No Dam Can Take That From Us
October 18, 2012 | Maíra Irigaray
After 35 days of protests and 11 days of occupation, the indigenous peoples and traditional groups occupying the Belo Monte construction site have left, with their heads held high. Last night an agreement was signed between the protesters and Norte Energia, in the presence of governmental agencies. And, although the promises were only promises, people felt confident. Most of them were heard for the very first time; and that fact alone was already a sign of victory.
Still, I can´t stop wondering why these people had to live in sub-human conditions – deprived even of clean water for more than 30 days – to be heard? One more sign to add to the long list of how twisted things are around the construction of the Belo Monte dam.
Fighting back an overwhelming sensation of failure and sadness as I watched the end of the occupation, I realized I don't have the right to deny the protesters' overall sense of achievement. It was indeed a victory for those resisting together for such a long time.
We cannot forget that everything started with 13 fisherman camping on an island and evolved to almost 200 people between river-dependent community members, small farmers, boat pilots, indigenous leaders, and fisherman. Those 13 brave warriors managed to build a beautiful and organized community. A team of three women cooked day and night for everybody. The stories shared under the stunning sun and crazy storms; the laughs; tears; even the quarrels between people were a sign that we were becoming a big family. No dam could take that from us.
We are reminded that the protesters were all there to denounce the violation of their rights and the government's pre-conditions that where never met by the company. That fact itself can never be seen as a good sign because people should never have to negotiate to secure their rights. With that in mind, we know that the battle is not over, and the dream to stop the Belo Monte dam continues.