Indigenous Belo Monte Protestors Confront Brazilian Government Officials
"We did not bring wish lists. We are against dams. We demand the federal government's commitment to consult us and ensure our right to veto projects that destroy us," stated a letter by indigenous protestors who recently met with Brazilian government officials in a meeting that did not result in any change of policy.
Over 140 indigenous protestors were flown to Brazil's capital, Brasilia, on June 4th by government officials in an effort to reach a resolution to the ongoing protests against the construction of mega-dams such as Belo Monte and a recent law halting the return of lands to indigenous people.
The meeting did not result in any specific promises from the government officials, lead by President Dilma Rousseff's Chief of Staff, Gilberto Carvalho but included others from the federal indigenous agency called FUNAI and the Catholic Bishops of Brazil.
After hearing the protestors calls for ending construction of the projects and for prior consultation Carvalho reportedly said, "I'm not going to lie to you, you will have no right to veto."
The government proposed another meeting in 20 days in Tapajós, but there was no agreement to do so by the end of the meeting. Indigenous activist announced that they would stay in Brasilia until a satisfactory resolution was found; some decided to stage protests in front of the Planalto Palace in the following days. The indigenous delegation had been occupying part of the Belo Monte dam project for 17 days and on that same day (June 4th) they agreed to meet with Carvalho.
In a letter released on the 4th, indigenous activists from the Mundurukú, Xipaya, Kayapó, Arara, Tupinambás peoples and others released a strongly worded open letter to the government that explained their demand for prior consultation and their anger and frustration over treatment of indigenous people in general.
"We have not come to an agreement with you. We accept this meeting in Brasilia because the more we said we would not leave, the more you sent police to the work camp. And on the same day that we were to be removed by force by the police, you killed one of our relatives, a Terena in Mato Grosso do Sul. Therefore we decided that we did not want another death. We avoided a tragedy, not you. You do not prevent tragedies, you commit them.
"We came here to speak to you of another tragedy that we will fight to prevent: the loss of our territory and our life. We did not come to negotiate with you, because one cannot negotiate with territory nor life. We are against the construction of dams that kill indigenous land, because they kill culture when they kill fish and drown the land. This kills us without needing a weapon. You continue killing a lot, simply a lot. You have killed too much, for 513 years.
"We did not come to talk only about dams on the Tapajós, as you are telling the press. We came to Brasilia to demand the suspension of feasibility studies and the construction of dams on the Xingu, Tapajós, and Teles Pires Rivers.
"But no. You trample everything and do what they [the dam building companies] want. And to achieve that you do everything to divide Indigenous Peoples. We came here to tell you to stop, because we will resist together and stand united. We have been gathered for 35 days in Altamira, and for 17 days we occupied the main hydroelectric dam that you are building. Along with this letter we are sending all the letters from the two occupations that we carried out. Read everything carefully to understand our movement. And in so doing respect us, as you have not done up until today."