Latin America

Latin America is a vast and ecologically diverse region known for the power and beauty of its river systems – the Amazon, the world's largest river basin; the Paraguay and Paraná rivers and their associated wetland ecosystems; the Usamacinta River flowing through the Mayan rainforests; and the crystaline waters of the rivers of Patagonia. These magnificent rivers are fountains of life for an incredible diversity of plant and animal species and the source of well-being for traditional indigenous peoples and riverbank dwellers.

The rivers of Latin America are also the target of dam-builders who see them as tempting resources to be exploited for electricity and irrigation. Many Latin American governments are promoting hydroelectric dams as a way of accelerating economic growth through offering publicly-subsidized energy to aluminum smelters and other energy-intensive industries.

Dams have left a terrible legacy in the region, such as in Guatemala where indigenous opponents of Chixoy Dam were massacred, and at Yacyretá, where communities have been plunged into poverty while corrupt authorities embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars destined for social and environmental programs.

Through these struggles, the people of Latin America have learned the importance of organizing to fight new dams, and to demand just reparations for losses their families have suffered as a result of dams built in the past. Important movements of dam-affected people such as the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB) in Brazil , and networks of groups fighting dams, including the Latin America Network Against Dams, REDLAR, and MAPDER in Mexico, have brought renewed strength and hope to a region where hundreds of new dams are being planned.

International Rivers is campaigning with our partners throughout Latin America to stop plans for more than 60 new dams in the Brazilian Amazon region, including the Tapajós and Xingu Rivers, as well as scores of dams planned in the Peruvian Amazon.

We are working with a broad coalition of partners to keep the threatened rivers of Chilean Patagonia flowing freely.

In Mesoamerica, we are presently focused on river-protection, alternative energy policy and reparations for dam-affected communties in Mexico, Guatemala and Panama.

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