“We should be finding a solution together to preserve the forest for the future of our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. What’s going to happen when it’s all gone, when it’s all destroyed and there’s nothing left?”~Chief Raoni
Indigenous peoples throughout Brazil and across the Amazon are increasingly threatened by encroaching corrupt money hungry agribusiness, oil and gas projects and large infrastructure projects such as highways and dams. The Belo Monte dam, currently under construction in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon on the Xingu River (one of the most important life support systems in Brazil), is one of those projects. According to Norte Energia, the government consortium building the dam, the project is 50% complete, but is mired in gross local, national and international environmental and human rights violations. Furthermore, Belo Monte is the first of a destructive series of dams slated for the Amazon, including 29 proposed dams on the Tapajós and Teles Pires rivers. Mega-dams in the Amazon are not clean energy – they are dirty and destructive for rainforests, for rivers and for rights.While the world is distracted watching Brazil host the global sporting spectacle known as the world cup, a darker reality is manifesting. Encouraged by President Rousseff’s Workers Party, Brazil’s powerful and corrupt agribusiness sector is laying the groundwork for a massive land grab, intent on gutting indigenous territorial rights while riding a shocking wave of intolerance.
According to Amazon Watch, “When legendary Kayapó Chief Raoni touched down in Paris alongside his nephew Chief Megaron earlier this month, urgent concerns over the deteriorating rights of Brazil’s indigenous peoples were foremost on their minds and in their voices. Having just come from a national indigenous mobilization in Brasilia where police brutally repressed a peaceful protest outside a World Cup stadium, the chiefs bore a message of indignation and alarm.”
Today, deforestation is running rampid and what were once clean waters are now polluted, “we cannot see the fish when we are trying to hunt them with bow and arrow”, says Chief Raoni.
Where are human values today? What is driving such skewed and foul behavior? All the people we adore as geniuses and great thinkers each century say that we must act with the intention of protecting all life on this earth, to constantly maximize existing and future technologies, with the sole purpose of enhancing all human life and protecting the environment. Protecting indigenous peoples means keeping their wisdom alive which is essential. Yet so-called leaders of this world do anything but that. The minds of men are poisoned by social conditions that promote disruptive thoughts of power and money.
Bringing global awareness to this situation is a critical tool for Brazil’s indigenous movement as it confronts increasing number of threats. And chiefs Raoni and Megaron are among the movement’s principle ambassadors. Their European delegation took them to France’s National Assembly and England’s Parliament, meetings with figures such as Prince Charles, and into packed halls where their message resonated to an appreciative and engaged public.“We came here because we understand that international support is essential to our struggle for survival,” said chief Megaron. “It’s also important to expose the European companies behind the destruction of our lands and rivers, such as [French energy company] GDF Suez.”
Brazil’s development is deeply influenced by Europe’s interests and markets. European political and consumer demands for major environmental and human rights standards could bring a hault on the country’s insane expansion of its agricultural frontier into indigenous lands and protected areas.
“Our visit has had a positive impact – the public understood my message and committed to supporting the struggle for the future of our people,” said Chief Raoni. “We should be finding a solution together to preserve the forest for the future of our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. What’s going to happen when it’s all gone, when it’s all destroyed and there’s nothing left?”
Having confirmed meetings with GDF Suez CEO Gérard Mestrallet in Paris, the chiefs walked out of the company’s offices in protest when he failed to show up. Mr. Mestrallet’s disrespect exemplifies the negligence of European corporate actors like GDF Suez, whose Amazon dams have wrought incalculable destruction and rights abuses. The actions of chiefs Raoni and Megaron are encouraging a growing and vocal indigenous protest movement against European profiteers of Amazon destruction.
“We indigenous people live in a moment of dramatic threats and regressions, marked by rights violations and brutal violence,” said Sônia Guajajara, coordinator of Brazil’s Articulation of Indigenous Peoples (APIB). “One way to continue our struggle and enact this political confrontation is to internationalize our discourse in order to bring more visibility to the real situation in which we live in Brazil.”
These kind people of Brazil are literally fighting for their lives and need the support of the world behind them. It’s essential we stand up for what’s right and stop the bullying.
This month, the Guajajara indigenous people will lead a large and diverse committee of Brazilian indigenous leadership to Portugal to build international support for the movement’s fight for rights. With so much on the line, the country’s native peoples are bravely rising to confront the challenge, mounting a frontline resistance to plans for wholesale Amazon destruction. They do this not only for the sake of their own right to healthy lands, vibrant communities, and cultural integrity, but for humanity as a whole.
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Belo Monte Justice Now!