Amazon Leader Tours US, Calls on Brazil to Choose Clean Energy Alternatives

Brazil's President Rousseff faces tough questions on world stage

Interviews available upon request

Where: New York City, various locations

When: September 19th - 22nd, 2011

What: As world leaders gather in New York to discuss the planet's most pressing issues, venerated Brazilian indigenous leader Sheyla Juruna (see bio below) will be in New York to urge President Dilma Rousseff to choose clean renewable energy alternatives to meet Brazil's growing energy needs. Sheyla Juruna has traveled to New York to tell the world how the highly controversial Belo Monte Dam is affecting the Amazon rainforest and indigenous communities like her own.

Juruna, representative of a historic battle on the frontlines of old and new energy, arrives in New York at a historic moment when President Rousseff is set to deliver the opening address of the UN General Assembly – the first time a woman president will do so – enshrining Brazil's new place among the world's leading nations. Yet, while the world looks to Brazil for leadership in the Amazon that balances environmental sustainability with economic growth, Rousseff is coming under increasing pressure in Brazil and around the globe for her plans to build dozens of new hydroelectric dams on major tributaries of the Amazon river while the rest of the world moves toward a new era of clean energy alternatives like solar and wind energy. 

Juruna will attend several key meetings and activities in New York and is available for interviews upon request.

Background: On June 1st Brazil's environment agency IBAMA gave final approval for the construction of the Belo Monte Dam. Numerous local indigenous communities, NGOs, scientists, and high-profile celebrities including James Cameron and Sting have opposed the dam for over two decades. If built, the dam – slated to be the world's third largest – would violate the rights of indigenous communities, cause irreparable ecological damage and forcibly displace thousands of people.

In April 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the human rights body of the Organization of American States (OAS), recommended the Brazilian government suspend the Belo Monte project on human rights grounds. In violation of international norms and institutions, the newly elected administration of President Dilma Rouseff has chosen to disregard the Commission's recommendations.

Together with a consortium of Brazilian and international NGOs and policy experts, Amazon Watch is at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative to build momentum for an initiative to accelerate Brazil's clean energy revolution. This initiative seeks to enlist clean energy champions to help Brazil become a global leader in green power generation while protecting the rivers and the cultures of its Amazon rainforest.

Bio: Sheyla Juruna, Peaceful Warrior of the Amazon

Sheyla Juruna"I cannot think of losing this battle.... I cannot imagine seeing our river turn to concrete, to imagine that our struggle has been in vain.... It is possible that one day we will succeed in conquering the powerful. I have given part of my life to change this history, to bring value to our voice and to our resistance."Sheyla Juruna

For over 20 years, Sheyla Juruna has been a leading voice among the indigenous people defending the Xingu River Basin against destructive mega-development projects like the Belo Monte Dam. Born in the Boa Vista Juruna community on a tributary of the Xingu River and mother of two beautiful children growing up in the same community, Sheyla brings to her role as a leader in the Xingu Alive Forever Movement (MXVPS) a passionate and sophisticated authenticity that can be heard anytime she speaks. Her strategy for empowering indigenous peoples of the Amazon is based on a three point platform for advancing health, culturally appropriate education, and widespread recognition of indigenous land rights. Looming over these aspirations for fundamental human rights is the threat of a literal inundation of her native community and many neighboring communities, as well as of an irreplaceable Amazonian ecosystem evolved over millions of years, caused by a planned series of dams known collectively as the Belo Monte Dam, slated to become the world's third largest ever constructed.

Sheyla has become an outspoken leader in defense of the Amazon and indigenous peoples' rights throughout Brazil, as well as internationally. Earlier this year, Sheyla joined Amazon Watch, International Rivers and Rainforest Foundation UK on a delegation of indigenous peoples impacted by dams funded by BNDES (Brazil's National Development Bank). The delegation toured Europe meeting with officials in the European Union and the United Nations Human Rights Commission, as well as institutional investors in BNDES, the primary institution financing the Belo Monte Dam. Sheyla's eloquent and forceful appeals have inspired thousands to join her cause; her face marked a worldwide petition campaign against the Belo Monte Dam that gathered more than 600,000 signatures.

By devoting her heart and voice to the movement to stop the Belo Monte Dam and protect the Xingu River, Sheyla is influencing the global society's efforts to respond to climate change and seize opportunities for clean energy technology, environmentally sound global financial policies and preservation of still intact rainforest ecosystems and the indigenous communities living within them. She is a model of leadership who will have tremendous influence upon the next generation of indigenous and environmental leaders, and it is a great honor for Amazon Watch to work by her side. We believe that with leaders like Sheyla Juruna, the Belo Monte Dam can be stopped and a new, wiser policy can be adopted by and for Brazil and its people.

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