Brazil: Protests against Belo Monte Dam declared illegal

Chief Raoni with his feathered headdress and war paint gives an Interview Indigenous people in their struggle against the Belo Monte Dam project

Jul 1, 2012

Police forces of the Brazilian state of Pará have arrested eleven people who had participated in a protest action against the Belo Monte Dam. In advance of the environmental conference Rio+20, the activists had planned to hold a multi-day rally near Altamira in order to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by the construction of the dam. The arrests came suddenly, and the prosecution is based on threadbare grounds.

Police forces of the Brazilian state of Pará have arrested eleven people who had participated in a protest action against the Belo Monte Dam. Apart from environmental activists of the Xingu Vivo Para Sempre movement (meaning: Xingu River forever alive), a priest and a nun who had given their blessings to the protest were taken into custody. A fisherman who had lost his house due to the construction works as well as a filmmaker who was documenting the action by camera were also put in prison.

In advance of the environmental conference Rio+20, the activists had planned to hold a multi-day rally near Altamira in order to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by the construction of the Belo Monte Dam. The arrests came suddenly, the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence and is based on threadbare grounds.

No evidence against Belo Monte activists

The people arrested are accused of planning to occupy the offices of Norte Energia, the company assigned with the construction of the Belo Monte Dam. “There is not a single piece of evidence for this charge”, says Marco Apolo Leão, a lawyer and the president of the Sociedade Paraense de Defesa dos Direitos Humanos (a Pará based organization dedicated to protecting human rights), who has taken on the defense for the Belo Monte activists. In addition to the aforementioned charge, there are allegations of property damage, arson, theft and public nuisance. According to reports of several human rights groups, these accusations are baseless as well.

Arrests are politically motivated

Because their attorney is denied access to the records, the detainees refuse to testify. Above all, they call the legality of their arrest and their indictment into question. “In Altamira, police and military forces are paid largely by the construction company Norte Energia”, their official statement reads. The cooperation between Norte Energia and government security forces goes back to an agreement concluded by the regional government and the company. The activists believe that the police action is politically motivated and meant to criminalize the protest movement against Belo Monte. 150 Brazilian civil society organizations share this view – and therefore, they call for the release of the prisoners and the closing of legal proceedings.

Rainforest Rescue supports all acts of solidarity aimed at releasing the activists arrested.