Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon

by Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)
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Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Reporting with my colleague Rodrigo in Altamira.
Reporting with my colleague Rodrigo in Altamira.

During my recent trip to the Xingu River, I witnessed the worst of the impacts of the Belo Monte Dam. 

Due to the vast environmental changes caused by the dam’s construction, more than thirty thousand people have been displaced from their homes, indigenous communities have lost their connection to the forest, and traditional fishermen have been cut off from the river.

As the people of Altamira, along with the indigenous and riverside communities in the surrounding forest, deal with the ever-increasing impacts of the dam, achieving justice for them takes on a new urgency. 

That's why I'm happy to report that this coming year, 2018, brings a new hope for Belo Monte's victims. 

On October 31, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights gave new impetus to our litigation process against Brazil: it decided to unite two stages of the process that, as a rule, as processed separately. 

That means our case before the Commission is being sped up, and we are closer to achieving a decision on the allegations of human rights violations against Brazil. 

It's thanks to your support that we've been able to continue this case, demanding justice for the people of the Xingu, even as Belo Monte has entered operations. 

The AIDA team is entering 2018 with renewed hope that our case before the Commission will soon bear fruit. We're planning visits to the region, preparing our report, listening to the victims and documenting their stories. 

Thank you for your continued support. Together we can achieve this important victory! 

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Houses in a resettlement zone near Altamira.
Houses in a resettlement zone near Altamira.

Once again, operations of the Belo Monte Dam have been ordered to stop.

Last month, a federal court in Brasilia suspended the dam’s installation license, finding fault with the operating company’s resettlement program.

It’s a decision that underscores what I saw on my recent trip to Altamira, and highlights the realities the people there are living with every day.

Not only did Norte Energía not build the three different-sized houses promised for displaced families, many of the homes they did build are now falling apart. While in Altamira, I heard of two different homes in two different neighborhoods that fully collapsed.

What’s more, the resettlement areas are located in the far reaches of the city, on freshly deforested land that borders the jungle, without proper transportation and infrastructure.

They’re far from the neighborhoods, the services, the corner stores, and the sense of community that the people of this once-tranquil jungle town grew up with. 

Many of the people in Altamira had lived in the same neighborhood all their lives—as kids they played in the streets, as adults they sat in chairs outside talking to their neighbors. Holidays and festivals were spent in community.

Now displaced from the homes they’ve always know, those affected by the dam are secluded in small, concrete houses. They’re far from their schools, their churches, their friends and families.

There are no corner stores, nowhere to walk to, and it’s too dangerous to even gather outside. They have to pay high prices for transportation to get into the city to get to work and school.

It’s a new reality for the people of Altamira—a traditional riverside town whose culture and commerce have long been based on the Xingu River.

It’s a reality they didn’t agree to, and one they certainly didn’t ask for.

The latest federal court decision is a step in the right direction for the people of Altamira.

It upholds many of the same arguments we’re making in our case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and provides evidence of the hardships those affected by the dam are living with every day.

It’s for them that we’re continuing this fight, to hold Brazil accountable for the damages they’ve endured in the name of development.

Together, we can make their voices heard. Thank you for supporting the fight for justice for the people of the Xingu. 

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AIDA's Rodrigo Sales tours affected areas.
AIDA's Rodrigo Sales tours affected areas.

Construction on the Belo Monte Dam in the Brazilian Amazon is complete and more than 90,000 workers have left the region.

For some, the job is done. But for the community surrounding the dam, life has been changed forever. Justice has not been served, the fight continues, and so does AIDA’s work.

That’s why fellow attorney Rodrigo Sales and I traveled to Altamira last month. We spent a week gathering stories, meeting with partners, and seeing first hand the realities of life on the ground.

TODAY your donation will support our work – and be matched at 50% by GlobalGiving! YOU can help us serve justice.

More than six years into this fight, it’s astounding that we still learn of new impacts of Belo Monte. There’s no end to the stories of people whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed.

During our time in Altamira, we met Pedro, one of Belo Monte’s most recent victims. A few months ago, the island he was living on flooded and Pedro lost not only his home, but also the yucca and pepper crops he relied upon for food and to make a living.

Without a home, Pedro traveled an hour down the river in his dugout canoe, known as a chalupa, to Altamira, where he slept on a pier near the river. An elderly man, he quickly got sick and was admitted to the hospital. While in the hospital, his chalupa was damaged and his fishing gear stolen.

Norte Energía, the operating company of Belo Monte, at first acknowledged that Pedro was affected by the dam, and put him up in a hotel in town. But after 10 days they kicked him out, saying his island was outside of the affected area, and left him to fend for himself.

Your gift TODAY will help us advocate for Pedro and the communities living in the shadow of the Belo Monte dam.

Now bouncing between shelters, friends’ houses and old age homes, Pedro is in a state of unrest. He says he feels threatened and that his “soul is damaged” to be so far from the river, from his island and all he knows.

After three months, Pedro finally got a piece of good news: local activists with the Movimiento Xingu Vivo got him a new chalupa so he can return to the river. But he still feels he has nowhere to go.

As for Pedro, any inkling of hope seems to lie in the hands of the local people. They are helping each other, as best they can under bad circumstances.

But they’re still waiting on justice, and we’re still fighting for it.

Today your donation will go even further:

Justice will come when Brazil is held accountable for the damages suffered by the indigenous and riverine communities of the Xingu. And when those affected have the opportunity to safely and adequately rebuild their lives.

This is our case before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. And that’s why we need your continued support.

Thank you for joining us in helping Pedro and the people of the Xingu River!

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View of Altamira. / M. Irigaray
View of Altamira. / M. Irigaray

More than a year after Belo Monte was inaugurated, problems continue to plague the Brazilian mega-dam.

In addition to being a central player in the massive Odebrecht corruption scandal, the dam project is, time and again, faulted for the complete lack of oversight and accountability with which it was instituted.

Last month, a Brazilian federal court suspended the dam’s operating license. Prosecutors said the operating company, Norte Energía, failed to complete basic sanitation work in the city of Altamira, which has been directly affected by the hydroelectric project.

The sanitation system is just one of a score of conditions that the dam was required to fulfill before filling its reservoir and beginning operations. The project has routinely ignored such conditions, and left those living in its shadow without adequate compensation and support.

The license’s suspension is an important step forward in the fight for justice for the many people and communities affected by Belo Monte.

It is the first time that a federal court has suspended one of Belo Monte's suspensão de segurança, a legal tool that was used to allow the dam's operation even though it hadn't completed the conditions required under its operating license.

In practice, the decision means that the dam must immediately halt all operations, although the completion of pending work may continue.

We are encouraged by the court’s decision and the real-life impacts it may have for people of Altamira, many of whose homes and neighborhoods have been plagued by flooded streets and sewage overflow.

As we continue our international fight for the rights of the people of the Xingu—our case remains pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—we hope the Brazilian justice system continues to guarantee the protection of the rights of all those affected by the Belo Monte Dam.

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Artesanal miners against Belo Sun. / M. Irigaray
Artesanal miners against Belo Sun. / M. Irigaray

Last month, communities of the Xingu River basin received some good news: the installation license for the Belo Sun mining project was denied!

The project is planned to be Brazil’s largest open-pit mining operation. Its implementation would further aggravate the sensitive situation of indigenous and riverine communities whose human rights have already been gravely impacted by the nearby Belo Monte Dam.

For people whose way of life has already been drastically changed by development, this small victory in the long fight to stop the mine was a needed sigh of relief. 

Belo Sun was stopped for the same reasons we’ve been fighting against Belo Monte all these years: the operator has inadequately addressed the concerns of local indigenous and riverine communities.

Since the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights authorized precautionary measures in the Belo Monte case in 2011, the government has been under international pressure to protect the life, health, and integrity of the people of the Xingú.

With this news, we’re happy to say our work to expose the injustices of Belo Monte is having an impact on development in the Brazilian Amazon.

Media coverage, international pressure and a sweeping corruption scandal have thrust Belo Monte into the spotlight. The third largest dam in the world now stands as a shining example of how not to implement energy projects in the region.

In the shadow of Belo Monte’s mistakes, the Brazilian government recently denied the license for a Tapajós River mega-dam; the denial of the Belo Sun license makes it two battles won for the interests of the people of the Xingú.

It seems the Brazilian government is finally beginning to pay attention to the rights of its traditional and indigenous populations in the face of large-scale development.

But the larger fight remains, and we won’t rest until we achieve justice for the people and communities affected by Belo Monte. 

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Organization Information

Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AIDAorg
Project Leader:
Astrid Puentes
Lima, Brazil
$18,235 raised of $20,000 goal
 
397 donations
$1,765 to go
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