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IW 06

Brazil

LULA'S GIFT TO THE ALUMINUM MULTINATIONAL

The Belo Monte dam


In 2006 Brazil will start construction on the Belo Monte hydroelectric complex, first stage of the hydroelectric complex of Xingú, in the state of Pará. Belo Monte will be the third largest hydroelectric complex in the world, with an output equivalent to eight nuclear plants of the size of Angra II. The investment equals 3.8 billion dollars. With financing from the World Bank, the state-owned Eletronorte will deliver most of its output to private capital. Lula is also preparing bidding on two 8,000 MW dams, on the River Madeira. The projects form part of a group of 17 enormous undertakings, which will irreversibly alter the living conditions of the human population, and the flora and fauna of the Amazon basin. Another 45 projects have been suspended due to legal or environmental problems. Brazil's master plan for energy development contemplates the damming of an area equivalent to half of Venezuela (1) .

The aluminum giant, Alcoa, is promoting the construction of the plant in order to build a new factory. Belo Monte will only provide 1,000 MW to the state of Pará, the rest will be utilized by the Alcoa aluminum foundry. The government recognizes that the damming of the River Xingú will cause flooding, draughts and the interruption of the flow of the river, which will destroy the ecosystem and the food sources of the indigenous peoples, many of whom depend on hunting and fishing. They will be flooded by at least 400 km2 of rainforest, towns and villages and the city of Altamira, implying the expulsion of nine indigenous nations.

In June 2003, the 5th Encounter of those Affected by Dams, coming from 18 states of Brazil, declared: With the privatization of the light and power sector (...) our waters are being placed at the service of private gain. Many concessions made to the aluminum plants, using our rivers under the disguised name of independent producers in order to produce and export aluminum to Europe, the US and Japan, and what is worse, this real looting of our national resources, are carried out with the financial and political support of bodies of the government itself. The Eletronorte plant, for example, sells subsidized electricity at cost to Alcoa and Albras”.

Lula has presented a bill to allow the moving of populations and the “reduction of the size of indigenous reserves” to one third of their present area. The indigenous peoples have literally declared war on the federal government (Corriere Della Sera, 19 February). In 1988, the Indian Tuira sank her knife into the kneck of the manager of Electronorte, who had the audacity of attending the Encounter of Indian Peoples of Xingú. They were able to get the World Bank to suspend financing for the dam. Today, joining in the struggle are environmentalists, women's organizations, and those of human rights, townspeople and small rural producers.

Olga Cristóbal

[1] www.elpanamaaerica.com.pa