Indians protesting against the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon
Indians protesting against the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon
© Verena Glass/Survival

Hundreds of Indians from throughout the Brazilian Amazon participated in a landmark protest to highlight the threat to their survival posed by large infrastructure projects, in particular the hugely controversial Belo Monte dam.

Over 500 Indians from 27 tribes converged near the Xingu River in the Amazon, on which the Belo Monte dam is planned to be built, bearing the message: ‘Defend the Xingu: Stop Belo Monte’.

The protest followed the publication last week of a new Survival International report highlighting a worldwide boom in dam building for ‘green’ energy, and its devastating impact on tribal peoples.

If built, Belo Monte would destroy rainforest and reduce fish stocks on which Indians in the area depend for their survival. The influx of immigrants during the construction of the dam threatens to bring violence and disease to the Indians.

Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó tribe said at the protest, ‘We must never give up, because we are fighting for a right that is ours! Nature is life, it has sustained us until today, so we have to defend Nature as our father and mother who give us life….Is this [dam] what we really want, my friends? Let us stand together against Belo Monte!’.

Following a series of discussions about the dam, the protesters released a Declaration calling for Belo Monte and other large infrastructure projects in the Amazon to be halted.

The protest was organized by the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon.

Around 800 Indians are protesting this week in Mato Grosso do Sul state, south of the Amazon, against the assassination of their leaders, the theft of their land and other threats to their survival. The Indians at this protest are particularly emphasizing the critical situation of the Guarani Indians.