Belo Monte, Jatoba’s smile and the day after

  The smile of both sides (company and families) does not mean the guarantee of public policies, even the more elementary policies. It does not mean that things are well. […]


The smile of both sides (company and families) does not mean the guarantee of public policies, even the more elementary policies. It does not mean that things are well. It is a barrel of gunpowder which can explode at any moment.

Claret Fernandes, MAB member and missionary at the Xingu prelacy.

The incredible speed of capital and its priorities run over everything, runs over fearful kittens and even tigers. It swallows them, kicks with lead bullets and gives them false promises.

The Belo Monte hydro-power dam, deep in the Amazon region of Brazil, is a typical example of this kind of atrocity. The indigenous population was not consulted as demanded by the Brazilian Constitution. There is only a partial license for the dam’s installation. And now the eviction of the population of the town of Altamira has commenced. Some of them will be relocated to small concrete houses built by the company.

All of this happens very fast. A concrete house is built in one day and in a few seconds the old house is destroyed. This happens at the rhythm of the thirst that anticipates the profit of of the generation and commercialization of energy that comes from the river. This hydro-power dam construction has been imposed by large transnational economic empires together with the Brazilian State, and financed with public money.

At the opening of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which took place last week in Havana, Cuba, Raul Castro said that ‘the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean should have sovereign prerogative over the exploitation of natural resources’. This warning is particularly appropriate, for the energy sector in Brazil, which has been subjected to the whims of international financial capital.

But the day of evictions in Altamira is a stark reflection of this historical pattern of the violation of human rights prompted by the construction of dams. It is like when you give the pig the best food you have and then slaughter it in record time so that the meat is especially tasty.

The day of eviction of families in Altamira is like an oasis in the desert, a kind of death without pain, which will last only until the water source dries out or until the painkiller effect goes away.

This numbness will give of lot of trouble in the future. It is important to say that this pain harasses the affected; there will be certainly some kicks against those who find themselves at the top at this moment, those who imposes the hydro-power dam with arrogance, appointing themselves the judge of what is right and true.

The pain, felt in the stomach and in the head does not respect boundaries. It can make any empire fall down in seconds.

The first punches were given through reports sent to IBAMA – Federal Brazilian Institute for Environment and Natural Renewable Resources. People’s fate were traced in secret documents! Today the company knows more about those affected than the affected themselves. And of course this puts the affected people in a vulnerable situation.

In the beginning, some people like the “solutions” given by hidden forces, believing that it will solve their chronic problem. This is one of the vices of Brazilian people: believing that one savior or one person with an altruist spirit will solve our problem! But this faith is decreasing and will decrease even more after the eviction of the families.

The pain of the eviction is traumatic. This is why this day does not need to be special! But the day after it is risky, conflictive, with potentially freeing.

The person is taken out of his/her home and put in another house, about which (s)he could not say a thing about. The families did not choose the location of the house, didn´t decide the size of the houses or its blueprint, could not even decide if the house would be made of concrete or bricks.

A team at the offices of the Norte Energia company is responsible for selecting and scheduling the removal of the families. Only two days before their eviction, they receive the office’s notice that they should pack their things to move.  Almost no families are able to choose the day they must move.

Their removal in this circumstances first sounds like an award. These families will enter the new area before others. The family whose rights have continuously been denied by the governments and the Brazilian state is now receiving the attention of a private company, in a kind of privatization of public policy.

Those families feel ‘awarded’. There are other families who have also historically had their rights denied and will have to move out without any substitute house and without any compensation because they are not on the dam’s list of affected.

An example of those who are not on the list of those affected are the people who push carts. They have worked for more than 70 years in Altamira, transporting products for stores; they have played an important role in helping poor people with their transport needs. In Altamira, 130 men make their livelihood from this work. They, in turn, are responsible for the subsistence of 600 people. With the implementation of Belo Monte, their lives got complicated: there is less freight, the traffic is chaotic (last year 13 cart accidents took place). Before, they could earn R$ 200 per day. Today, they earn about R$ 400 per month. But they are not recognized by the IBAMA as being affected by the dam.

On the day of the removal, some families feel as if they were being cared for. They know many other families are not on the list and this makes them feel privileged.

It is not a coincidence that the first thirteen families removed from the flood area, on January 15th, till today are the poorest and those who had their rights most denied.

After selecting which families will be removed first and on which day, a second team (and two companies: Granero and CNEC) take action.

The team goes to the address indicated in the document. For them it´s about numbers, not people! They´re objects not people! But precious objects which demand special care, at least on the day of removal. The flood area should be cleaned so that afterwards the elite can occupy the area nearby the new lake.

The companies´ employees prepare everything. Mattresses, ovens, sofas, and mats. Everything is put inside the truck, including cats and dogs. The children, of which are many, can go in another car, sometimes without their mothers or fathers.

The day for moving out is only that. If the boy sneezes, soon someone gives them a medicine for the flu. On the day after, those people with the medicine and care are gone.

It´s all a sham.

I remembered Maria Amalia, affected by the Emboque dam, in Minas Gerais. Her home was also demolished and she could not take anything with her. ”I only wish I could take the window frame with me, it was made of good wood,” she said.

The aggression against people’s feelings and lives leaves deep scars, which are revealed the day after.

The moving families evicted from the flood area are going to set their things in the new house. It is difficult. How to put things in a house, which was not prepared to receive them? How to accommodate the many kids in the few small rooms? All the houses have the same size (63 m²) but the families have different sizes. That is why it is difficult.

On this moment, the heart beats faster, anguished, and the feeling that we are made to struggle for freedom starts to come up. But then a new team comes to erase any feelings of rebellion, any ‘reasons’ for complaint, They are the welcome team, especially trained to smile. And then the anxious hearts prefer to keep quiet. At least at this moment, what prevails is the feeling that this is better than nothing.

The welcoming team offer some help sometimes. But their most important task is to do nothing at all. Just smile!

Families that are used to be mistreated everyday because they are impoverished, are smiled at, at least on moving day.

The food comes on time. It is moving day! There comes the lunch, a warm meal and if needed even dinner. The children receive attention, maybe even a toy. Everything seems alright!

At the entry of the new house, the family receives the key and the house instructions manual.

The key gives them a sensation of power, the sensation of possession, and the power to decide when to open and close the house door. It also gives a sensation of privacy. But the truth is, the houses are in an area which is totally controlled by the company.

It is a ‘power’ under submission of the imperialist force, with entrance gate to the housing subdivision and with the presence of the National Force within the construction area of the other houses of the same subdivision where the building has only started.

The family receives an instruction manual and do not give attention to that, because they have never needed this kind of thing before.

The instruction manual serves more for the company itself than to the families. This manual is Pilate’s basin where Norte Energy washes its hands. It is criminal evidence, because this manual only exists because of the fragility of this new housing. It is a kind of safe-conduct of the company itself. Through this act, the company informs the family the special care needed for the concrete house, and the responsibility falls in the hands of the families.

It is a great difference now, although not noticed on the day they moved in, when everything is freshly painted and professionals are smiling. In the old homes, a family member used to fix a loose plank or build a new room to the house, fixed the electricity wiring or the plumbing, for free. But now, the instruction manual dictates. The person cannot make any intervention to the house without contracting specialized work-force, which is expensive.

The whole plot is very well assembled. Cleide, of the Government House, says she has personally seen recently evicted families smiling in the new concrete house.

But there are people in the flood area that are not willing to exchange their large, well-built, 120 m² home for these concrete houses. Tomorrow is uncertain, but it also brings the possibility of organizing.

Smiles of both sides (company and families) do not mean the guarantee of public policies. It does not mean that things are well. It is a gunpowder barrel which can explode at any moment.

Until now, Norte Energia and the Federal government have only extinguished small fires. But this only postpones the conflict a bit and can lead to complete barbarity or to an organized process, able to guarantee freedom, which has been denied until now.

The concrete house is built in approximately one day, this house has a life cycle of five years, and a wooden house which can last for dozens of years is destroyed in a few seconds.

There are no smiles in the flood area! The tractor comes in and tears everything down. The workers of the company outsourced to Norte Energia, pulls the houses down and what was a house is now trash and goes to the dump to be incinerated.

With the wreckage, a lot of history turns into ashes and smoke. But the seed of indignation is the fuel of change.

Three scenarios unveil. In the Jatobá neighborhood, smiles surround the families on moving day, but what the day after brings, the month afterwards, next year… only God knows. Houses, streets, the barriers at the riverside for the raining season; everything is done very fast, at the speed requested by the capital, which has its eye on the dam. All this has no future. Besides the insecurity, life at Jatobã is going to be expensive, with water and energy bills and other costs. There is lack of basic public health and education.

By the flood area, where families are expelled, moving day is marked with destruction. An area historically abandoned by the authorities, because it is where the poor live, is now very coveted. In this area, there will be bike lanes, gardens, a noble area for the rich.

The evictions have the subjective motivation of social cleaning, of prejudice. The same economic political neoliberal system that survives off the work of the working class and of the natural resources expels the impoverished workers.

The first scenario in Jatobá changes from smiles to abandonment. The second scenario is the destruction with the intent of building a space for rich people. But the third scenario is the most important. If materialized in organized rebellion, because people are not fools. The days of arrogance are counted. The people will triumph!

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

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