Millions Join Belo Monte Protest in Brazil

Brazilian celebrities and activists deliver 1.3 million voices to President Rousseff

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Brasilia, Brazil – A delegation of Brazilian celebrities and activists delivered a petition today at the country's presidential palace signed by 1.3 million citizens calling on President Dilma Rousseff to immediately suspend construction of the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon and to open a national debate on alternatives for truly sustainable energy development.

The petition comes after the highly popular "Drop of Water Movement" (Movimento Gota d'Agua), a web-based viral video campaign led by actor Sergio Marone with a host of well-known Brazilian celebrities inspired by the "Don't Vote" video spearheaded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio in 2008. The campaign has prompted significant debate in Brazil about the Belo Monte Dam, slated to be world's 3rd largest, while scrutinizing the enormous social and environmental costs of the Brazilian government's energy plans for the Amazon.

The petition was delivered by Marone and Antonia Melo, coordinator of the grassroots alliance Xingu Alive Forever Movement (Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre) that has opposed construction of Belo Monte and other dams on the Xingu River for over two decades. The group met with Gilberto Carvalho, a high-level presidential advisor, Edson Lobão, the Minister of Mines and Energy, and Izabella Teixeira, the Minister of the Environment and delivered a letter to President Rousseff calling for a moratorium on the construction and licensing of new dams in the Amazon.

"We were very satisfied to have opened dialogue," said Marone after the meeting. "We took one more important step. While the government has proven unyielding, we will continue our campaign demanding the immediate paralyzation of the dam's construction and push for a debate on energy policy that involves true dialogue where the concerns of the population are heard and taken into consideration."

"We were honored to join the Drop of Water Movement today," added Melo. "We consider this to be a joining of strong currents of resistance to the dam. While the government continues to negate the true impacts of Belo Monte, they made it clear that the project has become a liability. They also recognized that the people within the Movement are opinion makers and need to be taken seriously."

Melo also affirmed that the government representatives offered to open more meaningful dialogue around Brazil's energy policy while admitting that there has been minimal public participation in this process.

Mounting opposition to Belo Monte in Brazil has included nationwide protests against the dam last weekend following a controversial ruling allowing dam construction to begin on the Xingu River overturning a September ruling that had paralyzed construction due to concerns that the project will devastate local fish stocks.

In the most recent wave of Brazilian protests against Belo Monte, last weekend hundreds of people mobilized across nine cities in Brazil with a large gathering in São Paulo closing down a major avenue where protestors staged a "die-in" to represent the death of the Xingu River. The protests were the third national day of action against Belo Monte this year calling on the Brazilian government to suspend the dam project while investing in truly clean energy alternatives like wind and solar to meet the country's growing energy needs.

Wind and solar energy make up less than 1.5 percent of Brazil's energy Matrix and in recent auctions, wind power has shown to be cost competitive with Hydropower. By increasing its investments in solar and wind energy, Brazil could avoid the need to build the Belo Monte Dam and over 60 large dams it plans to construct in the Amazon region.

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