Chief Raoni of the Kayapo has spent 30 years fighting the Xingu River.
Photo courtesy of Amazon Watch
By Rhett Butler
May 17, 2016
Leaders of more than two dozen Kayapó indigenous communities have rejected a $9 million offer from Brazilian state energy company Eletrobras to fund development projects in their region due to the the firm’s involvement in the construction of the Belo Monte dam, reports Amazon Watch, an activist group fighting the hydroelectric project.
Eletrobras had offered the money over a four year period, during which it is planning to proceed with the dam, which will redirect the flow of 80 percent of the Xingu river, which Kayapó and other indigenous communities depend upon for fishing. Belo Monte, which will operate at less than 40 percent of capacity despite its $15 billion dollar price tag, will require additional upstream dams to be commercially viable, according to independent analysts. These dams would more directly affect the Kayapó, the majority of whom live 500 km upstream of the Belo Monte dam site.
Accordingly, during a meeting last week in the town of Tucuma the Kayapó leaders unanimously rejected the funding proposal and vowed to fight the dam.
“We have decided that your word is worth nothing. The conversation is over,” wrote the Kayapó in a letter to Eletrobras. “We, the Mebengôre Kayapó people have decided that we do not want a single penny of your dirty money. We do not accept Belo Monte or any other dam on the Xingu.”
“Our river does not have a price, our fish that we eat does not have a price, and the happiness of our grandchildren does not have a price. We will never stop fighting: In Altamira, in Brasilia, or in the Supreme Court. The Xingu is our home and you are not welcome here.”
The Kayapó also sent a letter to Joaquim Barbosa, the President of Brazil’s Supreme Court, demanding action against the dam.
Not all the Kayapó have rejected funds from Eletrobras. Amazon Watch says that about a quarter of the Kayapó — specifically communities from the northwest of Kayapó lands — have accepted funds from the energy giant.
There are around 7,000 Kayapó left in Brazil.
Three hundred indigenous people, small farmers, fisherfolk, and local residents occupied the Belo Monte Dam project, removing a strip of earth to restore the Xingu’s natural flow and “freeing the river.” Participants gathered in formation spelling out the words “Pare Belo Monte” meaning “Stop Belo Monte” to send a powerful message about the devastating impacts of the dam on the eve of the UN Rio+20 Summit. Their message is that projects that destroys livelihoods and the environment and that violate indigenous rights cannot be called “Clean Energy”. They are demanding the cancellation of the $18 billion Belo Monte dam project. Caption courtesy of Amazon Watch. Photo credit: Atossa Soltani/ Amazon Watch / Spectral Q