Indigenous people threaten to reoccupy Belo Monte

Indigenous people threaten to reoccupy Belo Monte

Thais Leitão – Agência Brasil 10.06.2013 – 11h50 | Atualizado em 12.06.2013 – 12h27

Brasília – Members of an indigenous group, the Munduruku, are threatening to reoccupy the main construction site at the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu river, in the state of Pará. The indians want all work on the hydroelectric project to be suspended. Members of the Munduruku group invaded the construction site and occupied it for eight days. The government got them to leave after agreeing to fly 140 of them to Brasília on an Air Force (“FAB”) plane for a meeting with high level officials.

The Indians’ primary demand is for the government to stop all construction work on hydroelectric power plants in the Amazon and hold prior consultations with native peoples on the matter, as per Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which was ratified by Brazil.

Last Tuesday (June 4), the 140 Indians traveled to Brasilia at the government’s expense and met with the president’s chief administrative aide (ministro-chefe da Casa Civil), Gilberto Carvalho. They discussed suspending power plant construction in the Amazon and other demands of native Brazilian groups. At that time, the head of the Casa Civil told the Munduruku that the government will take action to prevent new occupations of the Belo Monte sites. Minister Carvalho and other government officials have already made it clear that the government will not stop the Belo Monte construction, but will accept “all kinds of democratic demonstrations,” emphasizing that the government is willing to talk with the Munduruku people.

On Wednesday evening (June 5), the Indians sent a letter to minister Carvalho that conveyed their demands for “an official position of the Brazilian government as to whether they will comply with the tribe’s demand for a proposed consultation procedure on a binding and unbiased basis”.

On Thursday, June 6,  Minister Gilberto Carvalho responded with a letter that mentioned a willingness to “hold a participatory consultation procedure” based on the ILO Convention 169 and on Brazil’s Constitution, so that the Munduruku and other native people impacted by the hydroelectric projects can voice their concerns.

That evening the Munduruku staged a demonstration in front of the Palacio do Planalto (the Brazilian White House).

“Unless [the construction] is suspended, we will launch new occupations. We won’t settle for consultation unless construction stops, since we should have been consulted in the first place. Now the constructuion is underway and it should stop so that the government can hold the consultations. Only then should anything follow,” said Valdenir Munduruku, a leader of the Teles Pires village in Jacareacanga, Pará, during an interview on Friday (June 7) with Beth Begonha on the “Brazilian Amazon” (“Amazônia Brasileira”) program transmitted by Rádio Nacional da Amazônia, a public radio that broadcasts for the Brazilian Amazon from Brasília.

Valdenir said that the demonstrations will continue despite the risk of new conflicts, which could result in the death of indigenous people. He estimates that least 80 out of the 118 villages in the area may be flooded [by the Belo Monte dam]. “Indians have been dying in various ways as they struggle for their homeland. The construction of the dam adds even more risk, but we can’t sit back. This isn’t a single people’s fight, this fight is for all of the Brazilian people.”

The Indian leader declared that the group has not decided when it intends to leave Brasília, adding they would like to have another meeting with the president’s chief administrative aide (“ministro-chefe da Casa Civil”), Gilberto Carvalho.

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