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Amazon Tribes End Protest Over Mega-Dam Project

Standoff ends but main issues remain unresolved

By Jack Phillips
Epoch Times Staff
Created: July 13, 2012 Last Updated: July 15, 2012
Related articles: World » South America
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Part of the construction site at the Belo Monte Dam complex in the Amazon basin is seen on June 15. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Part of the construction site at the Belo Monte Dam complex in the Amazon basin is seen on June 15. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Indigenous communities in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest ended a three-weeklong occupation of a swath of the Xingu River after a mega-dam construction company offered gifts, a few promises, but no solutions to local livelihood issues. 

Norte Energia—a consortium controlled by state power company Eletrobras—met with representatives of the nine tribes over two days to discuss the standoff, which had halted construction at the Belo Monte Dam’s main cofferdam for 21 days. 

The Belo Monte mega-dam project is slated to become the third largest in the world. Crews went back to work Thursday after the deal was reached. 

Advocacy group Amazon Watch says the talks failed to produce the desired results. 

“During the talks with each ethnic group, Norte Energia offered each community a package of ‘trinkets’ such as TVs, boats, cameras, and computers while refusing to commit to a timetable for meeting the legally required social and environmental conditions,” the group said in a statement.

However, real concerns—such as losing access to fishing spots, land, and health and education programs—were not addressed.

Construction of the Belo Monte project began in March 2011 in Para State and will cost approximately $10.6 billion.

Norte Energia said the natives agreed to end the occupation after accepting their proposals, including one that assures that the company will monitor the downstream water flow.

“We have a responsibility to fulfill the development of the terms of the negotiations in respecting the culture of these peoples,” Carlos Nascimento, the president of the company, said in a statement.

Earlier this week, native communities sent a message to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, calling on her to take away Norte Energia’s permit to build the dam.

According to the EFE news agency, Norte Energia will provide vehicles and construct seven security posts around the villages and will implement environmental protection measures.

But statements from indigenous tribal leaders published by Amazon Watch suggest that the protest movement is far from over.

“I am disillusioned with the outcome of the negotiations. They want to buy us off cheaply. This is not anything, what we want is guarantees of our rights and the conditions that are not being complied with,” Leiliane Jacinto Pereira Juruna of the Miratu community said.

Other leaders said the issue has not yet been resolved. 

“Everyone knows that the conditions were supposed to be completed before the dam that blocks the river was completed. This did not happen. None of the conditions have been complied with before the project started,” said Marizan Felix Juruna, the chief of the Paquicamba community.

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