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
A Summary of Some of the Impacts of Belo Monte
A Summary of Some of the Impacts of Belo Monte

A year ago YOU helped us launch the biggest individual donor campaign in AIDA’s history, for our work in one of the world’s most important ecosystems - the Amazon rainforest.  This precedent-setting case will demonstrate to Brazil, and the world, that communities can not be brazenly pushed aside for economic interests. 

Your support this year has enabled us to provide the communities in the region of the Belo Monte dam construction with legal advice and training.  As well, we have advocated on their behalf before Brazilian national courts and international forums including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  At NO COST to them.

Just last week in a webinar, I described AIDA's role in pressuring the Brazilian government to comply with its own environmental impact assessment policies, and international standards for consultation with affected communities.  Furthermore, I described the social impacts on displaced communities that have already resulted in:

  • Increased poverty and associated social conflicts
  • Inadequate or unavailable health services
  • Contaminated drinking water
  • Loss of farming and fishing grounds on which families depend for food

It is estimated that Belo Monte will lead to the forced displacement of more than 20,000 indigenous people - but independent estimates double this number! The social ramifications could be massive.

This week we are asking you to close the gap on our funding goal - we have $12,500 to go.

TOMORROW - Wednesday, May 7th - starting at 9 am Eastern, Global Giving will match donations up to $1,000 at 30%, until funds run out.  This boosts every gift, making our goal more accessible!

  • Would you match or increase your gift this year?
  • Could you forward this to 5 friends asking them to join you in supporting this case?

Thank you for considering a donation!  And, for being an advocate, for the Amazon and AIDA!

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It's been one year since we launched a Global Giving campaign to help fund our work with indigenous peoples of the Xingu River basin who live in the shadows of construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, deep in the Amazon rainforest.

With your support, we have successfully raised nearly $7,500.  These funds have supported AIDA's efforts to investigate, advise, advocate, and litigate, in collaboration with and as representatives of our indigenous clients.

Recently AIDA attorneys presented information in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to question Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff about her administration's use of a legal mechanism that has resulted in suspension of lawsuits on behalf of indigenous rights to "free, prior and informed" consultation and consent.  Known as "Suspension Security" this mechanism has allowed projects such as Belo Monte to move forward in violation of the Brazilian Constitution and international human rights conventions.  Our attorneys, indigenous leaders, and other advocates argued before the IACHR that this repressive law allows Brazil's chief justices to arbitrarily overturn legal decisions that protect the environment and rights of indigenous peoples, for the purpose of economic interests.

Challenging to understand?

Yes! The work our AIDA attorneys do is often quite complicated.  And sometimes it takes years to achieve change.  But legal advocacy is a critical part of assuring protection for the Amazon and affected communities, and even global climate.

To learn more, join our lead attorney, María José Veramendi, for a one-hour webinar prestentation and Q&A:  Tuesday, April 29th at Noon PDT/3 pm EDT.  Register here and we'll send you a reminder with all details.

Also - on Wednesday, May 7th starting at 9 am EDT - Global Giving will match your donations at 30%!  Our goal is to raise another $7,500 for this work, in support of indigenous peoples and the Amazon.  

Many thanks,

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A good reason to help the Xingu people.
A good reason to help the Xingu people.

We won’t give up.

This is AIDA’s motto for defending the rights of local Brazilians who face forced relocation as construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam moves forward in the Amazon.

The Brazilian government is building the world’s third-largest dam on the Xingu River under the guise of meeting a growing demand for energy. One of the costs, according to official estimates, is the displacement of at least 20,000 people from indigenous and river communities. Their traditional lands will be flooded and their ways of life destroyed.

But the people of the Xingu won’t be drowned quietly. They have organized to stand up for their rights.

The government is so determined that it has hired spies to infiltrate the opposition movement. It has deployed public security forces to patrol the construction site and break up protests. And it plans to beef up controls in June and July, when global attention will focus on Brazil for the World Cup.

Now Brazil’s government wants to criminalize protests against infrastructure projects, even if the affected communities are only voicing their dismay that they’ve been denied a basic constitutional and internationally recognized right to have a say in what happens.

Throw in the towel?

Not us. With your donations, AIDA is working to ensure that the people of the Xingu will be assured the right to be heard, to be consulted, and to live in a healthy environment.

One focus of AIDA’s strategy is to tackle a legal instrument called Suspension of Security, which Brazil established during a military dictatorship. Higher courts have used it several times to “protect the public interest” by overruling lower courts, which, in the case of Belo Monte, have halted dam construction until the government consults and provides adequate protection and compensation for affected communities.

At the sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 10, AIDA’s attorney Alexandre Sampaio will explain how Brazil is using Suspension of Security to violate the human rights of Brazil’s indigenous peoples. Additionally, we are advocating, through the preparation and presentation of legal briefs, for the Supreme Court to reject Suspension of Security and determine that the project was illegal from the beginning. We have also asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to analyze the human rights implications of Suspension of Security.

AIDA provides all of its work free of charge to the people we help. Your donations through Global Giving provide the critical support that allows AIDA’s attorneys to pursue this challenging and important legal work, which empowers Amazon communities to defend their rights.

Please consider making another gift in support of this work, helping in our “never-say-never” fight against Belo Monte.

With great appreciation,

The AIDA Team

An opposition leader protests against Belo Monte.
An opposition leader protests against Belo Monte.
Signs of protest at a city meeting on Belo Monte.
Signs of protest at a city meeting on Belo Monte.
An indigenous family in Brazil's Xingu basin.
An indigenous family in Brazil's Xingu basin.
Construction proceeds on the Belo Monte dam.
Construction proceeds on the Belo Monte dam.

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AIDA interviews a man displaced by Belo Monte.
AIDA interviews a man displaced by Belo Monte.

Deep in the Brazilian Amazon, Élio winces as he lifts yet another 50-kilo bag of cement. The back pain is severe as he works construction in Altamira, a sprawling city seemingly a long way from his home on the banks of the Xingu River where, for years, he made a living as a fisherman.

But he can’t go home anymore. “There’s nothing left of the community,” he said.

Élio is one of 20,000 officially counted indigenous and riverine people (independent estimates double this number) who are being forced off their traditional lands to make way for the Belo Monte mega-dam. The government says it’s necessary to supply power to a growing nation, despite evidence of more energy efficient alternatives. And the authorities are pushing forward even though the affected communities have been denied a basic constitutional and internationally recognized right to have a say in what happens on their lands.

With your support, AIDA has been advocating for them in Brazilian government and international forums. Just last week two of AIDA’s attorneys were on site to interview displaced people, assess damage to their communities and lands, and to chronicle these impacts in writing, in photos and on video.

What our team experienced was disheartening. “Of my trips to visit the Xingu communities, this has been one of the most difficult,” said attorney María José Veramendi. “The damage is enormous and the situation is rapidly worsening. People have been pushed to the brink - their lands, their livelihoods, their culture, their communities have been taken away. It is truly an atrocity.”

Confused and crying, Élio told AIDA’s attorneys that the 60 families in his Santo Antônio community have been relocated. He’s lost touch with family members and life-long friends, leaving him feeling alone, uprooted and isolated. He now lives in a borrowed room in the middle of the vast city of Altamira. He can’t even visit his ancestors as Norte Energia S.A., the company building the dam, has taken the community cemetery property.

Another interviewee, José Alexandre, said he now must rely on getting his sustenance from his sons, who have become farmers. He can no longer fish and hunt as his Arroz Cru riverside community has done for generations. Not that there is much to catch anymore. He and the Juruna indigenous people say the bright lights and dynamite blasts from the Belo Monte construction site are frightening away the animals and fish they have traditionally relied on for food. As a replacement, the construction company is supplying crops, but some of them are not even fit to plant on their lands.

While AIDA’s attorneys learned that Norte Energia has built wells in some indigenous communities, a nurse at the Juruna community health center said the water is not drinkable. Chlorine must be added. And the state is failing to provide even basic medicine and emergency services for the communities. The health centers provided by the state for indigenous peoples in Altamira are so filthy that “you come out sicker than when you got there,” an indigenous woman told them. She and many others now must pay dearly for private doctors.

Your donations via Global Giving have supported the work of AIDA’s attorneys to integrate this first-hand evidence of human rights abuses into on-going testimony and legal arguments delivered to Brazilian authorities and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In this season of giving, please consider a year-end gift to help us reclaim the rights of those who have had so much taken away. 

And, please, share this with a friend. All new donor gifts to AIDA will be matched through a challenge grant from the U.S.-based Swift Foundation, doubling your gift!

With great appreciation and best wishes for a wonderful holiday,

The AIDA Team

With Belo Monte, Jose must find a new way of life.
With Belo Monte, Jose must find a new way of life.
"We don't want the Belo Monte dam."
"We don't want the Belo Monte dam."
Construction moves forward on the Belo Monte dam.
Construction moves forward on the Belo Monte dam.
The sun sets over the Xingu River in the Amazon.
The sun sets over the Xingu River in the Amazon.

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An indigenous man at a Belo Monte protest
An indigenous man at a Belo Monte protest

Far in the north of Brazil, indigenous communities peacefully occupied the construction site of the massive Belo Monte hydropower dam twice in May and June.

The government responded by calling in the military to remove them.

This reaction is a sign of the extreme tension surrounding construction of the world’s third-largest dam. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is promoting the project as progress, saying that it will help develop the Amazon and expand the economy. So determined is her administration to build Belo Monte and another 100 or more dams in the Amazon that she has deployed the military to defend builders and the teams carrying out environmental impact studies. 

Now the military has orders to disband any protests and assure continued construction of the dams.

AIDA is working with the communities affected by this steamrolling. We are helping them to develop legal strategies to defend their rights to their homeland and their lives.

Thanks to your contributions, we have hired an attorney to work exclusively on the Belo Monte case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which provides a mechanism and critical tools for defending human rights in the Western Hemisphere and investigates complaints of any such abuses. AIDA regularly updates the IACHR on the situation of the communities.

The communities – indigenous and non-indigenous – want to have a say in what happens on their native lands, exercising a basic constitutional right. The multi-billion dollar dam will divert almost all of the water flow on a section of the Xingu River, destroying fishing grounds and depriving entire communities of water for agriculture. This will cost them food, jobs and access to a river that is vital for travel and trade. At least 20,000 people will be displaced from their homes.

Will the government listen to the communities?

That is not certain. As the military moved in on the protestors a few months ago, the Rousseff administration attempted to placate them by flying 150 indigenous leaders to Brasilia for talks. The protestors met with Presidential Secretary General Gilberto Carvalho in the capital. But they were turned away from the other meetings they requested, and they were prevented from delivering a letter to Rousseff.  

Carvalho told the indigenous leaders that there’s no stopping Belo Monte. Worse, the indigenous leaders returned home to face yet another blow. The government had submitted bills to Congress designed to make it easier to build dams, farms, mines, roads and other developments on indigenous lands -- on their lands.

AIDA responded by informing several United Nations Special Rapporteurs of the government’s intentions to violently break up the protests. We also warned these independent experts that the government could commit other human rights abuses against indigenous peoples as they continue to express their opposition to the construction of Belo Monte.

Additionally, AIDA issued an open letter demanding that Brazilian authorities investigate the case of espionage on the protest movement that we reported on in our last project report. We are insisting that the government protect the safety of the movement’s members and their right to freedom of assembly.

We greatly appreciate your support in helping to fight this atrocity in the Amazon. You can also help by sharing this report and our work with others, and by continuing to donate to this critical cause.

The Amazon communities need all the help they can get.

Thank you!

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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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