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Brazil: #OccupyBeloMonte Evicted from Dam Construction Site

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon, Indigenous Rights and #Occupy Worldwide.

[All links in this post lead to Portuguese language pages.]

For a few hours on October 27, 2011, indigenous peoples from the Xingu region occupied the construction site of the Belo Monte dam following the global movement of “taking the streets against financial slavery, corruption and other forms of capitalist coercion” which started on October 15.

#OccupyBeloMonte

Movimento Xingu Vivo (Alive Xingu Movement) explains:

Cerca de 300 indígenas, pescadores e ribeirinhos da bacia do rio Xingu estão acampados pacificamente, desde a madrugada de hoje, no canteiro de obras de Belo Monte para exigir a paralisação das obras da usina hidrelétrica, em Altamira, no Pará.  A rodovia Transamazônica, na altura do quilômetro 50, também foi interditada. O protesto não tem prazo para terminar.

Indigenous wields bow and arrow in front of the construction site. © Ivan Canabrava/ Illuminati filmes shared by Xingu Vivo (used with permission)

Indigenous wields bow and arrow in front of the construction site. © Ivan Canabrava/ Illuminati filmes shared by Xingu Vivo (used with permission)

Around 300 indigenous people, fishermen and river dwellers from the area of Xingu river are peacefully camping, since dawn today, in the Belo Monte construction site to demand the interruption of the works on the hydroelectric power plant, in Altamira, Para [state]. The Transamazônica highway, around kilometer 50, was also banned. The protest has no deadline to be finished.

Though the #OccupyBeloMonte protest intended the occupation of the plant – that belongs to the company Norte Energia – to last indefinitely, in fact it only lasted until the following day, as Professor Sonia explains on her blog, Personal Escritor:

Foi expedida ordem judicial para que saíssem, mas houve resistência. A desocupação se deu hoje, 28 de outubro de 2011, através de policiais federais e de soldados da Força Nacional.

A court order was issued so that they would leave, but there was resistance. The eviction took place today, October 28 2011, through the federal police and soldiers of the Força Nacional (National Force).

Programmer Walter Gandarella, from the blog Pare Belo Monte (Stop Belo Monte) criticized Norte Energia (North Energy), which he calls Morte Energia (Death Energy, a play with words), for carrying out the construction of the plant without consulting or respecting the surrounding population:

Pois bem, dona Morte Ener­gia, vocês não sou­be­ram ouvir as comu­ni­da­des antes do iní­cio das obras, como manda a cons­ti­tui­ção e as leis para licen­ci­a­mento ambi­en­tal, mas se dizem estar fazendo a coisa certa. É mesmo? [...]

Como quem não deve, não teme, e já que a Norte Ener­gia alega que ouviu todas as comu­ni­da­des que seriam afe­ta­das, qual o pro­blema em pro­var isto levando a público estes rela­tó­rios bem como as pro­vas docu­men­tais de cada reu­nião feita com as comu­ni­da­des?

Well, ‘Ms. Death Energy', you were unable to listen to the communities before the works started, as mandated by the constitution and laws for environmental licensing, but you say you're doing the right thing. Really? [...]

As one who owes nothing, fears nothing, and seeing that Norte Energia claims that it has heard all the communities that would be affected, what is the issue with proving this by bringing to the public arena these reports as well as the documentary evidence of each meeting held with the communities?

Indigenous protestors at the entrance of the construction site. © Ivan Canabrava/ Illuminati filmes shared by Movimento Xingu Vivo (used with permission).

Indigenous protestors at the entrance of the construction site. © Ivan Canabrava/ Illuminati filmes shared by Movimento Xingu Vivo (used with permission).

And he also criticized the Brazilian press for keeping silent about the occupation,  saying that if not “the news would completely destabilize the firm position of the Government to persevere the construction of the dam”:

Muita gente, sabendo o mínimo sobre este empre­en­di­mento, já é logo con­tra este absurdo, ima­gina então se a maior par­cela da popu­la­ção tomasse conhe­ci­mento? Real­mente seria uma tra­gé­dia para os pla­nos de “desen­vol­vi­mento sus­ten­tá­vel” do país.

Many people, knowing the least about this venture, immediately stands against this non-sense; can you imagine if a bigger fraction of the population was aware? It would truly be a tragedy for the “sustainable develompment” plans of the country.

Lucas Morais, writing for Diário Liberdade (Liberty Journal), criticizes the government for the intransigence on the construction of the dam:

Mas, se o governo insiste na pauta dos Direitos Humanos, o que tem a dizer sobre os indígenas que ali têm suas terras tradicionais? E os ribeirinhos? E os mais de 300 mil habitantes da região que terão suas vidas afetadas diretamente? Será que Dilma Rousseff seguirá insistindo na pauta dos direitos humanos tendo em vista toda essa flagrante violência contra os povos originários e brasileiros?

But, if the government insists on the Human Rights agenda, what can it say about the indigenous who have their traditional lands there? And the river dwellers? And the more than 300,000 inhabitants of the region who will have their lives directly affected? Could it be that Dilma Rousseff will keep insisting on the human rights agenda with a view at the blatant violence against native and Brazilian peoples?

Video from the user Midialivre (free media) on YouTube with images from the dam site occupation:

Besides several lawsuits against Belo Monte in Brazilian courts, in April the government was convicted by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) who has pressured the government to dialogue with the indigenous and river dwellers who will be affected by the dam either directly or indirectly.

Refusing to follow the order of the Commission, the country had been once again summoned to explain itself and to negotiate with the local population in a meeting scheduled for October 26 in Washington. Once again Brazil has refused to even sending a representative to dialogue with the organizations that advocate for the victims, which may lead to a new condemnation of Brazil.

National Force intervention

The police arrive to evict the dam site area. Photo by Movimento Xingu Vivo (CC BY 3.0)

The police arrive to evict the dam site area. Photo by Movimento Xingu Vivo (CC BY 3.0)

The natives from Xingu have sent an open letter stating that though they had been expelled from the construction site by the so-called Força Nacional, they will keep resisting the construction of Belo Monte.

Reactions on Twitter didn't take long to appear. Blogger and translator Lucas Morais criticized the decision of the government on imposing a permanent settlement of the Força Nacional on site, to avoid new “invasions”:

@Luckaz: Belo Monte terá alojamento para abrigar Força Nacional http://is.gd/HXDnDw Que beleza de direitos humanos, hein?

@Luckaz: Belo Monte will have accommodation to house the Força Nacional http://is.gd/HXDnDw How beautiful, human rights, right?

Civil policeman Caetano Pacheco said that the initiative is illegal, whereas “Força Nacional is not in the Art. 144 of the Federal Constitution”:

@cp_vader: A Força Nacional é uma excrescência ilegítima criada por decreto. Não tem legitimidade conferida pela Constituição para agir como polícia.

@cp_vader: The National Force is an illegitimate outgrowth which has been created by decree. It has no legitimacy conferred by the Constitution to act as police.

The organization Justiça Global (Global Justice), on Twitter (@justicaglobal), informed that the Transamazônica highway had been closed, and also on Twitter the blog collective Pare Belo Monte (@PareBeloMonte) informed that there are 21 indigenous ethnic groups engaged in the occupation and struggle against Belo Monte, as well as fishermen and local farmers.

Professor Idelber Avelar pointed out that some people who showed solidarity with the occupation movement around the world were criticizing the occupation of Belo Monte:

@iavelar: Gente que apoiou #OccupyWallStreet agora repete argumento da polícia EUA p/desqualificar ocupação de Belo Monte. Coerência manda lembranças.

@iavelar: People who supported #OccupyWallStreet are now repeating the plea of US police to disqualify the occupation of Belo Monte. “Coherence sends postcards”.

Despite fears of violence during the night, with the indigenous groups surrounded by the riot battalion, military police and National Force, the next day the eviction took place smoothly.

A group on Facebook was created to update the occupation and the next moves of the local indigenous community who, according to note that has been widely shared by several movements, promised to resist.

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon, Indigenous Rights and #Occupy Worldwide.

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