by Derrick Broze
A Federal Appeals Court ruled that “Operation Tapajós” – an operation involving military and police forces to combat indigenous protests- be suspended and the indigenous people and other affected communities be consulted before technical studies are carried out. The government of Brazil seeks to conduct environmental studies in preparation for building newhydro elecrtic dams across the country.
The latest move in this ongoing struggle comes after the Munduruku community leaders gave the government a deadline of April 10th to remove the troops from their land or face a declaration of war. The Munduruku leaders had issued open letters calling for an end to the military operation saying, “We are not bandits. We feel betrayed, humiliated and disrespected by all this.”
“The judge ruled that indigenous and, significantly, other traditional communities whose territories would be affected, must be consulted before technical studies for dam construction are undertaken, in accordance with the ILO’s 169 Convention (to which Brazil is signatory) and Article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution. The ruling also calls for a strategic environmental assessment of the cumulative impacts of the dams planned for the basin before studies can continue.”
The Attorney General’s Office has announced they will appeal the ruling.
Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair of Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation notes, “The protest on March 21st was the latest of a long line of demonstrations and legal battles against Belo Monte, stretching back nearly forty years. The people of the Xingu have opposed the dam since the 1970′s. The plan for Belo Monte was devised in 1975, during the years of Brazil’s dictatorship. It was then known as the Kararao dam. The project was abandoned in 1989 after widespread protest. But the scheme was redesigned between 1989 and 2002. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed the contract for the Belo Monte dam with the Norte Energia consortium in 2010. “
In October 2012 the Munduruku village known of Teles Pires, located on a river of the same name, ordered researchers inspecting the site of the São Luíz do Tapajós dam out. A month later, on November 7th 2012 a helicopter and dozens of men, armed with machine guns and assault rifles, attacked Teles Pires.
Men, women, children and elder villagers were teargassed, wrestled to the ground and made to lie on the ground. The village radio and phone were destroyed as well as memory cards, phones, and cameras. The people of the community were told they could not speak to each other in their own language.
The Jirau hydroelectric dam will feature more giant turbines than any other dam in the world. The power lines are estimated to cross 2,550 km of forest. The dam, said to be completed by 2015, is one of many dams being planned in the world’s largest and most biodiverse forest. Brazilian companies and transnational corporations are working on up to 34 dams across the country in an effort to increase the capacity to produce energy by 50%. The environmental group, International Rivers, says 168 new projects are planned for the Amazon in the coming years.
There are also a growing number of complaints of slave labor and sex slavery of the locals on the construction sites of the dams. In September 2009, Brazilian authorities found 38 people working in ‘slave-like labour conditions’ in the construction site of Vila Mutum. This is one of many such cases. The people of the region are not only having their land taken for dams that will not increase energy but also facing a danger of mining on their land.
There is a draft bill on mining in the Brazilian Congress known as Projeto de Lei 1610 that is aiming to open up and regulate large scale mining in indigenous territories. According to Fiona Watson of Survival International, ‘One of the objectives of the government’s drive to build so many hydro-electric dams in the Amazon is to provide cheap subsidized energy to the mining companies which are poised to mine in indigenous lands.’
While the people of Para fight against slavery, environmental degradation, and theft of their homeland, Indians across Brazil stormed Congress on Friday April 19th. As the country marked the “Day of the Indian” hundreds of Brazilian Indians occupied congress to oppose a bill that threatens their land and livelihood.
They are fighting ‘PEC 215’, a constitutional amendment that would transfer the power to demarcate indigenous lands to the legislative branch of government. After hours of protest the head of the House, Henrique Eduardo Alves, pledged to postpone, the selection of the Special Committee that would discuss the amendment for six months. Alves also created a Negotiating Committee of indigenous representatives and government officials to discuss all issues related to indigenous peoples.
The opponents of the amendment consider this to be a small victory and recognize the long fight ahead of them. “As long as there is one of us standing, there will be a fight to protect the forests” cried the Chief Ninawa, of the Huni Kui people of Acre.
These struggles are but a small percentage of struggles indigenous people the world over are experiencing. The honest truth is that the destruction of the Native American, and Natives all around the world has never stopped. Our very lives are built upon the blood of others cultures and people. Although each of us, as individuals, are not the criminals responsible for destruction of entire cultures in the name of progress we can take steps to change this.
Each of us can take the time to educate ourselves on these battles that continue to take place and make choices that lessen our support, whether monetary or physical, of corporations and individuals who perpetuate these crimes. By choosing to understand our history and ancestry we can achieve a state of existence that does not build monuments of tyranny on top of entire cultures.
I continue to believe that without a deeper connection to our history, our roots, and our own personal nature we will only perpetuate this system which allows such destruction and pain. We can and will evolve past the need for violence, dead end energy resources, and the state of mind that allows one peoples needs to be held above another’s.
Happy Earth Day
Derrick Broze is a founding member of The Houston Free Thinkers.
He writes for IntelliHub.com a popular independent news website.
He can be heard on Orion Talk Radio, Local Live Houston and the upcoming Unbound Radio.
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