Frontline Journal: The Belo Monte Re-Occupation
October 11, 2012 | Maíra Irigaray
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Belo Monte Dam.
Monday, October 8th
With my heart racing and under a light rain, I climb up the Pimental cofferdam, together with the indigenous warriors who are writing their own history here. Within minutes the raised earthen dam bed is taken by people who have lived in this area much longer than we can imagine. I go to sleep under open skies, still stunned by the scope of the destruction around us.
Tuesday, October 9th
The scorching sun tests our limits, but the lack of drinking water and food doesn't reduce our biggest hunger: for justice! That's why we are resisting and struggling. The demonstration is peaceful but throughout the day, after many threats made by the company Norte Energia, the situation becomes tense. At night the rain falls from the sky and our rush to find shelter is like Mission Impossible.
Each day that passes is one more day for those who struggle for a free Xingu River and one day less for the company that desperately wants to close the river without complying with its signed agreements and government pre-conditions. Tomorrow brings uncertainty, but tonight the Xingu River and its people sleep in the dead of night, immersed in the sounds of nature.
Wednesday, October 10th
A representative of the Federal Police, the local coordinator of FUNAI and a representative of Norte Energia appear at the protest site.
The FUNAI coordinator – from the governmental indigenous agency – claims to be there to help out the protesters, but accuses them of taking actions that are "too drastic." I call her out, asking: "How can FUNAI claim to be helping the indigenous communities when they are authorizing the cofferdam in Brasilia without having carried out mandated consultations here?"
The Federal Police guy might as well be a representative of Norte Energia. He adopts an aggressive stance, telling the protesters they'll have to go to Altamira to negotiate. An indigenous leader sets him straight: "You are not going to demand anything here. We were here long before Norte Energia even existed. We never asked for Belo Monte."
Overall, the conversation is good – the indigenous leaders are very firm in their stance. They make it clear that no negotiations will happen outside the physical cofferdam and they will not leave until their demands are actually met.
Importantly, the protesters agree on a joint statement from everyone present, including: river communities, informal miners, farmers, extractivists, and the boat drivers. The indigenous protesters make a separate series of demands, as do the fisherman.
Thursday, October 11th
After three days beneath blazing sun in the morning and rain in the evening, I return to Altamira to send out statements, photos and video. Having done that, I'll head back to the river that I love and will continue defending.
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