Tribes Occupy the Belo Monte Dam Work Site

Zachary Hurwitz

Kayapó Warrior Readies for a Response at the Belo Monte Dam Occupation
Kayapó Warrior Readies for a Response at the Belo Monte Dam Occupation
Ivan Canabrava

Early this morning on the Xingu River outside of Altamira, an estimated 600 indigenous people from 21 tribes, as well as fishermen, occupied the construction site of the Belo Monte Dam, demanding a definitive end to the project. Events are very fluid on the ground, and internet has been out in the region, so information is coming in bit by bit. We know that early on, the mobilization declared their intent to not leave the site until the Belo Monte Dam was cancelled for good.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Regional Federal Tribunal reconvened 10 days after judge Selene Maria de Almeida voted that the Belo Monte project licenses are illegal because the government failed to consult the affected indigenous tribes prior to congressional approval, thereby violating Article 231 of the Constitution. At the reconvened trial, the second of three judges of the tribunal, Judge Sebastião Fagundes de Deus, voted against judge de Almeida's decision. 

The trial is now tied at one vote in favor, and one vote against. The third and final judge must now give her decision on whether she agrees with the lawsuit that claims that tribes were not properly consulted. The trial has been delayed once more, and will reconvene for the final vote. Either way the final vote falls, both sides are ready to appeal the tribunal's decisions to the Supreme Court.

Here is our translation of the movement's declaration, issued early this morning as protestors began to occupy the construction site.

Update, 10/28/11: The occupation was suddenly disbanded late in the day yesterday when project consortium Norte Energia, S.A. requested a judicial injunction to immediately clear the protest from the work site.  Military police arrived shortly thereafter and intimidated the peaceful protestors with the threat of forcefully removing them if they did not comply with the injunction.  

Declaration of the Xingu Alliance against the Belo Monte Dam

"We will not allow the government to establish this dam or other projects affecting the lands, lives and survival of current and future generations of the Xingu Basin"

We, the 700 participants of the seminar "Territories, Environment, and Development in the Amazon: the Fight Against Large Dams in the Xingu Basin;” we, the warriors of the Araweté, Assurini do Pará, Assurini do Tocantins, Kayapó, Kraô, Apinajés, Gavião, Munduruku, Guajajara do Pará, Guajajara do Maranhão, Arara, Xipaya, Xicrin, Juruna, Guarani, Tupinambá, Tembé, Ka’apor, Tupinambá, Tapajós, Arapyun, Maytapeí, Cumaruara, Awa-Guajá and Karajas tribes, representing indigenous peoples threatened by Belo Monte and other hydroelectric dams in the Amazon; we, the fishermen, farmers, and residents of coastal cities, impacted by Belo Monte; we, the students, trade unionists, social leaders and supporters of the struggles of peoples against Belo Monte; we together affirm that we will not allow the government to build this dam or other projects affecting the lands, lives and survival of current and future generations of the Xingu Basin.

During the 25th and 26th October 2011, we met in Altamira to reaffirm our alliance and determination to resist together the project to dam and kill the Xingu River, no matter what weapons nor moral, economic or physical threats are used against us.

During the past decade, the government has returned to developing one of the most nefarious infrastructure projects created by the military dictatorship in the Amazon. During this time, we, who are all Brazilian citizens, were not considered, were not heard, nor were we consulted on the construction of Belo Monte. This is a right protected for us by the Constitution and laws of our country, and by international treaties that protect Brazil's traditional inhabitants, of which our country is a signatory.

Forced out of their land, expelled from the banks of the river by construction machines and suffocated by the dust they raise, the people of the Xingu have been brutalized by the consortium authorized by the government to clear our forests, cocoa plantations, gardens, orchards, gardens and houses on the Xingu River, destroying the river's fauna, usurping our properties in the city and the countryside, raising the cost of living, exploiting workers, and terrorizing our families with the threat of a dark future of misery, violence, drugs and prostitution. And thus the government repeats the errors, the lack of respect, and the violence caused by so many other dams forcibly imposed upon the Amazon and its peoples.

Armed with only our dignity and our rights, and strengthened by our alliance, we here declare that we have formalized a pact to fight against Belo Monte, which makes us stronger than the humiliation imposed on us so far. We have signed a pact that will keep us together until this project is wiped from the map and the history of the Xingu, a river to whom we have a debt of honor, of life, and, if the survival of the Xingu requires it, of bloodshed.

Faced with the government's intransigence in dialogue with us, and with their insistence on disrespecting us, from now on we occupy the construction site of Belo Monte and close access to it from the Trans-Amazon highway. We demand that the government send a representative here to sign a waiver to definitively paralyze all works, and to desist from building the Belo Monte Dam.

Altamira, Pará, Brazil, October 27, 2011

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