This article was written by Maira Irigaray
“It’s a bad investment! There are a lot of angry indigenous warriors here who do not want these projects,” I whispered to a group of some 20 Chinese representatives of the China Three Gorges Corporation, who appeared eager to participate in another disastrous Amazon dam project. I found myself coincidentally sitting next to them on the plane while on my way to an indigenous assembly on the Tapajos River, where threatened communities are forging strategies to counter the government’s plan to destroy their river homes with monstrous dams. I couldn’t help myself. While it may have sounded like a joke to deaf ears, I am forever proud to be part of this growing movement with Amazon Watch and our partners in defense of Rivers, Rights and Rainforest.
With Belo Monte’s criminal irregularities in the spotlight, one would think the Brazilian government would lay low – perhaps even learn from the current crisis! Unfortunately, I was seeing the opposite here on the jungle jet and throughout the nation.
Brazil is currently mired in a crisis that is unprecedented since the fall of its reviled military dictatorship (1964-1985). Yet rather than harness this crisis as an opportunity to progress beyond past errors, the government refuses to face reality and heed calls for change.
On national television President Dilma Rousseff maintains that “Brazil has never been stronger than now!” Yet reality is the complete opposite. There is a water crisis, an energy crisis, a political crisis and also a profound corruption crisis emanating from Petrobras, Brazil’s largest company. The scandal is linked to the president herself, nearly everyone in congress and a number of CEOs of Brazil’s biggest construction companies. Emerging revelations from federal investigators also appear to implicate Brazil’s national development bank (BNDES), which is the government’s principal financial lever for infrastructure investment. Stronger than ever? Personified, the nation is barely breathing – gasping for air at best in the hands of immature, crooked leadership.
A clear example of this scandal is the plea bargain testimony from the imprisoned president of the construction company Camargo Correa, who admitted to paying enormous bribes to participate on the construction of the notorious Belo Monte dam, currently under construction in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.
Protecting the Amazon – especially in the lead-up to this year’s crucial COP21 climate conference – is at the core of what we can and should all be a part of doing. With this in mind and heart, we travel deep into remote Munduruku lands to meet over 500 leaders and warriors. However, despite our collective resolve, I cannot stop pondering why Brazil, in the midst of spiraling crisis and under mounting pressure, insists on repeating the same mistakes while eschewing a great opportunity for real progress.
(This article originally appeared on Amazon Watch. It has been reprinted here with permission.)