FUNAI Threatens to Allow Damming of the Xingu Without Agreement of Indigenous Peoples

Movimento Xingu Vivo
Thursday, August 2, 2012

This is a translation of a press release from our partners at Movimento Xingu Vivo.

Brazil: The controversy over authorization of the definitive damming of the Xingu River – which last week led to three engineers from Norte Energia being detained in a village due to the lack of information about the dam's transposition mechanism for indigenous and riverine vessels – will be decided next week by Brazil's national indigenous agency FUNAI without the agreements being approved by the indigenous peoples.

Indigenous protestors at Pimental coffer dam, Belo Monte Dam site, June 28, 2012
Indigenous protestors at Pimental coffer dam, Belo Monte Dam site, June 28, 2012
Photo credit: Rafael Salazar

On July 31 in a letter to the Juruna, Arara and Xikrin indigenous peoples, FUNAI invited 40 leaders to a meeting in Brasilia scheduled for Friday and Saturday of this week to discuss the mechanisms of transposition. As justification for the short timeline – regarded by the indigenous peoples as an outrage – the president of the agency argued that the Belo Monte construction schedule anticipates the closure of the river at the beginning of 2013, and that they agency is being pressured for definitive approval by next week. She further stated that she would be "attempting" to guarantee the right of consultation of the indigenous people before the federal government.

Last week, three engineers from Norte Energia were detained for several days in the indigenous territory of Paquiçamba due to the inability to answer basic questions posed by the indigenous people about the mechanism of transposition for the dam and the failure to implement a series of mitigation measures detailed in the pre-conditions established for the construction of Belo Monte.

Last Friday, in a meeting that followed the release of the engineers, the indigenous peoples demanded that "consultation on the mechanism of transposition [is to be] concomitant with concrete and effective action of the NESA as pertains to compliance with the conditions (...)." Specifically, they demanded that there be "visits to the system of transposition in a real situation [already constructed]" and "meetings for clarification in villages (as many as necessary)."

According to the hearing record "in relation to such demands, they were given the following referrals: Norte Energia will attempt to engage the exploratory exchange with the participation of 10 people. There will be more meetings for clarification. However, Norte Energia stated that it cannot ensure the holding of meetings in the villages while security is not guaranteed. The indigenous peoples said they would not go to meetings in the city, that the meetings have to be in the villages, and that security in their territories is guaranteed by them. The MPF (federal public prosecutor's office) has stated its support for the meetings in the villages."

The indigenous peoples are scheduled to meet Thursday evening August 2 to decide whether or not they will travel to Brasilia, but have expressed their concern about rumors that FUNAI has already decided to give its approval for the dam on Monday, independent of any meetings with the indigenous peoples. Faced with what they consider a breach of agreements, leaders signed a letter of response to the public agencies and Norte Energia, in which they state that "the invitation made by [FUNAI] is contrary to the recommendations made by federal prosecutors of the MPF on July 26,  2012." And they demand that FUNAI "respect the recommendations of the Federal Public Ministry as well as the position of the indigenous peoples to discuss and evaluate this transposition together with all of those who use the river, in the villages."