Stirring up the Streets of Rio
The last two days in Rio have been more action-packed than ever. On Wednesday, the day of the global march of the People’s Summit, Jason Rainey (International River's Executive Director) and I met our colleagues from the Movimento Xingu Vivo at daybreak in the Sambadrômo – site of the Rio samba school parades where indigenous peoples and other popular movements are camped out. There, we joined representatives of the Kayapó, Kayabi, Apiaká, Rikbatska, Enawê-nawe and many other indigenous groups, embarking on buses headed for Rio Centro. Once we arrived, we initially participated in a solidarity rally to support resistance of inhabitants from Vila Autôdromo, a lower-class neighorhood adjacent to Rio Centro, slated for mass eviction in favor of planned infrastructure facilities for the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games. From there, we proceeded to march towards the gates of the convention center to protest in front of the dignitaries as they arrived for the first day of the official UN conference.
As the march led by Chief Raoni of the Kayapó weaved its way through the streets of Vila Autôdromo and avenues around Rio Centro, signs and chants against the Belo Monte Dam were a central theme. After almost an hour, we ran into a huge blockade composed of shock troops donning shields, helmets, clubs, rifles, tear-gas and phasers, accompanied by pit bulls, tanks and military helicopters. At one point, as I gazed upon the blockade of troops in green-clad uniforms perched on a bridge over a polluted stream, green from euthrophication, with green tanks and green helicopters hovering menacingly overhead, I commented to a photographer next to me: “Now I get it, this is the Green Economy”.
On Wednesday afternoon, a huge festive march in true carioca style was held in downtown Rio with an estimated 80,000 participants. River defenders of the Xingu, Tapajos and Madeira were enthusiastically present. Check out more photos.
Yesterday morning, a lively and extremely-well attended event at the People’s Summit was organized by the Movimento Xingu Vivo to inform about the current situation and challenges for strengthening the Belo Monte campaign – including the need to confront the Brazilian government’s intensified attempts to criminalize the movement’s leaders. Speakers included key leaders of the movement – Public Prosecutor Felício Pontes and Mara Lira, granddaughter of Cheif Raoni, who emphatically affirmed her generation’s determination to continue the struggle for the Xingu. I spoke briefly to the crowd about campaign actions to increase pressure for accountability and unmask greenwashing vis-à-vis the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) other financial institutions (including signatories of the Equator Principles) and corporate actors such as Vale.
The crowd was outraged at the latest news of government oppression of the Xingu Vivo movement, and hugely enthusiastic in their support of the movement’s leaders. During the meeting, the news broke that the Xicrin-Kayapó had occupied the earthen coffer dam under construction at Pimental, the main site where the Belo Monte complex is slated to divert 80% of the flow of the Xingu River. The crowd was ecstatic (more on this soon!) The event was immediately followed by a lively press conference. All in all, a big success that made it clear that the battle for the Xingu is far from over.
- Read Brent's article from the June 2012 WRR: "The Amazon: Dirty Dams, Dirty Politics and the Myth of Clean Energy."
- Press Release from June 15: Amazonian Communities Occupy the Belo Monte Dam Site
- See photos from the Xingu+23 encounter.
- Brazil Energy Symposium
- Rio+20 Earth Summit