Belo Monte Dam (update) Faces “Stop Work” Order (not). Indigenous People and Environment Protected by Constitution

Artist’s depiction of the Belo Monte Dam

In a gargantuan battle between those want the Belo Monte dam as a source of power for Brazil’s growing economy and the constitutional rights of the native (indigenous) tribes and environmental destruction that would be caused by flooding as waters behind the dam obliterated communities and changes the ecology in unknown ways.

 In related events there are immense forces of capital (corporations) who stand to profit in a big way by making it appear that the collateral destruction of the rain forest and indigenous tribes who live there is simply patriotic eminent domain. I believe that Brazil has a system of evaluating impact on the environment but I will keep this post updated – carlos

10/5/11  It appear that this is a story with “legs,” meaning that the story continues with labyrinthine twists and turns. The link to the  Huffington Post coverage is up to date with two excellent videos.

9/16/11  OOPS! The Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, apparently made some editorial errors in the original story, which has been corrected recently.  It now appears that the amount of capital invested in construction (and overlooking indigenous constitutional protections) overrides any constitutional claim the unsophisticated, often illiterate indigenous populations may have thought they had.  (Eminent domain is not an oft discussed feature or benefit discussed with preliterate societies)

Para: MPF Seeks Halt In Construction Of Belo Monte To Prevent Removal Of Indians 

18 Aug 2011 (Translated from Portuguese, Original Below)

Brazil’s federal public prosecutor’s office, the MPF (Attorney General of the Republic), has proposed a stop-work order on construction of the Belo Monte dam to avoid removal of indigenous people.  It is the first step in the Brazilian justice system that addresses the right of nature, irreversibly affected by dams in the Big Bend of the Xingu river.   In the lawsuit, the prosecutors point to the inevitable removal of indigenous peoples – which is forbidden by the Constitution – and discuss for the first time in Brazilian courts, the law of nature.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office initiated a lawsuit today asking for the halt in construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu river in Para. “Belo Monte encompasses various clashes: between the generation of hydropower and indigenous rights; between the interests of corporations and  natural law, between the right to economic growth and the principles of environmental law,” says the action the prosecutors Felicio Bridges Jr, Ubiratan Cazetta, Bruno Valente, Daniel Avelino, Bruno Gütschow Terre, and Claudio do Amaral.

Positioning themselves in this confrontation, prosecutors attached to the project as an argument presented to Justice for the first time, the law of nature, violated by Belo Monte. The plant, according to all the technical documents produced, either by IBAMA, the contractors responsible for studies, or by Funai, the MPF or the scientists who have studied the project will cause the death of a considerable part of biodiversity in the region of the Big Bend of the Xingu – 100km stretch of the river that have drastically reduced the flow to feed the hydroelectric turbines.

This stretch of the Xingu is considered, by decree of the Ministry of Environment (MMA Ordinance No. 9 / 2007), as extremely high in biological importance, the presence of animal populations that exist only in this area, essential for food security and the economy of the region’s people. The reduced flow will cause low water tables, extinction of species of fish, birds and turtles, the probable destruction of the alluvial forest and the explosion in the number of insect vectors of disease.

“When the first Brazilian abolitionists proclaimed the slaves as subjects of rights were ridiculed. In the same vein were the advocates of universal suffrage, in the twentieth century. In both cases, the society obtained incalculable gains. In this century, mankind moves towards recognition of nature as a subject of rights. The utilitarian anthropocentric view is outdated. It means that humans can no longer bring nature to unlimited exploitation, “the lawsuit says.

For the MPF, Belo Monte represents not only the violation of indigenous, riparian, and farmers rights, who today live in the Xingu, but violates the law of nature and the right of future generations to sustainable development. “Belo Monte exposes the confrontation between the development at any cost and the principles of environmental law. The solution should always be in favor of the latter, before the greater good to be preserved, what is life in a holistic sense. Belo Monte is committed, irrevocably, the possibility of present and future generations to meet their own needs,” says the MPF.

Despite being a new debate in the Brazilian courts, the law of nature and future generations is the subject of at least 14 international conventions and treaties, all promulgated by Brazil, besides being present in the Federal Constitution.

Prosecutors recall, in action, commitment to the future of the Indigenous Confederation of the Iroquois, the Great Lakes area in North America that inspired the U.S. Constitution. Four centuries ago, six indigenous groups that comprised the Confederacy already argued: “In every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions for the next seven generations.” 


The action was offered in the Federal Court of Bethlehem and is based on the findings of Environmental Impact Studies and Anthropology from Funai to say that, because of serious environmental impacts, indigenous people living in the Big Bend of the Xingu. will be forcibly removed.

Documents that support the environmental licensing point to the same conclusion: drastic change in the economic food chain and removal of indigenous peoples will become inevitable. The two peoples directly affected are of the indigenous territories of the Juruna Paquiçamba on the right bank of the Big Bend and the Macaw, Macaw of the indigenous territories of the Big Bend on the left bank.

Indigenous peoples and Arara Juruna had the traumatic first contact with non-Indians at the mouth of the Xingu, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Rapes, murders and diseases forced the two ethnic groups to flee upriver to Big Bend, where he managed to establish themselves as collectors, fishermen and hunters, excellent connoisseurs of the river and the forest. With the implementation of Belo Monte, will be forced again to flee their homes.

The FUNAI itself lists the impacts of the Belo Monte on two Indigenous Lands: increased pressure and deforestation in the surrounding land, means of navigation and transportation affected, affected water resources, economic activities – fishing, hunting and gathering affected indigenous migration to the stimulus ( Indian land to urban areas), increased the vulnerability of social organization, increased infectious diseases and zoonoses.

For the MPF, it is clear that the destruction of ecosystems of the Volta Grande and the pressures caused by migration will derail the permanence of the Indians on their land, which is expressly forbidden by the Brazilian Constitution in Article 231: “It is forbidden to remove groups indigenous peoples from their lands, except ad referendum of Congress in case of catastrophe or an epidemic that endangers its population, or in the interest of the sovereignty of the country, after approval by Congress, guaranteed, in any case, the immediate return as soon as the risk ceases ” 

As interest is not configured in this enterprise of national sovereignty, the MPF requests a freeze in construction and suspension of the project. If this request is not granted, such as repair, prosecutors asked that North Energy is required to compensate indigenous peoples and Arara Juruna and bordering the Big Bend of the Xingu, and the impacts of biodiversity loss in value that has yet to be determined .

The process clears the 9th Federal District Court in Bethlehem, with the number 0028944-98.2011.4.01.3900.  See the full action:

(The original article has been edited for clarity. Link to original at end.) – carlos

Source: MPF – Ministério Público Federal

Additional resources:  Xingu_BeloMontePortMacaw tribe Xingu

There is a link to Google translate available on these sites. Much of th

e information on the Belo Monte and indigenous issues are in Portuguese.

About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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2 Responses to Belo Monte Dam (update) Faces “Stop Work” Order (not). Indigenous People and Environment Protected by Constitution

  1. clara garcia amaral fernandes says:

    Thank you, dear Carlos, for this article. It is very important to call the attention of the world to the threats that Belo Monte represents to people and evironement of Xingu.

    Amazônia is a lost enourmous world into brazilian and South American areas. It’s an ivisible world to the majority of brazilian people.

    If we dont cry for help “they” will do whatever they want.

    Let’s say “NO” to Belo Monte!!!

    Let me, please, clear this little mistake:

    Belém (not Bethlehem) is the capital of the State of Pará. Thouh the words have the same origin.

    With love,


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