Thousands Protest Worldwide in Day of Action to Defend the Amazon
Global solidarity demonstrations follow growing protests across Brazil
Amazon Watch, International Rivers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | August 23, 2011
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San Francisco, CA – Thousands of people demonstrated yesterday in 17 countries around the world, following protests in 15 Brazilian cities on Saturday, to urge the administration of President Dilma Rousseff to end its assault on the forests and the people of the Amazon. The demonstrators, mostly self organized via facebook, called on the government to immediately halt the controversial Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River, revoke the proposed gutting of the Forest Code, and protect forest activists from a recent wave of assassinations and intimidation.
Saturday's simultaneous demonstrations brought crowds of people to the streets of 15 Brazilian cities, with thousands gathering in São Paulo and Belem. A diverse group of indigenous leaders joined the actions, decrying the Brazilian government's escalating violation of their rights.
"The Belo Monte Dam will deeply harm the indigenous peoples who live and depend on the Xingu River," said Kayapo chief Megaron Txucarranãe in São Paulo. "The Brazilian government is not listening nor respecting our rights."
Today's worldwide solidarity protests in 23 cities in 17 countries echoed the concerns of some 1.4 million people, the majority of them Brazilian, who have so far signed the online petition by the organization Avaaz, calling on the Rousseff government to cancel the dam and veto any weakening of the Forest Code. Closely coordinated with Brazilian actions, global protests reached from Turkey to Taiwan, demonstrating a mounting concern among the international community that the current shortsighted development model jeopardizes the entirety of the Amazon.
"These protests were organized via social media networks. This is a new chapter in the struggle to defend the Amazon, and everyday more people are getting involved," said Christian Poirier, Brazil Program Coordinator at Amazon Watch. "The Dilma Rousseff government is at crossroads. The world is calling on her to demonstrate courage and leadership and take immediate actions to safeguard the Amazon for future generations."
"These protests solidify our calls to revoke the approval of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. Once it is revoked, it will be possible to carry out public consultations to insure the rights of communities who are directly threatened," said organizer Marco Antonio Morgado of the Brazilian Forests Movement.
The risky $17 billion Belo Monte Dam would be the world's third largest dam and would divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch. Its reservoirs would flood more than 120,000 acres of rainforest and local settlements, displace between 20,000 and 40,000 people and generate vast quantities of methane–a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent than CO2. Critics of the dam are urging Dilma to cancel the costly and destructive project and instead invest in truly renewable energy from wind and solar along with improving energy efficiency.
Drastic changes have been proposed in the Brazilian congress to the conservation rules of the country's decades-old Forest Code, clearing the way for a new wave of deforestation in the Amazon and other threatened biomes. Critics predict that the proposed changes to the Code's strong legal protection of Amazonian agricultural parcels could lead to 85 million hectares of the Amazon being destroyed, an area the size of England and France put together.
These threats to the Amazon come at a time of renewed violence against leaders of social movements and other forest guardians who have recently faced a wave of assassinations and death threats in a region known for impunity for crimes involving violent conflicts over land and other natural resources.
The tropical rainforests of the Amazon stabilize the global climate while deforestation there is a significant source of green house gas emissions.
Protests on August 20 were held in Brazilian cities of Belém, São Paulo, Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza, João Pessoa, Recife, Salvador, Santarém, Florianópolis, Cuiabá, Manaus, Natal, Paimas and Belo Horizonte. International solidarity actions were held on Monday, August 22 in Canberra, Copenhagen, Toronto, London, Paris, Berlin, Tehran, Jakarta, Guadalajara, Hague, Oslo, Lisbon, Edinburgh, Wrexham, Taipei, Ankara, Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Miami.