Lula's Own Hollywood Version of Belo Monte

Zachary Hurwitz
Protestors in Altamira, Pará
Protestors in Altamira, Pará
Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre

A politician will say anything to support his party in an election year. That's why in his scripted blame of opposition to Belo Monte, Lula continually reverts to the same character: the green gringo, whose eco-fetish impedes Brazil's development.  

But a delusional person will do anything to sustain his own version of reality. This is why, behind the scenes of his latest media rant, a strong military presence physically intimated 400 riverine, indigenous, and urban protestors from the Xingu region that sought to debate with Lula during his visit to the city of Altamira, Pará.

Lula has his own Hollywood script of Belo Monte, to be sure. Yet the more that Lula believes in it, the more he becomes deaf to the growing consensus in public opinion that the dam's economic and ecological risks could lead to disaster.

A statement by the Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre, of which International Rivers is a part, describes Lula's visit to Altamira, below.

And read O Globo columnist Miriam Leitão's critique of Lula's anti-gringo rants.

Statement Regarding Lula’s visit to Altamira, Pará

Deaf, blind and careless

A strong repressive apparatus consisting of the Brazilian Armed Forces, shock troops, and military police prevented the protests of around 400 riverine people, small farmers, students and teachers against the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam from reaching President Lula this week, in the city of Altamira, Pará.

Federal government representative Geraldo Magela, a collaborator of Minister Luis Dulci, the General Secretary of the Presidency, led the police forces that blocked the protesters’ entrance to the stadium where Lula addressed a small audience. The police targeted and personally searched social movement leaders, and confiscated banners and any other material that opposed Belo Monte.

As if it were not enough to be prevented from taking their demands to the president, those who would be impacted by the hydroelectric dam were publicly humiliated, and referred to as little boys, as ignorant individuals. Trying to compare himself to them, Lula mentioned that in his youth, he absurdly believed that the Itaipu hydroelectric plant would cause earthquakes, climate change or the shifting of the earth’s axis. "If they [the protesters] had the patience to listen," said Lula. If only Lula had such patience, he would know that the fears of the people of the Xingu are not mere fantasies. These are real fears of those who are threatened by the destruction of their home, their way of life, their sources of livelihood, and all the immeasurable beauty that makes life worth living in the Xingu.

Blinded by his carelessness, the president did not see that the faces of the protesters were brown, white and black, wrinkled, sunburned and sweaty from the heat that so bothered Lula. There weren’t any "gringos," despite his claim while inaugurating a steel plant at his next stop in Marabá.

"We need to show the world that we, more than anybody, want to take care of our forests," affirmed Lula. Who’s “we?” The government, that builds mega-projects that destroy the forest? No; it’s us, the ones protesting, who know how to take care of the forests, who have been trying to make ourselves heard, desperately. We are the ones who have historically taken care of the environment and nature, because this is all we have.

Lula spoke about $4 billion reais "to take care of the riverine people." Should this make us happy? Should this pay for the destruction of our lives and the lives of future generations? Should we celebrate by silencing ourselves?

This week in Pará, there was room for only one voice: an arrogant, careless and disdainful one. Lula, the federal government, and the state government, which have so far made no effort to listen to the appeals of the people threatened by Belo Monte, again ignored and turned their backs on the fears and dreams of the riverine people, the farmers, the residents of stilt houses of Altamira. Once more, despite all the hope and anxiety in their voices, these citizens again had the door slammed in their face.

Altamira, Pará, Brazil

June 23rd, 2010

Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre, Via Campesina (MAB, CIMI, CPT, PJR, FEAB, ABEEF), MMCC, UJS, Consulta Popular, DA-UFPA, PJ, SINTEPP, Movimento Negro - CFNTX, Pastoral da Criança, Forum Popular, SOS Vida