Eye on the Amazon

From Altamira to Munich: Confronting Belo Monte's Corporate Profiteers

Monica Brito addressing Siemens shareholders Photo: Planète Amazone

Justice Now!

Join the worldwide chorus calling for justice by urging Brazil's Supreme Court to rule on lawsuits against the Belo Monte Dam!


Last week's annual shareholder meeting of the German technology giant Siemens was peppered with acclamations of the company's sustainable business practices and valiant efforts to deliver clean technology around the world. Yet Amazonian activist Monica Brito immediately shattered this clean and green illusion when she took the microphone to address assembled shareholders. Having traveled from the sweltering and chaotically dam-stricken city of Altamira to the orderly and freezing streets of Munich, Monica delivered a much-needed reality check to this bastion of corporate authority.

Appealing to a packed hall and speaking for the Xingu Alive Forever Movement and against Brazil's Belo Monte dam, Monica asked Siemens' managers and investors to consider the universal importance of the threatened Xingu River, its waters, forests, and communities.

"The life of our river represents not only the health of our people, but our collective wellbeing," she said. "It's not only our future that's at stake but yours, and that of your grandchildren."

Her message clearly troubled Siemens leadership as her image on the convention center's display screens was quickly censored in a clumsy attempt to hide the gruesome photos of Belo Monte's impacts Monica held to the camera. Yet while these efforts succeeded in temporarily obscuring visual proof of Siemens-backed devastation in the Amazon, they could not dim her message, nor that put forward by the international coalition of organizations that stood by her side.

It's no small order to take the world's second-largest technology company down a notch. Yet the preposterous notion that Siemens should be considered an ethical company, with a shining and sustainable portfolio, as it props up Brazil's Belo Monte mega-dam must be rescinded. Through its joint venture with Germany's Voith Hydro, Siemens is among a consortium of European companies whose turbines aim to supply dirty power to Brazil's grid. As such, the company is among a notorious cabal of corporate profiteers that are complicit in the profound environmental and humanitarian catastrophe Belo Monte is currently wreaking in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.

Monica's story echoes that of countless dam-affected peoples around the world. Yet in the name of fighting climate change, companies like Siemens argue that large dams are an energy solution for the 21st century, and eagerly benefit from the misconception that we can dam our way to ecological balance. Amazon Watch joined activists from a network of German and French organizations to call for accountability from this corporate leader with the knowledge that our unified strength will move giants like Siemens while setting important industry precedents. Together we are pushing back against this flawed model in defense of our world's last remaining wild rivers.

When I stood to address Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser I aimed to reinforce Monica's words and to drive home the fact that while it professes to be a green and responsible company, it is in fact party to Belo Monte's blatantly criminal enterprise. My statement elicited loud protests from chairman Gerhard Cromme who succeeding in cutting me short, yet when Mr. Kaeser answered my questions he repeatedly touted Siemens' utmost respect for human rights, upon which the company places enormous importance.

"If there is any proof that Belo Monte is violating rights, I would ask you to provide it," stated Kaeser.

Such proof is sadly in abundance and will soon be placed in his hands.

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