Complaints by representatives of the local Indian groups in the Volta Grande do Xingu region where the Belo Monte dams and hydroelectric power plants are scheduled to be built went all the way to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the Organization of American States.
The Indian’s charges that they had not been consulted correctly led the OAS to call for a halt to the licensing process at Belo Monte.
Paulo Maldos, at the Secretaria Geral da Presidência da República, points out that there were public hearings held under the auspices of the National Indian Foundation (Funai) and the hearings were registered. But he admitted that there is a need to draw up specific rules for hearings with indigenous communities so that there are no questions about them.
The government says public hearings were held before the Prior License (Licença Prévia, LP) for Belo Monte was issued. The LP has a list of 40 preparatory initiatives that must be undertaken to protect the region and its inhabitants before an Installation License (“LI”) is issued.
The LI will permit actual construction of the dam and power plant. The Indians say they were often unable to attend hearings because they took place in distant locations, while other hearings took place that they did not know about.
“We need norms governing how these hearings are done, levels of influence and veto powers. What we have now is a large amount of subjectivity that makes the licensing process very unpleasant,” declared Maldos.
The secretary reported that he is in frequent contact with Indian leaders and will meet with some of them this week to discuss their grievances. Maldos has his own complaints.
He says that the Indians do not recognize the positive action the government has taken in the region, such as removing settlers and prospectors from Indian reservations in the Volta Grande do Xingu region.
Also, last week the government sent two anthropologists to Pará to sit down with the Indians and work out a development plan for the region once the Belo Monte dam and power plant have been installed.
“We must build Belo Monte because it is necessary. But we have to guarantee the integrity of the native population as well,” said Maldos.