indigenous communities.

For more information, contact:
Caroline Bennett, + 1 415 487 9600, caroline@amazonwatch.org
Christian Poirier (in Brazil), + 55 116597 8359, christian@amazonwatch.org

Sheyla Juruna, indigenous leader from Brazil, available for interviews in Washington, D.C.
(Hi-res photos available upon request)

Declaration of the Xingu Alliance against the Belo Monte Dam

“We will not allow the government to establish this dam or other projects affecting the lands, lives and survival of current and future generations of the Xingu Basin”

We, the 700 participants of the seminar “Territories, Environment, and Development in the Amazon: the Fight Against Large Dams in the Xingu Basin;” we, the warriors of the Araweté, Assurini do Pará, Assurini do Tocantins, Kayapó, Kraô, Apinajés, Gavião, Munduruku, Guajajara do Pará, Guajajara do Maranhão, Arara, Xipaya, Xicrin, Juruna, Guarani, Tupinambá, Tembé, Ka’apor, Tupinambá, Tapajós, Arapyun, Maytapeí, Cumaruara, Awa-Guajá and Karajas tribes, representing indigenous peoples threatened by Belo Monte and other hydroelectric dams in the Amazon; we, the fishermen, farmers, and residents of coastal cities, impacted by Belo Monte; we, the students, trade unionists, social leaders and supporters of the struggles of peoples against Belo Monte; we together affirm that we will not allow the government to build this dam or other projects affecting the lands, lives and survival of current and future generations of the Xingu Basin.

During the 25th and 26th October 2011, we met in Altamira to reaffirm our alliance and determination to resist together the project to dam and kill the Xingu River, no matter what weapons nor moral, economic or physical threats are used against us.

During the past decade, the government has returned to developing one of the most nefarious infrastructure projects created by the military dictatorship in the Amazon. During this time, we, who are all Brazilian citizens, were not considered, were not heard, nor were we consulted on the construction of Belo Monte. This is a right protected for us by the Constitution and laws of our country, and by international treaties that protect Brazil’s traditional inhabitants, of which our country is a signatory.

Forced out of their land, expelled from the banks of the river by construction machines and suffocated by the dust they raise, the people of the Xingu have been brutalized by the consortium authorized by the government to clear our forests, cocoa plantations, gardens, orchards, gardens and houses on the Xingu River, destroying the river’s fauna, usurping our properties in the city and the countryside, raising the cost of living, exploiting workers, and terrorizing our families with the threat of a dark future of misery, violence, drugs and prostitution. And thus the government repeats the errors, the lack of respect, and the violence caused by so many other dams forcibly imposed upon the Amazon and its peoples.

Armed with only our dignity and our rights, and strengthened by our alliance, we here declare that we have formalized a pact to fight against Belo Monte, which makes us stronger than the humiliation imposed on us so far. We have signed a pact that will keep us together until this project is wiped from the map and the history of the Xingu, a river to whom we have a debt of honor, of life, and, if the survival of the Xingu requires it, of bloodshed.

Faced with the government’s intransigence in dialogue with us, and with their insistence on disrespecting us, from now on we occupy the construction site of Belo Monte and close access to it from the Trans-Amazon highway. We demand that the government send a representative here to sign a waiver to definitively paralyze all works, and to desist from building the Belo Monte Dam.

Altamira, Pará, Brazil, October 27, 2011

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