Brazil Breaks Relations With Human Rights Commission Over Belo Monte Dam

May 3, 2011 7:30 am 4 comments

A member of the Caiapo tribe protests the construction of the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil. Photo by International Rivers @Flickr.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has ordered an immediate cessation of relations with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) after the regional body asked the government to suspend construction of Brazil’s $17 billion Belo Monte dam in April.

The Belo Monte Dam, scheduled for completion in 2015, has been a source of considerable controversy in recent months as indigenous communities, environmentalist groups, and celebrities like Sting and director James Cameron have opposed the project. The dam could flood an estimated 195 square miles of the Amazonian rainforest along the Xingú River and displace some 50,000 people. In February, a federal judge blocked construction for failing to meet specific environmental conditions.

On April 1, the IACHR issued interim measures asking the Brazilian government to immediately suspend its licensing process for the dam after receiving a petition from NGOs last November. The IACHR recommended that the Brazilian government consult with the affected groups before proceeding with the project, undertake measures to protect local tribes, and make environmental and social impact statements available in local indigenous languages. If the recommendations go unheeded, the IACHR could open a case against the Brazilian government in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica.

The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by calling the IACHR’s recommendations “precipitous and unwarranted”, submitting a 52-page response that defended the dam to the IACHR in late April. Minister of Defense Nelson Jobim said the regional organization’s request to halt construction would be “returned the way it came” and other officials have confirmed that construction on the dam would continue.

“The request is absurd. It even threatens Brazilian sovereignty,” said Senator Flexa Ribeiro, president of a senate subcommittee that presides over the dam.

The Belo Monte Dam would be the world’s third largest and, according to Brazilian officials, could provide electricity to 23 million homes. Recently, Brazilian mining company Vale agreed to pay $1.4 billion for a stake in the consortium responsible for building the dam. Work has already begun on the project, including the clearing of rainforest and construction of access roads.

Meanwhile, the IACHR, an independent human rights body under the Organization of American States, could lose up to $800,000 in contributions to cover its operating expenses this year. President Rousseff has ordered Brazilian envoy to the OAS Ruy Casaes to remain in Brasilia rather than travel back to Washington, D.C. to take up his post.

Human rights groups in Brazil say that the government’s recent dispute with the IACHR weakens regional protections for human rights that the country has signed on to for decades.

“Belo Monte is one more project that ignores what the people of this region think. They weren’t heard. It’s the model of the military dictatorship,” said Roberta Amanajás, a lawyer from the Paraense Society for the Defense of Human Rights.

Photo: International Rivers @ Flickr.

4 Comments

  • Magdalini Karathanos

    I voted for Dilma, but this act makes me so shame about the project itself, but also for her act of cutting relations with the Human Rights Commission over Belo Monte Dam. The project is going to damage the communities around. It is unbelievable that at this point in time/history Brazil is choosing this pass in terms of energy source and as well as an anti-democratic act against the Human Rights Commission!

    As a Brazilian, I have to ask for sorry!!

  • The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.
    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.
    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

  • ery interesting article on Belo Monte Dam.

    The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Search Continues in Mexico for Missing Students

    Search Continues in Mexico for Missing Students

    Top Story — Police continue to search for over 50 missing students after deadly weekend clashes in Mexico’s Guerrero state left six dead and dozens wounded. The violence began Friday night in the town of Iguala when students from the Ayotzipan teacher training college protested against the school’s unfair hiring practices. Members of the school’s student union claimed that after the protest they attempted to hitchhike back to Ayotzipan on local buses. Authorities maintained the students were forcefully hijacking the […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico Today in Latin America United States Mexican Army Unit Involved in Killings Has a Controversial Record

    Mexican Army Unit Involved in Killings Has a Controversial Record

    Top Story – The Mexican Defense Department has arrested seven soldiers and an army officer as part of an investigation into the alleged massacre of 22 people in San Pedro Limón in June. Those arrested were members of the 102nd Infantry Battalion of the 22nd Military Zone in Mexico State, which has a long history of violent incidents and controversy, reported The Associated Press. Last December, members of the 102nd shot four civilians in the town of Arcelia, Guerrero state, […]

    Read more →
  • Central America El Salvador Photo Essays Community Roundtable in El Salvador Seeks to Mitigate Violence

    Community Roundtable in El Salvador Seeks to Mitigate Violence

    ILOPANGO, El Salvador — In 2012, the two major Salvadoran gangs, MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang, brokered a truce supported by the government. The gang leaders agreed to stop violence and recruitment, to turn in weapons and to begin regular negotiations between incarcerated gang bosses. The homicide rate immediately dropped by half and foot soldiers of both gangs received orders to join local pacification efforts. An unknown number of these efforts cropped up in communities across the country. Some […]

    Read more →
  • Central America El Salvador Guatemala Honduras North America Today in Latin America United States Officials Make Plans to Address Migrant Crisis, Despite Tensions

    Officials Make Plans to Address Migrant Crisis, Despite Tensions

    Top Story – Officials from the U.S., Mexico and Central America are moving to address the unaccompanied minor crisis, but friction over the issue persists. U.S. justice officials met on Thursday with counterparts from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to discuss solutions to the crisis which has affected the U.S. since January, reported EFE. That meeting followed the revelation on Wednesday of working plans for ambitious infrastructure and energy projects in the so-called “Northern Triangle” countries of Central America. […]

    Read more →
  • Argentina Southern Cone Today in Latin America Argentina Attacks Foreign Lenders Amid Economic Crisis

    Argentina Attacks Foreign Lenders Amid Economic Crisis

    Top Story – Argentine leaders lashed out at foreign lenders on Wednesday after a pair of full-page ads ran in two of the country’s leading newspapers. The ads, paid for by an association of bondholders, quoted Germany’s finance minister, who called Argentine policymaking “an example of a lack of strength,” Reuters reported. In response, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez accused the creditors of practicing “economic and financial terrorism” in her speech to the U.N. General Assembly later on Wednesday. Fernandez criticized […]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Southern Cone Today in Latin America Brazil Refuses to Sign U.N. Forest Initiative

    Brazil Refuses to Sign U.N. Forest Initiative

    Top Story – A plan to eliminate deforestation worldwide in the next 15 years collapsed when Brazil said it would not participate, reported The Associated Press. The United States, Canada and the entire European Union signed the declaration, the first of its kind, during a U.N. climate meeting Tuesday but without Brazil’s involvement the plan will be nearly impossible as the country contains most of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest. Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said Brazil was not […]

    Read more →
  • Central America Guatemala Today in Latin America State of Emergency in Guatemala Town After Clashes

    State of Emergency in Guatemala Town After Clashes

    Top Story — Guatemala declared a “state of prevention” Monday in a municipality outside Guatemala City after eleven people died in violence last week, the Associated Press reported. The emergency measures allow for the suspension of constitutional rights, such as the freedom of movement and the right to gather and protest, and will last for a minimum of 15 days. The order also restricts the freedom of the press. Late Sept. 19 an argument between residents of the town of Pajoques […]

    Read more →
  • Colombia Dominican Republic Ecuador North America Peru Photo Essays Puerto Rico Latin Americans March In NYC Against Climate Change

    Latin Americans March In NYC Against Climate Change

    NEW YORK — The People’s Climate March drew more than 300,000 people to Manhattan on Sunday to demand world leaders to take action on climate change. Demonstrators came from all over the world, including many from Latin America. Latino immigrant farmers from Florida and Dominican construction workers from the Bronx also joined the mix. The march in New York, which came as world leaders began to gather here for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly this week, was the largest […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Peru Today in Latin America Peru Announces New Anti-Logging Efforts After Activists Killed

    Peru Announces New Anti-Logging Efforts After Activists Killed

    Top Story – Peru’s government has formed a commission to stop illegal logging on the Peru-Brazil border following the killings of four indigenous leaders of the Ashaninka community in early September, the BBC reported. Anti-logging activist Edwin Chota was shot and killed along with three other Ashaninka leaders near the Brazilian border on Sept. 1, but due to the remoteness of the region their deaths were not reported until a week later. Illegal loggers and the Ashaninka have been in conflict […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Eyewitness Accuses Mexican Troops of Executing Suspects Despite Surrender

    Eyewitness Accuses Mexican Troops of Executing Suspects Despite Surrender

    Top Story — New evidence and an eyewitness report suggest Mexican soldiers executed 21 suspected members of a criminal group this summer following a brief firefight initiated by the troops, the Associated Press reported. The troops reportedly opened fire on the suspected gang members, who were holed up in a warehouse on June 30 in the town of San Pedro Limon in the south of Mexico state. One gunman was killed and two others wounded, while one soldier was injured. When the […]

    Read more →