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Brazil hits back in anger over dam protest

Critics say the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River will create a major environmental disaster when it floods more than 193 square miles of Amazonian jungle, displacing indigenous communities.
by Staff Writers
Brasilia, Brazil (UPI) May 2, 2011
Brazil retaliated against the Inter-American Human Rights Court for taking up the cause of protesters opposed to a giant Amazonian dam.

President Dilma Rousseff ordered an immediate cessation of all relations with the court, an autonomous judicial body within the Organization of American States that sits in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Officials said the court could lose up to $800,000 of Brazilian contributions to its operational costs. The country's envoy to the OAS in Washington, Ruy Casaes, is staying put in Brasilia while the row flares, Brazilian media reported.

Rousseff has reacted with anger to the court's recent interventions in support of thousands of poor slum dwellers being displaced by new construction in Rio de Janeiro in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics and then in support of about 50,000 indigenous Amazonians threatened by the new dam.

In both cases the court backed immediate suspension of construction, pronouncements seen in Brasilia as impractical and provocative.

Various environmentalist groups, non-government organizations and entertainment figures, including singer Sting and "Avatar" director James Cameron, joined the campaign.

Critics say the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River will create a major environmental disaster when it floods more than 193 square miles of Amazonian jungle, displacing indigenous communities.

Brazil argues the project is essential to its future economic development. Once completed the dam will generate up to 11,000 megawatts of electricity, create jobs and provide electricity to 23 million homes, say officials.

Critics say a better management of Brazil's existing electricity production capacity would make the dam unnecessary.

The dam will be the world's third largest operational after China's Three Gorges and the Itaipu hydroelectric complex shared by Brazil and Paraguay on the two countries' border.

In April the court ordered an interim measure to suspend the construction of the hydroelectric complex following an appeal by a non-governmental organization acting in the name of tribal communities.

The Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said Rousseff was disappointed and irritated by the court ruling.

The court's interim order to suspend the construction of Belo Monte was rejected by the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry, which described the decision as "unjustifiable."

Officials insisted the dam's construction complied with Brazilian regulations. Officials said the government was in an ongoing dialogue with the indigenous communities over the next steps.

In February the dam faced a setback when a Brazilian federal judge blocked construction, arguing the environmental agency had approved the project without acting upon and meeting 29 environmental conditions.

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Miner Vale invests in mega dam
Brasilia, Brazil (UPI) Apr 29, 2011
Brazilian mining giant Vale will pay $1.4 billion for a stake in the consortium building the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon. Noting that it is already a large investor in hydroelectric plants, including nine plants in Brazil and three in Indonesia, Vale said Thursday that the acquisition of a stake in Belo Monte will increase to 45 percent the portion of the company's global ... read more

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