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Committee for Human Rights Addresses Dam Project in Brazil

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August 24, 2010

Writing to various Brazilian officials about the proposed Belo Monte Hydroelectric Project in Para, CfHR petitions for reconsideration of dam construction, as many local indigenous groups would be adversely affected.

On August 24, AAA President Virginia Dominguez, along with Committee for Human Rights co-chairs Robin Root and Deborah Poole, sent letters to various Brazilian officials expressing concern about the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Project in Northern Brazil. 

August 24, 2010


Jorge Chediek
Coordenador Residente das Nações Unidas no Brasil

EQSW 103/104 Lote 01 Bl. D

Brasília DFCep: 70.670-350 


Dear Mr. Chediek:


We, the undersigned, are writing to you with concern about the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Project in northern Brazil, and the human rights issues it raises for Brazil as well as the international community.   Please know that we are sending this letter to key individuals and organizations both in Brazil and outside Brazil, and that we join our Brazilian colleagues in the Associação Brasileira de Antropologia (the Brazilian Anthropological Association) and other national and international organizations in urging major attention to this matter.


We represent the American Anthropological Association, the largest professional association of anthropologists worldwide and, in particular, its standing Committee for Human Rights whose purpose is to stimulate informed involvement in the area of human rights among professional anthropologists, and to conduct and bring before the leadership responsible information on selected, anthropologically relevant cases of potential human rights abuse.   


The Belo Monte Hydroelectric Project in the northern state of Para, Brazil, is such a case, and knowledgeable anthropologists within our association and in parallel national associations have brought it to our urgent attention.  We are concerned that the processes associated with approval of the hydroelectric dam, which would become the third largest in the world, have been unduly hastened and marked by irregularities that may seriously undermine minorities, particularly indigenous peoples. 


At least three injunctions against the construction of the dam, sought and obtained by court order, raise questions of environmental licensing, the extent of social and environmental impact, and the viability of the project.  In addition, full and proper consultation with the communities to be affected has not met the standards for free, prior, and informed consent of the affected populations as stipulated by Brazilian national law and international treaties and conventions to which Brazil is signatory. 


We note that the area to be affected, the Xingu tributary of the Amazon River, is home to twenty-four indigenous societies, whose lands have been demarcated and registered (homologado) under Brazilian law andwhose rights to the lands and waterways they traditionally occupy are recognized as original (National Constitution of Brazil, Art. 231); it therefore being incumbent upon the Union to demarcate, protect, and ensure them against encroachment and harm.


We remind the entities involved of the human rights of these communities, as protected by the 1988 Charter of the Brazilian Constitution (Art 231),  the 1989 Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization of the U.N., and the 2007 U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  With the inalienability of these rights in mind, we urge the Brazilian government to revisit these decisions, and we urge international human rights agencies and organizations to help us do so. 




Virginia R. Dominguez


American Anthropological Association





Robin Root                                                Deborah Poole                            

Co-Chair                                                   Co-Chair        

AAA Committee on Human Rights                AAA Committee on Human Rights




Cc: Izabella Mônica Vieira Teixeira, Ministra de Estado, MMA - Ministério do Meio Ambiente

Abelardo Bayma Azevedo, Presidente, IBAMA - Inst. Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis

José Machado, Secretário-Executivo do Ministério do Meio Ambiente, CONAMA - Conselho Nacional do Meio Ambiente

Erenice Alves Guerra, Ministra de Estado, Casa Civil da Presidência da República

Márcio Pereira Zimmermann, Ministro de Minas e Energia

Mauricio Tiomno Tolmasquim, Presidente, EPE - Empresa de Pesquisa Energética

José Sérgio Gabrielli, Presidente, Petrobrás

Roberto Monteiro Gurgel Santos, Procurador-Geral da República, Ministério Público Federal

Márcio Meira, Presidente, FUNAI

Dilma Rousseff, Candidata à presidência da República – PT

José Serra, Candidato à presidência da República – PSDB

Marina Silva, Candidata à presidência da República - PV

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