repression against the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB),
started when they began to denounce the Brazilian energy model,
in which residential consumers pay up to seven times more than
large corporations. In 2005, 10 people from MAB were arrested,
109 were being sued, and 20 were wounded during mobilizations.
In 2006, four people were arrested, 130 were being sued, and
25 were wounded during mobilizations.
United Nations confirms the denunciations of the Movement of
March 14th, 2006, the Special Representative
of the United Nations (UN), Hina Jilani, released her
preliminary report about the promotion and protection of human
rights in Brazil.
March 14th marks the international day of the struggle against
Jilani visited the state of Santa Catarina, where she met the
Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), and heard about their
situation, especially about the human rights violations in the
Campos Novos Dam.
her report, Hina Jilani underlines that MAB constitutes a
benefit for and adds value to Brazilian democracy. This public
recognition from a representative of the UN adds to the
manifest of the National Conference of Bishops in Brazil
(CNBB), in a moment when MAB is suffering a great deal of
denounce the violence with which MAB people are treated,
victims of the implementation of hydroelectric plants in the
name of promoting “progress.” The Movement of Dam-Affected
Peoples – MAB has been holding manifestations and protests
to call attention to the reality they face.
people affected by dams protest, they are demanding respect
for basic rights of an entire community. And their protests
are treated with violence.
We are worried about this situation. We denounce the
arbitrary violence committed against people affected by dams.”
According to the UN
report, MAB and other social movements “developed
methods of social action and participation, and are developing
strategies that diminish the possibility of violence”.
On the other hand, the majority of mainstream media
in Brazil projects MAB as a “gang.” On July, 2006, the
newspaper Estado de
Minas published an article that described MAB as “a
radical group, suspected of a sabotage plan.”
The sources of this publication were supposedly the
Brazilian Secret Service (ABIN, P2).
against the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), started
when they began to denounce the Brazilian energy model, in
which residential consumers pay up to seven times more than
has increased after MAB began to denounce the rises in energy
price (more than 400% over the last 10 years). They also
denounced social and environmental impacts from hydroelectric
plants that are being constructed to benefit large,
companies benefit from the fact that the cost of energy does
not include social or environmental costs.
Most products that Brazil exports today are
electro-intensive, which means that we are transferring abroad
a social and
It is necessary to understand that, for instance, when
the paper-consuming industries and cellulose industries buy
our products for cheaper prices, this is not due only, or
perhaps principally, as we are led to believe, to our
competitive business in this area, but rather because of the social
and environmental debt that has gone unpaid. ...It is as if the affected populations, with their losses,
were subsidizing the largest consumers of energy.”
This situation was
confirmed by the UN report, which concluded that “a
large part of the violence against human rights defenders is
rooted in conflicts over land and for the protection of the
environment, and this violence is committed by powerful
private individuals, who in certain circumstances, have
benefited from their relationships with state and local
In fact, powerful
groups such as those which built the Campos Novos Dam, the
consortium ENERCAN, composed by the companies Companhia
Paulista de Força e Luz (CPFL), Companhia Brasileira de Alumínio
(CBA) and Grupo VBC (Votorantim, Bradesco, and Camargo Correa)
– which is also the builder of the project – is
responsible for human rights violations at dams in Brazil. In
this case, the violations were denounced to the OAS –
Organization of American States – as well as to the United
Nations, demanding that the companies
recognize the rights of more than 600 affected families.
The petition also
refers to the report by Hina Jilani, which says:
an attempt to achieve social, economic, cultural, and
environmental rights, seeking to expose violations of human
rights and put an end to ongoing impunity, these human rights
defenders are at great risk. Their right to life, liberty, and
personal safety continues to be threatened.”
Six months after the
publication of the report, the Bishop of Xingu, Dom Erwin
Krautler, 67, who denounced serious problems in the
construction of the Hydroelectric Plant of Belo Monte,
declared to Isto É
magazine that he was receiving death threats for his
involvement in the fight against the dam.
The UN report also described the repression against
human rights activists: “When human rights activists organize themselves, they are
accused of forming gangs, and when they mobilize into
collective action to protest against human rights violations,
they are accused of creating public disorder.”
2005, 10 people from MAB were arrested, 109 were being sued,
and 20 were wounded during mobilizations. In 2006, four people
were arrested, 130 were being sued, and 25 were wounded during
In relation to the
position of the Brazilian legal system in such cases, the UN
report recommends that there should be: “critical
adjustments in the role of the judicial system, so that the
social policies of the State outlined in the Constitution, are
more likely to be implemented. In this context, constitutional
interpretations and judicial actions need to guarantee not
only equal respect for economic, social, and cultural rights,
but also the removal of any conflict in respect to the
implementation of the diverse rights guaranteed by the
unfortunately, are not being taken into account.
On July 3rd, 2006, in Nonoai, Rio Grande do Sul state,
in a public assembly held to discuss the criminalization of
the populations affected by dams in the Rio Uruguai basin, a
county judge handed out a daily fine of R$ 350,000.00 against
when the company had to pay a R$10,000.00 fine.
In relation to the
physical violence practiced by military police of various
Brazilian states against dam-affected peoples, the UN
am especially worried about the use of “non-lethal” arms,
such as rubber bullets, by security forces in their operations
during mobilizations. I documented serious allegations of
violence against human rights defenders and abuse of power
from the military police.”
the same time, those responsible for human rights violations
still enjoy impunity. For example, the company Engevix S/A,
responsible for the largest environmental damage caused by a
dam in the south of Brazil, continues to act with impunity in
the electric sector, as a partner of hydroelectric plants in
the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná.
Recently, it signed contracts with these states to sell
energy until 2011.
the government has plans to build 1443 new dams in
Brazil. So, the people
affected by dams need to continue organizing as a movement and
fighting to guarantee their basic rights: food, shelter, work,
and education for their children. In this process, it’s
likely that there will be conflicts with the government, the
police, and principally with the corporations.
Leandro Gaspar Scalabrin is a member of the Human Rights
Sector of the Movement of Dam-Affected People.
all of the efforts of ENERCAN, on June 19th, 2006, the
company lost control of the spill in the dam tunnels, when
the spill reached 4573 m3/second, causing the complete
emptying of the plant’s reserves.
The spill occurred due to the mad rush of the
company to sell energy to its buyers, as in February of
2006, when the spill was controlled, instead of the group
investigating the event more deeply, they opted for the
refilling of the reserve, as civil engineer Francisco
Fernando Quintanhila revealed as consultant to ENERCAN, on
June 2nd, 2006: “At the end of February 2006 the spill
was totally controlled.
There was a meeting with specialists on March 3rd,
2006, where it was decided that as the flow of water was
small and easily pumped, the reserve should be refilled.
The idea was to meet the quota of energy already
agreed upon by ANEEL and the buyers.”
The spill had been foreseen, but the population was