The Farce of Clean Energy

The construction of mega-dams involves human rights violations and other impacts

Note: This article is translated from the original Portuguese.

It's not news that the government is investing heavily in the construction of hydroelectric dams to generate energy, promoting them as a "cheap and clean" source. However, the country's dependence on this matrix of hydroelectric energy involves the construction of devious mega projects in the Amazon. There, the forest continues to be treated irresponsibly and indigenous communities are negatively impacted, all in the interest of benefitting large corporations.

The construction of mega-dams involves grave human rights violations as well as other disastrous socio-environmental impacts. Belo Monte, for example, was described by Thais Santi, a Federal Prosecutor, as "an indigenous ethnocide in a world where everything is possible" taking place within the rule of law of a democratic state.

A people laid bare by so much abuse and disrespect cannot comprehend how a project the size of Belo Monte, with investments equaling 30 billion Brazilian reais (US$ 9.3 billion) of taxpayer money, could be carried out with such disregard for the law.

For affected communities, the truculent acts of the Norte Energia consortium enjoy the support of the State and the omission of the Judiciary, seemingly demonstrating that illicit favoritism, so common in this country, is also behind the construction of mega-dams in the Amazon.

The unfolding scandal surrounding [the state oil company] Petrobras makes it clear that investigations [into these irregularities] should not stop. The company has been investigated for depositing money into the accounts of construction firms, seeing that many of these same firms receive public resources from Brazil's Development Bank BNDES to finance their projects. This is just the tip of a large iceberg.

These same construction firms elect 70% of political candidates, by investing heavily in their campaigns. President Dilma's government alone received 62% of its financing from their donations. Among these corporations, some – such as Odebrecht, Quieroz Galvao, OAS and Camargo Correa – are involved in Amazonian mega projects such as Belo Monte.

This moment demands a serious response from Brazil's people. We live in a country with great natural and human potential, but that still functions as if it were a corrupt fiefdom. This is the Brazil that still hasn't completed its democratic transition. The government routinely employs dictatorship era mechanisms, such as "Security Suspension", to override legal rulings, allowing them to impose a "developmentalist" project.

Enough of this kind of politics. It is essential that the country's energy policy be discussed with transparency and with the involvement of the scientific community. It is imperative that people be heard and that their values respected.

We need to consistently discuss the importance of conserving the Amazon and its rivers, the value of a living forest, of water and of people's cultures, should we truly seek to grow and occupy a place among world leaders in ethical, democratic and sustainable development.

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