Photo: Pedro Prado / FARPA / CIDH (CC BY 2.0)
Last November, AIDA accompanied a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on a visit to the Mïratu Village, located in the Paquiçamba indigenous region in the state of Pará, Brazil. Mïratu is one of the indigenous communities affected by the Belo Monte Dam. It was the first time the Commission has visited that area.
During their visit to the region, the Commission heard testimonies from indigenous people and fishermen who are fighting to maintain their traditional way of life despite damages including: the death of thousands of fish; the pollution of the Xingú river; forced displacement from their lands without adequate relocation; and the development of culturally inappropriate projects. The Commission also heard from representatives of Altamira, the city nearest the dam.
Village leaders reported that those damages have disproportionately affected women and children, and expressed that they were especially concerned over next year’s scheduled implementation of a plan to manage the flow of the Xingú River. Known as a consensus hydrogram, it would divert the water that indigenous and riverine communities, as well as plants and animals, rely on to survive.
Commissioners had the opportunity to confirm the severity of the impacts and understand the urgent need to revise the criteria used to define the residual flow that the Xingu must maintain in order to guarantee the subsistence and culture of indigenous and riverine communities in the Vuelta Grande region.
Overall, Brazil has been one of the largest violators of the human rights of indigenous communities. In their meeting with the Commission, the Brazilian Indigenous Communities Organization (APIB) presented these cases and expressed its concern over the current political landscape, in which a discourse of hatred and racism has been growing, even among government institutions.
Commissioner Antonia Urrejola Noguera, IACHR Rapporteur for Brazil, said that in Brazil, indigenous communities “suffer from frequent incidents of violence and lack of attention from public services, in addition to increased difficulties and obstacles surrounding claims to their lands,” while presenting the Commission’s preliminary conclusions.
Concluding its visit to the country, the Commission urged Brazilian authorities and society in general to recognize, address, and quickly resolve repeated violations of the human rights of indigenous communities. The Commission emphasized the case of the Mïratu indigenous community, affected by the environmental damages caused by the construction of the Belo Monte Dam.
We’d like to highlight the importance of the Commission’s historic visit to Mïratu Village, and recognize the negative impacts that the Belo Monte Dam has had on the human rights of the people of the Xingu River basin. It is now up to the government of Brazil to adopt the decisions and recommendations of the Commission, complying with the rule of law and protecting the people of their country.
With the current administration’s extremely questionable decisions that signal the weakening of guarantees for indigenous peoples in Brazil, the Amazon, and the environment as a whole, demonstrating progress in international institutions and a respect for the rights of indigenous communities—in cases like the Xucuru, the Xingu, and Guyraroka peoples—, is of critical importance to strengthen rule of law in Brazil.