- Parent Category: News
- Category: International Indigenous Events and News
- Published: 27 May 2008
By Alan Clendenning
Altamira, Brazil (AP) 5-08
Painted and feathered Indians waving machetes and clubs slashed an official of Brazils national electric company during a protest over a proposed hydroelectric dam.
Mobs of Indians from different tribes surrounded Eletrobras engineer Paulo Fernando Rezende minutes after he gave a presentation to a gathering debating the impact of the Belo Monte dam on traditional communities living near this small, remote city in the Amazon region.
Rezende emerged shirtless, with a deep, bloody gash on his shoulder, but said Im OK, Im OK, as colleagues rushed him to a car.
Tensions were running high at the meeting, where about 1,000 Amazon Indians met with activists to protest the proposed dam on the Xingu River. Environmentalists warn it could destroy the traditional fishing grounds of Indians living nearby and displace as many as 15,000 people.
Hes lucky hes still alive, said Partyk Kayapo, whose uses his tribes name as his last. They want to make a dam and now they know they shouldnt.
Following the attack, Kayapo and dozens more members of his tribe danced in celebration with their machetes raised in the air, their faces painted red and wearing little more than shorts and shell necklaces.
The Brazilian government said the proposed US$6.7 billion (euro4.3 billion) hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River, which flows into the Amazon, will supply Brazil with an estimated 11,000 megawatts of power and is essential to meet growing energy demand.
Rezende, who was the top government official at the conference, said the dams impact would not be as bad as some environmentalists were making it out to be and that it was selected from a number of Xingu dam proposals as being the option that will least affect Indians.
Rezende was booed several times during his presentation, only to be followed by Roquivam Alves da Silva of the Movement of Dam Affected People, who roused the crowd by declaring: Well go to war to defend the Xingu if we have to.
Da Silva denied that he incited the attack.
Its true it happened right after I spoke, but I dont think I caused it, he told The Associated Press. Tensions were already simmering.
Wilmar Soares, who heads Altamiras association of business owners, said residents were demanding increased security at the weeklong protest, scheduled to end on Friday.
No one has the right to cut anyone. It was a surprise, but it was preventable, he said.
Rezende was given stitches at a hospital and released. He then made a statement to authorities and left without speaking to reporters.
The attack recalls a similar meeting in 1989 when Indians held a machete to the face of another Eletrobras engineer during protests against a series of proposed hydroelectric dams on the Xingu river. Following that incident, the World Bank canceled loans to Brazil for the dam.
Eletrobras, or Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA, said it will take all necessary steps to ensure that those responsible for this attack are punished. Dam conference organizers said the incident does not reflect the democratic spirit of dialogue.