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.