Speech by Pres. Lula at a rally for the Belo Monte Dam

Speech by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at a rally for the Belo Monte Dam and the “development” of the Xingu Region

Altamira – PA, June 22nd, 2010

I, comrades, learned over the course of my life, to do politics and I learned to understand people’s behavior. It’s not possible that we don’t take into consideration… and here, I think it’s important that the press register this democratic act that we’re doing here. Certainly, a half-dozen well-intentioned young people, but certainly with intentions, maybe not thinking of Belo Monte… If they had the patience to listen, they would learn what I’ve already learned all this time.

When I was their age, I would go to Paraná to protest against the construction of the Itaipu dam, and at that time, people used to say that we couldn’t build Itaipu, because Itaipu would be used to flood Argentina. Argentina, back then, got to the point of threatening Brazil with the construction of an atomic bomb, fearing that Itaipu would flood Buenos Aires. The opposition – like these kids - for lack of information, used to say that an earthquake would happen, say that the Itaipu reservoir would cause an earthquake in the Itaipu region. And they used to say even more: used to say that Itaipu would change the whole climate of the region. And they used to say even more: that the water would leak out beneath the Earth and it would change the Earth’s axis, the Earth wouldn’t be the same anymore… And they went with other arguments: the weight… isn’t that true? The weight of the water would change the Earth’s axis.

It’s because of these constructed fantasies that we should not be afraid of debating. It’s because of these constructed fantasies that we need to say: the state of Pará and the Xingu region cannot give up Belo Monte, there’s no way to go without it.

I know that a lot of well-intentioned people do not want that the mistakes committed by this country during the construction of hydroelectric projects be repeated. We do not want ever again a hydroelectric plant that commits a crime of insanity crime such as Balbina, in the state of Amazonas. We don’t want to repeat Tucurui, we want something new.

So, if I could give an advice to our comrades who are opposing [Belo Monte]: instead of being against the project, propose an alternative to use the R$4 billion that we’re going to make available in the process, to take care of social and environmental issues. Let’s discuss how we are going to use these R$4 billion, to improve the life of the riverine people, to improve the life of the indigenous people, to improve the life of the farmers. It’s R$4 billion, money that the state of Para has never seen, to take care of social issues.

I can say to you, comrades: there’s maybe somebody who loves Brazil just like I do, I doubt that there’s somebody who loves it more than I do, I doubt there’s somebody who wants to preserve the environment more than I want to preserve it. Now, I’m not ignorant to know that Brazil has a potential to produce more than 164 thousand megawatts of energy from our rivers, and we are going to use this cleaner energy that we produce and we’re going to preserve the environment.

And, here, this is my commitment: look, spend half of the day screaming against it, and spend half putting your positive energy to think something important. Certainly, they became enchanted with the American that came here. They should go there and remove the petroleum from the Gulf of Mexico, that’s  polluting the ocean.

Well, my comrades, I won’t be the president of the republic in six months. But I’ll be Brazilian, I’ll be from Para, I’ll be from Xingu, I’ll be from Altamira, and I’ll be supervising the construction of this hydroelectric plant, because after 30 years, we managed to take off the drawing boards , so that this region here will no longer be just an exporter of aluminum and iron ore, so that this will become an industrialized region, that can generate jobs and income so that the people can live with dignity.

My comrades, I’m going to leave here and go to Maraba. I’m going to announce the beginning of the earthmoving for the first steel plant in the state of Para, to use the energy produced by Belo Monte. Instead of exporting iron and buying chips, we’re going to export a product with value-added so that these young kids can work in the steelwork plant and earn their daily bread. An embrace, comrades, until the inauguration of the hydroelectric plant, God willing.

Read a blog response by Zachary Hurwitz.

Read a response by O Globo columnist Miriam Leitão.