Brazil Takes Another Step Towards Belo Monte While Activists Step up the Fight

Brazil Takes Another Step Towards Belo Monte While Activists Step up the Fight

Rick Kearns

The Brazilian government has ignored legal challenges from two of it’s own agencies, national and international protests, and requests from an international human rights court to halt production on the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam due to it’s failure to comply with an international law requiring prior consultation with the affected indigenous communities. Brazilian officials have gone as far as preventing a distinguished Brazilian indigenous advocate from attending a recent United Nations event due to her opposition, but the fight over the legality of the process is not over and has gone to another international forum.

While these events are playing out President Dilma Rousseff has simultaneously unveiled an ambitious anti-poverty program called “Brazil Without Misery” which seeks to lift over 16 million Brazilians out of severe poverty, while pushing the Belo Monte project which, according to many observers, will displace at least 20,000 people and ruin the livelihoods of approximately 40,000 mostly indigenous Brazilians.

The Brazilian Government’s Environmental Agency (IBAMA) announced on June 1s that it had issued the full installation license for construction of Belo Monte to Norte Energia (NESA), the dam building consortium that had, according to prior IBAMA findings, still not complied with various social and environmental conditions required for an installation license.

Two days later, on June 3rd a group of Brazilian human rights organizations filed an official request with the United Nations Human Rights Council to address concerns they had with the building of the Belo Monte Dam.

In a joint press statement Global Justice Brazil, the Para Society of Defense of Human Rights (SDDH) and Conectas Human Rights said, “they are expressing their concern in relation to the attitude of the Brazilian government towards the precautionary measures issued by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR ) of the Organization of American States, in April, to suspend construction until the rights to prior, free and informed consultation of the indigenous peoples were met.”

In April of this year the IACHR issued a precautionary measures order, requesting that construction of the Belo Monte project be suspended until indigenous communities had a chance for prior consultation.

The matter is on the Council’s agenda for the 17th session in Geneva this year, and the activists are hoping that the UN Council will take into account several points.

“The Brazilian government is systematically ignoring warnings from the scientific community, organized civil society, environmentalists, river communities, indigenous peoples, the Public Ministry and human rights organizations,” said Roberta Amanajas, spokesperson for SDDH.  “With the issuance of the installation license, Brazil is now going over the heads of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, which is the principal defender of human rights of the Americas. How can a country defend its positions on the strengthening of multilateral entities of consensus on human rights, when it itself is systematically violating them, as with the case of Belo Monte?”

In the same press statement the group asserted that the Belo Monte project would affect the lives of at least 24 indigenous peoples, cause forced displacement and create food and water insecurities that would also lead to an increase in disease. They also noted that the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues, James Anaya, had expressed his concern over the lack of consultation with indigenous peoples in his visits in both 2009 and 2010.

It was this lack of consultation that was one of the main points that the noted activist, Azelene Kaingang, had hoped to address at the recent UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May. Kaingang is a sociologist and has participated at the Forum, was a co-chair of the OAS Indigenous Caucus and has been an official of Brazil’s own National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) for several years.  A few days before leaving for the event Kaingang was informed that she would not be sent to attend the forum. In an interview on June 6, she explained why FUNAI had prevented her attendance and why she opposes the construction of the Belo Monte dam.

“FUNAI is an agency of a government,” Kaingang stated, “that is afraid of the truth…that doesn’t want to see the truth about Belo Monte and my participation at the event was focused on participating in events at the United Nations that denounced the construction of the dam and on its consequences.”

“I oppose this,” she continued, “because the Brazilian state is violating a major component of the International Covenant on Labor, which states that indigenous people have the right to prior consultation when affected by this type of project. I oppose this because I am indigenous, because I oppose the violence committed against indigenous peoples… I oppose this because the indigenous peoples are part of the Brazilian state and as such they want to be duly consulted and participate in the process of development of the country, which is also ours. I oppose this because it puts at risk the lives and cultures of indigenous peoples, along with the fact that it will cause unprecedented environmental destruction.”

Kaingang also noted that it was ironic “without a doubt” that while the government starts its Brazil Without Misery campaign “…it is making indigenous people poor by forcing them off of their land and their traditional ways of life.”

In the meantime, a few days after the Kaingang interview, Brazil's Federal Public Prosecutor (MPF) filed its 11th civil action lawsuit against the Belo Monte project, demanding immediate suspension of the installation license due to non-compliance with a series of social and environmental safeguards that IBAMA itself had stipulated as prerequisites for dam construction to commence.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



valeria's picture
Submitted by valeria on
The Portuguese arrived in Brazil 1500. Very few women arrived from Europe during the next 300 years. Thus the first "national" families were Mestizos. Later Africans were brought to Brazil as slaves. The Portuguese - like the Spaniards in their colonies, readily created bi-racial and multi-racial families. Today the majority of Brazilians are descendants of the three races, and even the smaller minority of "whites" often has some distant indigenous or Afrian, or both, ancestries. Of the 191 million Brazilians, an estimated 40 Million known about some indigenous (Indian) ancestry and many are integrated indigenous. About 700,000 claim membership to about 235 tribes. FUNAI is the Brazilian federal organization responsible for protection and care for those tribal indigenous. --- Hydrodams produce the cleanest and most economic form of electricity. Brazil needs electricity to develop its economy - the economy which als has to provide a decent standard of life for the 30 Million people in Brazil's Amazon region - of whom the majority are of indigenous descended Mestizos or tribal Indians: A dental office, a school, a waterpump of a farmhouse - all need electricity. Brazilians resent the organized hysteria which is being generated by "environmentalist" and "indigenous rights" NGOs - which are all only from the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands. Most Brazilians suspect that those NGOs are the de facto agents of U.S. and NATO-Europe's geopolitical interest to control the resources of South America and to subvert national unity in Brazil by enciting some indigenous personalities to collaborate with the massive publicity generated by those NGOs of the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands. All of the 20+ political parties in Brazil support the construction of the Belo Monte Hydrodam, even the "Green Party" only insists in compliance with the promised social programs. The construction organizatin will spent $ 2.5 billion on new housing and new city infrastructure for the 4,000+ families (20,000 people) who will be resettled in new developments near the project. Of the 100,000+ people now residing in the Altamira city and district, 11,000 have applied for vocational training in order to work on the project. The government stated that no indigenous tribal lands will be affected by the dam. Of the 11 indigenous ethnicities in the area - about 7,000 Indians, 7 ethnicities have consented to the project. Only 2,000 belong to the 4 ethnicities that have not consented. But in any case- the land of those 2,000 will not be affected by the dam, and they too need electricity for their water pumps, TVs, computers, schools. How else and from where is going to come the electricity for the needs of their many children - most have 10, 11,12 ? Their 100 grandchildren cannot "live" on fishing and collecting nuts in the forest - and have all those items that the everybody else has in the reality of modern life. In 1989 an Indian woman "Tiure" was shown on international TV threatening the lead engineer for the Belo Monte project with a Machete and cutting him on the arm. Brazil was forced to wait another 22 years due to opposition from the NGOs of the USA and NATO-Europe. Today "Tiure" lives in a town in another part of the state, and her nephew, "Doto Tatak-Ire", is the administrator for the FUNAI (Federal Indian Service) in a town near the Belo Monte project. Doto was asked what his son thinks about the Belo Monte project. Doto answered: "He reads about it in the newspaper." Thus, much of what is published about Belo Monte in the U.S. is inflamed hysteria propagated by U.S. based and financed ("foundations") NGOs, which Brazilians suspect of having geopolitical aims, such as paralysing Brazil's agricultural exports which compete with the subsidized agricultural exports of the U.S. See in internet: "Farms here forests there"- if the "tropical" agriculture can be limited, then the U.S. agriculture can earn an ADDITIONAL $270 BILLION on exports until 2030. For Brazil's version of the Belo Monte project, see youtube: "AHE Belo Monte" - one version is in English (habis 130).