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Demonstrators are occupying Belo Monte's building site and are requiring compliance with ILO Convention No. 169

Demonstrators are occupying Belo Monte's building site and are requiring compliance with ILO Convention No. 169

Source : Agência Brasil
A group of indigenous people, the Quilombolas and the Ribeirinhos alongside environmental campaigners, have occupied one of  the construction sites of the Belo Monte Dam since the beginning of May. They are asking for the suspension of works on all of the hydroelectric dams in Amazonia until prior consultation with the indigenous peoples is finally organized, as set out in the ILO Convention No. 169.

Approved by the National Congress on 20 June 2002 (Decree No. 143) and promulgated by the Presidency of the Republic on 19 April 2004, the ILO Convention No. 169 stipulates, in particular, that the indigenous peoples must be consulted when legislative or administrative measures call their interests into question. According to this convention, a consultation must be conducted "through appropriate procedures" and by their representative institutions "with a view to reaching an agreement and to obtain their consent regarding the proposed measures". This rule legally came into effect in 2003.

In January 2012, the Brazilian government finally set up an interdepartmental working group in order to evaluate and define the boundaries of prior consultations. This working group is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the General Office of the Presidency of the Republic, with the participation of several organizations and government entities. 


Eight ethnic groups are fighting together against the dam

The Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI) indicated in a press release that at least 200 indigenous people from the Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapó, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakanã and Arara ethnic groups were together involved in the occupation of the Belo Monte site, which is one of the three main building sites of the civil engineering company, located 55 km from Altamira (State of Parà).  For its part, the Military Police of the State of Parà declared at the Agência Brasil that no more than about fifty indigenous people, along with a handful of demonstrators, have prevented trucks from going to Belo Monte.

According to the police, no violence has been recorded, whilst according to the Belo Monte Construction Consortium (CCBM), no damage has been noticed on the building site. Yet, the works have been suspended for security reasons. The federal police came to assist the twenty policemen from the Special Missions Command of the military police who were already on the scene. According to them, the situation was under control. Again according to the public authorities, the demonstrators would have submitted no claim whatsoever to the Belo Monte Construction Consortium (CCBM) nor to Norte Energia, the company which is handling the case. To this day, the Agência Brasil has not yet managed to contact the organizers of the protest.


"We come from Amazonia"

Published on this occasion by the demonstrators and transmitted by the CIMI -the non-governmental organisation of indigenous people related to the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB)-, the release calls once more for mobilisation: "We are the people who live on the shores where you want to build dams. We are Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapó, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakanã, Arara, Ribeirinhos and we live on our fishing. We come from Amazonia and we want it to stand. We are Brazilian. The river is our market. Our ancestors are older than Jesus Christ.

You are pointing your weapons at us, you are invading our territory with soldiers and engines of war, you are making our fish disappear, you are stealing the remains of our ancestors who are burried here. You are doing that because you are afraid to hear us, to hear that we do not want this dam, and you are afraid to understand why we do not want it.

You pretend that we are violent and that we want war. But who is killing our parents ? How many white people are dead and how many indigenous people are dead ? You are killing us, quickly or gradually. We are dying and each dam is killing more people. And when we try to talk, you just send tanks, helicopters, soldiers, machine guns and weapons...

What we want is simple: the law of Prior Consultation with Indigenous Peoples must be applied. You must stop all the works and studies, you must put an end to police interventions on the Xingu, Tapajós and Teles Pires Rivers. You must consult us.

We want to have a dialogue with you, but you do not let us talk. That is why we occupied your building site. You must stop the works and just hear us."

© Alex Rodrigues - Agência Brasil / translation by Wendy Labadie (thank you to Lizzie Cornish) : original article

Date : 02/05/2013