Amazon’s Belo Monte Dam’s Auction Goes Ahead & Indians Invade Construction’s Site

Indian and James CameronThe bidding process for the controversial Belo Monte Dam project went ahead today and was marked by protests and confusion as a second injunction issued late yesterday suspended the dam auction overnight, throwing the bidding process into a state of chaos just minutes before it was set to begin. 

Throughout Brazil, indigenous, environmental and social movements organized protests in more than nine cities in eight states. Internationally, phone calls begun pouring into Brazilian Embassies, condemning the government’s interference in the judicial system and attempts to push through the project at all costs. 

Thousands of people including indigenous people, the Brazilian Movement of Dam-Affected People, the Landless Workers Movement, and environmentalists are engaging in coordinated simultaneous protest actions in Brasilia and in the capital cities Fortaleza, Florianópolis, Porto Alegre, Porto Velho, Belo Horizonte, Belém, Campina Grande, and the city of Altamira, which would be partially flooded by the Belo Monte reservoir.

Meanwhile, boats full of indigenous people, including Kayapo, began arriving on the proposed dam site located on Pimental Island on the Xingu River’s Big Bend to establish a permanent village to block dam construction.

Protesting the dam project in Brasilia, Greenpeace and indigenous peoples blockaded the entrance of ANEEL, the Brazilian national electrical energy agency. In Belém, 700 local people occupied the offices of Electronorte. And near the town of Altamira, the Landless Workers Movement and the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB) blockaded the TransAmazon Highway.

The Belo Monte controversy captured worldwide headlines last week after “Avatar” director James Cameron and actors Sigourney Weaver and Joel David Moore visited the Xingu region and joined protests by indigenous and locally affected populations in Brasília against the dam project. The controversy has dominated news headlines in Brazil.

“The Lula government is clearly pressuring the courts to approve Belo Monte against the rights and interests of indigenous people and the local populations of the Xingu, and it’s our lives at stake. Even so, the people affected by this dam are united and determined to stop the project, we will not give up this fight,” said Sheyla Yakarepi Juruna of the Juruna people, who met with judges on Monday urging the President of the Appellate Court for Region 1, Jirair Meguerian, to uphold the injunction.

On Friday, April 16th, a regional appellate court overturned a decision by Federal Judge Antonio Carlos de Almeida Campelo to suspend the preliminary license for the dam and cancel the auction, scheduled for Tuesday, April 20th. In his ruling, de Almeida considered the project to present a “danger of irreparable harm.” A second injunction to suspend the decision on April 19th was also overturned by the Appellate Court just moments before the auction was set to begin and Brazil’s electric utility ANEEL has reinstated today’s auction.

The generating capacity of Belo Monte would be the world’s third highest behind Three Gorges and Itaipu dams. Two consortia vied for the rights to build the project: Norte Energia, which includes the state-owned CHESF and eight private companies; and Belo Monte Energia, which includes the state-owned Eletrosul, in addition to five private companies including mining giant Vale. 

Major investors such as Alcoa, GDF Suez, Odebrecht, and Camargo Corrêa chose not to participate in the bidding process due to concerns over a lack of economic viability, project delay, and interest in other mega-investments.

To build Belo Monte, the winning consortium would need to dig two huge canals that would involve moving more earth than was dug for the Panama Canal to divert water from the river to an artificial reservoir. By doing so the Big Bend or Volta Grande – home to the Paquiçamba indigenous territory of the Juruna people and the Arara people – would be dried out, gravely affecting the livelihoods of indigenous and riverine families who depend on the water for subsistence. All told some 45,000 people are directly affected by the either flooding or diversion of the river. 

International groups continue to join ranks with their counterparts in Brazilian civil society in pressuring the Brazilian government to suspend Belo Monte, as organizations and individuals around the world called local Brazilian embassies to protest the government’s plan to build the project despite widespread violations of indigenous rights.

“The violation of indigenous rights is a matter of national and international concern. Brazil doesn’t need the Belo Monte Dam. By investing in energy efficiency Brazil could avoid the need for as many as 14 Belo Monte dams and save billions of dollars in the process. Belo Monte Dam just doesn’t make sense,” said Aviva Imhof, Campaigns Director of International Rivers.

Financially, the US$ 12 – $17 billion Belo Monte Dam is a risky project, generating only 10-30 percent of its 11,233 Megawatts (MW) installed capacity during the dry season, and an annual average of only 4,462 MW.

To make the project viable in a context of huge financial uncertainties and pressure from private investors to lower the auction’s price ceiling, the government has had to draw from public pension funds and issue US$ 4 billion of credit from the public Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES).

Just to meet the project’s 11,233 MW generating capacity, additional costly dams would need to be built further upstream, threatening a vast area of tropical rainforests and affecting many of the 24 indigenous groups along the Xingu River.


  • Show Comments (5)

  • Charlotte Wilson

    Brazil Tech Most Advanced in the World
    THE most important story with the most ramifications worldwide. see:
    Brazil tech most advanced in the world. Brazil has the technology to power this entire huge country for as long as the world turns. Brazil does not need any hydroelectrical projects. It will take many years before any of the Belo Monte project produces, far longer than it will take to implement this new technology.

  • gringo

    Sorry if that came off as rather caustic, it was not my intention; what I meant to write was that with all the fear and nationalistic rhetoric we hear about internationalizing the Amazon, usually directed at foreigners and foreign governments, the forest has now, arguably, been handed over to outside interests and sadly by Brazil’s very own President. It’s always an insider than sells you out.

    Your other examples are apropos. Sad really.

    Mas vou tomar seu conselho e “relaxar e GOZAR” como Marta mandou. lol.

  • DU 48

    Sold down the river,everybody.Squiddy and Dilma spend 4billion dollars of public money
    hit list

    Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre – MXVPS
    Amigos da Terra – Amazônia Brasileira
    Instituto Socioambiental – ISA
    Prelazia do Xingu
    Fundação Viver, Produzir e Preservar – FVPP
    Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens – MAB
    Conselho Indigenista Missionário – CIMI
    Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira – COIAB
    Associação Brasileira dos Estudantes de Engenharia Florestal – ABEEF
    Federação dos Estudantes de Agronomia do Brasil – FEAB
    Movimento de Mulheres do Campo e Cidade do Pará
    Movimento de Mulheres Regional Transamazônica e Xingu
    Fórum dos Direitos Humanos Dorothy Stang Regional Transamazônica e Xingu
    Movimento de mulheres Trabalhadoras de Altamira Campo e Cidade
    Sindicato de Trabalhadoras e Trabalhadores Rurais de Porto de Moz
    Comitê de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Porto de Moz
    Sindicato das Trabalhadoras Domésticas Região Transamazônica e Xingu
    Sindicato dos Trabalhadores no Serviço Público Federal no Estado do Pará -SINTSEP/PA
    Fórum das Mulheres da Amazônia Paraense – FMAP
    Grupo de Mulheres Brasileiras – GMB
    Associação Floresta Protegida
    Associação dos Indios Moradores de Altamira
    Conselho Indígena de Altamira – COIA
    Associação do Povo Indígena Juruna do Xingu
    Associação do Povo Indígena Xikrin do Bacajá
    Grupo de Articulação dos Direitos Indígenas de Altamira
    Centro de Defesa dos Direitos Indígenas de Altamira – CDDI
    União das mulheres indígenas da Amazõnia Brasileira – UMIAB
    Associação Nacional de Ação Indigenista da Bahia
    Federação das Associações de Moradores e Organizações Comunitárias de Santarém – FAMCOS
    Organização pelo Desenvolvimento da Amazônia com Direitos Humanos – ONDAS-DH
    Fórum da Amazônia Ocidental – FAOC
    Fórum da Amazônia Oriental – FAOR
    Associação de Desenvolvimento da Agroecologia e Economia Solidária – ADA AÇAÍ
    Centro de Educação e Assessoria Popular – CEAP
    Conselho Municipal da Cidade de Porto Velho
    Operação Amazônia Nativa – OPAN
    Associação para o Desenvolvimento Integrado e Sustentável – ADEIS
    Grupo de Defesa da Amazônia – GDA
    Organização Não Governamental Arirambas – ARIRAMBAS
    Mana-Maní Círculo Aberto de Comunicação, Educação e Cultura
    Rede Brasileira de Arteducadores
    União dos Estudantes de Ensino Superior de Santarém (UES)
    Fórum de Mulheres da Amazônia Paraense – FMAP
    Grupo de Mulheres Brasileiras – GMB
    Associação Paraense de Apoio às Comunidades Carentes – APACC
    Comitê Metropolitano Xingu Vivo para Sempre, Belém/PA
    Fundação Tocaia
    Rede Brasil sobre Instituições Financeiras Multilaterais
    Associação de Defesa Etnoambiental Kanindé
    Rede Jubileu Sul Brasil
    Justiça Global
    Rede Brasileira de Justiça Ambiental
    Sociedade Paraense de Defesa dos Direitos Humanos – SDDH
    Instituto Brasileiro de Inovações Sociedade Saudável – IBISS-CO
    Instituto Ambiental Vidágua
    Comitê Independente por Justiça Ambiental – C.I.J.A
    Forum Brasileiro de Economia Solidaria – FBES
    Rede Alerta contra o Deserto Verde
    Terræ Organização da Sociedade Civil
    Iterei – Refugio Particular de Animais Nativos
    Centro de Referência do Movimento da Cidadania pelas Águas Florestas e Montanhas Iguassu Iterei
    Associação Alternativas para a Pequena Agricultura no Tocantins – APA-TO
    Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos – Inesc
    Amigos da Terra Brasil
    Organização Universalista em Direitos Humanos – U.S.O.S.
    Instituto Amazônia Solidaria e Sustentável – IAMAS
    Associação Global de Desenvolvimento Sustentado
    Grupo Ambientalista da Bahia – Gamba
    Centro de Pesquisa e Assessoria Esplar
    Frente Cearense Por uma Nova Cultura de Àgua
    Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul – PACS
    Instituto de Pesquisas em Ecologia Humana
    Instituto Terramar
    Forum Mudanças Climaticas e Justiça Social
    Associação de Saúde Ambiental- TOXISPHERA
    Associação de Proteção ao Meio Ambiente de Cianorte – APROMAC
    International Rivers, EUA
    Amazon Watch – EUA
    Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente – AIDA
    Otros Mundos AC/Chiapas – México
    Survival International

    Carta enviada por Rogério Almeida, do Blog FURO, para o EcoDebate, 20/04/2010

  • Andrade

    [quote]After decades of fear over the INTERNATIONALIZATION of the Amazon, LULA just handed it over today to the international community.[/quote]

    What else do you expect from a person who outsourced our defense to the French and is recruiting Giuliani, Blair and Shimon Peres to take care of the “security” during the 2016 Olympics?

    As a lady of “nobility” likes to say, it is time for the Brazilians to “Relax and Enjoy”. ;-):D;-). I suggest you follow her advice. 8)

  • gringo

    Well ya finally went and done it.
    After decades of fear over the INTERNATIONALIZATION of the Amazon, LULA just handed it over today to the international community. Not a single Kilowatt of energy will be consumed by Brazilians, it’s all going to the big international companies already operating in the region; and LULA on his way out is collecting a hefty commission for selling the Amazon to foreigners. Way to go Brazil! A ten minute auction that was decided months if not years ago. Like I always lamented, the biggest threat to Brazilian sovereignty, would be a Brazilian.

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