Fear and Loathing at Tucuruí, Part Two

MAB and police

The Brazilian government is tightening the screws on anti-dam protestors. The Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), unable to engage the government or dam builders in constructive dialogues on respecting the rights of local populations has often resorted to civil disobedience - blocking roads, sitting in at public agencies, and occupying dams - as a tool to get them to the table.

But, on April 27, police in Pará state broke up MAB's occupation of the work site for navigation locks at Tucuruí Dam. Reportedly some of the protestors were beaten, and 18 leaders of the movement were hauled away to prison in the state capital, charged with violating "a protected area" and "a national security zone", covering all sides of the continuum. Newspaper articles hinted that the MAB protestors were planning sabotage of the dam, and that they were carrying explosives. Apparently none were found.

The arrests and ongoing detention of leaders of the movement are a serious escalation of the criminalization of dam fighters, especially significant coming as it did at the largest dam in the Amazon, where 100 more are planned. Activists opposing other dams in Amazonia say they have been visited by Brazilian security agents but have not been intimidated in any way.

International Rivers has issued an urgent action request for letters to the judge handling the case. It's important that we don't let persecution and intimidation of social movements become the order of the day in the Amazon.