Update from the Amazon: the Struggle Continues

By Berklee Lowrey-Evans

Late at night on May 8, a federal judge declared that the peaceful protestors from seven Amazonian indigenous groups could be forcibly removed from their occupation of the Belo Monte Dam site. Thank you so much to all of you who responded to the call to action on the 9th and contacted President Dilma and other members of the Brazilian government. This show of support and solidarity helped to ensure there was no violentce by the police and military.

Negotiations continued throughout the day, and on the evening of May 9 the protestors decided to leave of their own accord rather than face the threat of violence from the amassing police and military troops. The letter below is from the official Belo Monte Dam occupation blog and is the protestors' statement explaining why they left the dam site.

Letter 6: For society to understand our occupation, the struggle continues

We occupied the main construction site of the Belo Monte Dam for eight days. We want the law on consultation to be properly defined and regulated. And until there is proper consultation of the Indigenous groups we want the suspension of all work and studies on the Xingu, Tapajós and Teles Pires dam projects, of which we were not consulted.

Yesterday the judiciary ruled that we were to be removed from the construction site.

Protestors gather to decry the ban on lawyers and journalists at the occupation of Belo Monte on May 7, 2013.
Protestors gather to decry the ban on lawyers and journalists at the occupation of Belo Monte on May 7, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Paygomuyatpu Munduruku via mundurukudenuncia on Flickr

During the occupation the government barred people from entering, censored journalists, prevented lawyers from assisting us, and did not even allow us to bring in charcoal to cook our food. Cars with health workers were locked out and had to enter on foot. You did not let us build a radio so that we could talk to our relatives, which left our families worried.

We were constantly surrounded by the Military Police, Rotam, Shock Troops, National Force, Federal Police, Civil Police, Army and Federal Highway Police. And the managers and heads of Norte Energia were constantly intimidating and pressuring us.

You tried to choked the press with lies. You made phone calls pressuring and intimidating journalist. As always, you pushed and manipulated our relatives, trying to pit us against each other.

We are afraid of what might happen, as the deputy head of the Federal Police (responsible for the report on which the horrible decision of Federal Judge Selene Almeida was based) is the wife of the lead attorney for Norte Energia, the plaintiff in the case to force us to withdraw from the dam site.

We were forcibly removed from the construction site. A force even greater than the weapons of their army.

Our departure was peaceful because we decided that it would be peaceful. It was clear that the government would do whatever was necessary to get us to leave. We left because we were forced. We waited a week for the government to arrive and no one came. We eventually understood that they would not come and that they would only keep sending police. We saw the cops holding their guns, bombs and shields in front of us. And we knew what that meant.

We left unsatisfied.

You tried to say that our agenda was just about the dam on the Tapajós River. But our struggle refers to a dozen dams on three rivers and this struggle did not end just because we were removed from the occupation site.

Our fight is starting again and that’s a victory. A victory that is ours – it is not a victory of the justice system or of the government. The government does not know the indigenous peoples. Things are bad in Brazil. And we will change that.

Altamira, May 10, 2013

More information: 
  • Our friends at Amazon Watch are raising money to continue to support this struggle. Any amount you can give is truly appreciated, and will be passed on entirely in support of the indigenous and riverine communities who are resisting the damming and destruction of the Xingu, Tapajós and Telel Pires rivers.
Monday, May 13, 2013