Eye on the Amazon

Belo Monte a Symbol of Obscene Destruction and Corruption in Brazil

Amazonian indigenous leaders and dam-affected people demonstrate against the Belo Monte Dam.

As we recently noted, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Lula da Silva have become directly implicated in a kickback scheme that funneled millions from the Belo Monte dam's bloated budget into their campaign coffers.

This week Brazil has been roiled with heated protests and recurring calls for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff as revelations from the Lava Jato ("Car Wash") corruption scandal have exposed a vast money-laundering operation, likely totaling at least R$10 billion (US $3.5 billion). A ruling Workers' Party senator has testified that graft money skimmed from overpriced contracts to build the Belo Monte mega-dam was used to fund Rousseff's election campaigns, and Dalton Avancini, the former CEO of Camargo Corrêa, one of Brazil's largest construction companies, testified to public prosecutors that his company paid millions in bribes in exchange for contracts to build the giant and controversial dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon.

In the latest twist, former president Lula da Silva was named to President Rousseff's cabinet, and wiretaps made public by a Brazilian judge demonstrate that this was done in an attempt to shield him from the evolving corruption scandal, which began while he was in office.

Amazon Watch and our allies have long argued that the Belo Monte mega-dam project made no sense in terms of energy production or economics – especially taking into account the enormous environmental and social destruction it was certain to cause. The dam was constructed despite the steadfast resistance of the affected indigenous and traditional peoples and in defiance of both national and worldwide condemnation. Time and again Brazil's courts halted its construction and operation only to be ignored or overruled as the Dilma administration pressed on in its relentless efforts to make the Belo Monte monstrosity a symbol of her administration. Ironically, it has now become a symbol of her administration's corruption.

Plans to dam the Tapajós River – the last major free flowing Amazon tributary in Brazil – still loom menacingly over the region. The Munduruku people will continue to resist and they deserve the full support of everyone marching in the streets of Brazil today. Whatever the future for Brazil's government will be, it must agree to abandon its backwards-thinking plans to dam the Amazon thereby causing great harm to indigenous peoples, the global climate, and the rainforest itself.

Join the growing call to demand that Brazil abandon its plans for over 60 large dams in the Amazon.

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