Backtrack on stoppage at Belo Monte
Supreme Court authorizes resumption of construction on hydroelectric dam.
In an unending back-and-forth, Chief Justice of Brazil’s Supreme Court, Carlos Ayres Britto, on Aug. 27 ordered that work on the Belo Monte dam resume, two weeks after the Regional Federal Court of the 1st Region, or TRF1, based in the capital of Brasília, revoked the project’s license.
Ayres Britto overturned the suspension on work at Belo Monte at the request of the Attorney-General of the Union Luis Inácio Adams, who represents the state in legal matters, and alleged that paralysis on the project would hurt public assets as well as the economy and energy policies in Brazil. Adams said the decision to halt construction went against a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that determined the dam did not violate the Brazilian constitution. If completed, the hydroelectric plant would be the third largest in the world, behind China’s Three Gorges and Brazil and Paraguay’s Itaipú.
TRF1 determined that Belo Monte did not abide by the Constitution or the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 concerning indigenous and tribal peoples because no prior, free or informed consultation was carried out with the affected indigenous communities.
One of Adams’ arguments is the social and economic chaos of laying off 14,000 workers. He did not mention, however, the social, economic, and environmental disaster that Belo Monte will cause in the region, nor that when construction ends around 40,000 workers will be jobless, according to environmental organization Amazon Watch.
“This unfortunate decision doesn’t invalidate the TRF1’s judgment that the project is unconstitutional,” said Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch. “This is a failure of the judiciary to stand up to entrenched interests and the power of a politically motivated executive branch that wants the Belo Monte Dam to move forward at all costs.”
According to Amazon Watch, many ministers and government officials visited Justice Ayres Britto before issuing the ruling and spoke out against the suspension of Belo Monte and the consultation of indigenous peoples, yet the judge did not agree to meet with representatives from the indigenous communities affected by the project.
“This case is emblematic of a seriously flawed legal system, where bureaucracy and political interventions allow for systematic violations of human rights and environmental law,” said Brent Millikan, Amazon Program director at the nongovernmental organization International Rivers. “There is an urgent need to judge the merits of over a dozen lawsuits against Belo Monte that are still awaiting their day in court.” —Latinamerica Press.