Brazilian Indigenous Movement Denounces GDF Suez Over Amazon Dams

Protestors target annual shareholder meeting demand accountability from French energy giant

Amazon Watch, Planète Amazone

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Paris, France – A spirited protest targeted GDF Suez today at the its annual shareholder meeting, calling for the company's divestment from destructive dam projects in the Brazilian Amazon. The protest was a solidarity action with Brazil's indigenous movement, which sent an open letter to GDF Suez CEO Gérard Mestrallet last week, denouncing the company's broad violations of human rights and environmental norms linked to the Jirau mega-dam on Brazil's Madeira River.

While condemning GDF Suez's prominent role in the Brazilian government's Amazon dam-building agenda, national indigenous leaders Sônia Guajajara and Maximiliano Tukano are demanding an overhaul of the company's indigenous consultation and environmental safeguard policies. Recent catastrophic flooding on the Madeira has provoked renewed scrutiny of the GDF Suez's direct role aggravating an unprecedented humanitarian and environmental crisis in the region.

Ms. Guajarara met with corporate social responsibility representatives at GDF Suez in March and came away dissatisfied with the company's assurances that it had fully consulted and compensated the region's indigenous peoples over the Jirau dam's impacts.

"The action of GDF Suez are toxic to the environment while destroying the voice and cultures of indigenous and traditional peoples," said Ms. Guajajara. "We need confront them over their true record."

The open letter from the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (APIB) and the Coordination of Amazonian Indigenous Organizations (COIAB) demonstrates how GDF Suez's involvement in dams across the Amazon flagrantly violates the company's own ethical charter and its commitment to UN norms. It demands that the company suspend all dam projects in the Amazon while entering in to genuine dialogue with the indigenous movement over any future projects.

"Brazil's indigenous movement has roundly condemned the destructive and unethical behavior of this corporate leader," said Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch. "Today's action resonates their message among GDF Suez shareholders who must in turn call for accountability from the company they sustain. Starting with the French state, which owns 36% of GDF Suez shares."

"Companies like GDF Suez are directly responsible for for the alteration of a unique and irreplaceable environment and unbearable rights violations of vulnerable indigenous populations," said Gert-Peter Bruch of Planète Amazone. "It is unthinkable to not react to the company's position, which hides behind the agreements offered by the Brazilian authorities, to the detriment of impacted populations. The company is reproducing the catastrophe of the Madeira in the Tapajós region, where it is conducting dam studies on indigenous lands alongside a military presence and without the consent of threatened communities. In doing so GDF Suez is abetting Brazil's alarming rights violations of indigenous peoples."

The letter to GDF Suez available here in French and Portuguese.

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