By JG Vibes
Construction on Brazil’s new dam project, Belo Monte, has been halted again because roughly 150 demonstrators, most of them from nearby indigenous tribes, have occupied the main construction site at Pimental. This is the second occupation attempt in less than six months. Over the summer some 300 indigenous people sustained an occupation of the dam for 21 days, but unfortunately their protest didn’t draw any kind of reaction from the consortium building the dam, Norte Energia.
Norte Energia is a government owned and operated consortium and will start operating in 2015 in the Amazonian state of Para, in the heart of the Rainforest approximately 2,000 miles north of the captial Rio de Janeiro. It would be the third largest dam in the world, and would have an installed capacity of 11 thousand megawatts. Official estimates predict that the dam would flood 500 square kilometers (over 200 square miles) of land occupied mainly by indigenous communities and other small farmers and fishermen as well as dry out a 60 mile stretch of the river known as the Big Bend. From 20,000 to 50,000 people would be displaced to accommodate the project.
Protesters submitted their demands yesterday to the federal government’s Indian agency and the Norte Energia SA consortium developing the project, said Maira Irigaray, Brazil program director for Amazon Watch, a San Francisco-based environmental watchdog. The demands of the protesters are very reasonable, they want a 10 percent stake in profits, as well as the right to fish and move freely along the river, new boats, and a monthly stipend of 3,000 reais (1,472 dollars) for families whose livelihood depends on the river. Considering that these people have never been compensated for the seizure of their private property, it is only fair that they should be able to name their own price. Sadly, had their property rights never been violated to begin with the land would undoubtedly be kept in better condition, and be far more useful to the communities that depend on it for survival.
I just covered this issue recently in an article on homesteaded property rights for indigenous people, in the article i discussed how:
“local governments sell or give away land that they do not rightly own to larger governments. Those larger governments then become the sole holders of property in the area, and begin to set up their own factories. Since most of the usable land has been stolen by these groups, the factories that spring up in the area will have an unnatural advantage that will result in the establishment of a monopoly. This leaves the people who had their land stolen with only 2 options, work for the monopoly and have a terrible life, or live on a reservation style wasteland and live a horrible life. This is an absolutely sickening predicament that has no place in a civilized world, but it is so important to reiterate, that this is not a natural situation, this is not the result of freedom, or of a free market. Quite the opposite, this situation has come about as a result of state violence and a primitive disrespect for property rights.
To clarify this point, lets imagine a world that actually was free, where homesteaded property rights were accepted and where people were free to do whatever they wished so long as they did not hurt anyone else. Say that a group of indigenous people had a right to land that was rich in oil or mineral resources, they would have limitless options, compared to what they experience today. They would have the ability to sell parts of the land, or just sell the resources, they would even have the ability to rip up every offer that was tossed their way and keep the land to themselves for sentimental and preservational reasons.”
The protesters at Belo Monte have made enough of an impact on the site already to send over 1000 workers home, but ultimately Norte Energia will have the final say on how the property they have stolen will be used and how the victims of that theft will be compensated. A federal judge in Altamira, the city closest to the work site, gave both sides a 48-hour deadline to come to an agreement, but that deadline ended on October 12th and there has still been no word from Norte Energia on how they are going to compensate the native people for their property.