Eye on the Amazon

Belo Monte Occupation Day 9: Protest Continues After Failed Talks with Dam-Building Consortium

Photo Credit: Rafael Salazar

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The Indigenous occupation of the Belo Monte construction site entered its ninth day today. More Indigenous people are reportedly joining the occupation each day, now reaching 300 Indigenous people from 12 different villages along the Xingu. They are demanding that Norte Energia (the dam-building consortium) stop construction until it is able to adequately meet its legal obligations for mitigating the devastating impacts of the dam on the local population.

Tired of false promises, the Indigenous groups demanded the presence of the head of the Norte Energia consortium as well as senior government officials in charge of Indigenous affairs. Yesterday, Carlos Nascimento, the President of Norte Energia along with senior government officials traveled from Brasilia to enter talks with the occupiers. Officials had asked that the meeting be held in Altamira, over one hour boat ride from the occupation and that only a select group of leaders come. Ignoring the company's demand for "leaders only" meeting, about 120 Indigenous men, women and children packed the auditorium Norte Energia's local headquarters. At least 20 women were shut out of the meeting waiting in the hallway because there was not enough room. The rest of the people remained at the occupation site along the Pimental coffer dam.

Photo Credit: Rafael Salazar

The meeting lasted about three hours, the Indians spoke of the grave impacts they are suffering already and the failure of the dam building consortium to adequately assess or mitigate the impacts on Indigenous peoples. "The river is our road. If it is dammed and we cannot get anywhere, you will need to build us roads and provide us with cars," says a Xikrin Indigenous leader. They also ask for compensation because the dam construction has fouled the water quality and the fish are disappearing. "And yet the government still has the courage to say that we will not be impacted," says leader of the Paquiçamba Juruna. 

The Norte Energia's president asked the Indigenous people repeatedly to disband the blockade and give them a week longer to analyze their demands. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for July 9th.

Indigenous people refused to end the blockade until there are guaranteed commitments on behalf of Norte Energia and the government. At least into the near future, the occupation continues.

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