Affected by Belo Monte denounce human rights violations by Northern Energy and Brazilian government

For the MAB, the non-recognition of the inhabitants of Vitória do Xingu as people affected by Belo Monte is a violation of human rights and represents a step backwards with […]

For the MAB, the non-recognition of the inhabitants of Vitória do Xingu as people affected by Belo Monte is a violation of human rights and represents a step backwards with respect to the concept of affected set in the Decree signed by President Lula in late 2010. Read the open letter of the Movement on the subject:

The construction of hydroelectric dams in Brazil has caused many negative social and environmental consequences, as evidenced by the report of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, linked to the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency.

We are living in Brazil a context of “economic development” in which energy, seen as a commodity, has acquired strategic importance. Therefore, building dams to produce electricity is increasingly of interest to large companies.

With these works, those who build them are sure of hugh profits by selling machinery and equipment, as are large electro-intensive industries that consume much of this energy produced with subsidies. Meanwhile, workers pay the price for this political appropriation of natural resources, the exploitation of labor and social exclusion.

The Brazilian energy model is founded on the construction of dams, under the command of the private sector that controls everything from production to the sale of this energy. The state allows, in the name of “development”, this logic of private accumulation and exploitation of strategic sectors, losing the possibility of building a national sovereignty.

The Belo Monte hydroelectric plant is part of this policy and of the Brazilian energy model. For society, they say that this project is the arrival of “development” to a region “forgotten” and “backward.” The local people hear a speech about the arrival of “progress”, but what is happening is a violation of human rights.

One of the violations is not recognising populations who have to change their way of life by the construction of the dam as affected. This strategy, adopted by companies to increase their profits is a clear step backwards in the process of struggle and debate embraced by people affected by dams, organized by the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), with the society and the government.

On the day of the March 14, 2012, the International Day of Action Against Dams, MAB and others organisations held several demonstrations across Brazil. In Altamira, the people affected by Belo Monte mobilized once again against the construction and for respecting the rights of those affected. Pressed, the North Energy was forced to receive a commission of the demonstrators which resulted in agreements such as a public hearing held in Vitória do Xingu, downstream of the dam, with the participation of over 2,000 people. Unfortunately, the North Energy has said publicly that they do not recognize this area downstream the river as an impacted area.

The non-recognition of the inhabitants of Vitória do Xingu as affected by Belo Monte is a step backwards with respect to the decree signed by President Lula late 2010. That document state that are included as affected all whose economic activity was altered by the construction. In this case fit the fishermen in Vitória do Xingu, who complained that the reduced flow of water irreversibly affects their livelihood, are to be considered as affected.

Beyond this particular case, there are different examples of disrespect and violation of human rights imposed by Belo Monte:

1) The companies and the government responsible for the plant, propagate the image of a work that will solve people’s problems, and say to be the first sustainable hydroelectric plant. However, Belo Monte ignores people’s needs and complaints and warnings from international organizations and agencies. Of 40 conditions and requirements of IBAMA over 23 have not been met. A fine of seven million dollars, imposed by IBAMA, has no practical effect, since the work of the dam is still in full swing.

2) After only eight months since the beginning of the work, the negative impacts are already visible: thousands of fishermen have found difficulties in their catch, and are totally insecure about their future. Indigenous people already feel they are losing the river. In the city of Altamira, the cost of living and violence increased dramatically, the traffic is a chaos, the lack of schools and health care, already precarious, deteriorated further. Altamira and region were not prepared to receive the work of Belo Monte.

3) A commission linked to the Council for the Defense of Human Rights visited Altamira in September 2011 and found that the plant is now an important factor in the rising conflict in the region in general, especially violence against children and adolescents. 

4) The repressive apparatus grows in the region with the goal of making psychological pressure to control any resistance. This became clear in the social mobilisation during March 14. What we see is a policy of providing public safety services to business owners.

5) There is an intensity in the exploitation of workers in the construction to ensure high rates of profit. Workers trying to organize themselves and claim rights denied by the companies, were dismissed and criminalized.

6) Again, the tactics to convince the people and the authorities about the supposed benefits of the dam, ranging from courses to ‘gift’ of equipment, to cease questioning the construction work, are multiplying.

The Movement of People Affected by Dams will continue to fight against the violation of human rights of people affected by dams, against the construction of hydroelectric plants that only favours the actual energy model, and rejects the politics of Northern Energy and the Brazilian state. We therefore reaffirm our position against Belo Monte and in defense of the Amazon.

Coordination of the Movement of People Affected by Dam


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| Publicado 21/12/2023 por Coletivo de Comunicação MAB PI

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