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By Saulo Araujo
December 21st, 2012
By Jonathan Leaning
November 26th, 2012
A massive, very active social movement against the loss of land and ecosystems caused by hydro-electric dams is making headway in Brazil. The movement is little known in North America so far, but that’s changing. And it’s on the brink of spreading across the world wherever large dams are being built and waterways threatened.
But what’s all the fuss, some may ask. Doesn’t it usually only affect isolated communities, and isn’t hydropower a much more environmentally friendly source of cheap energy, especially compared with nuclear, coal, or oil? Are these anti-dam activists clinging to a kind of prosaic, but impractical pastoral way of life, or just trying to push the dams into somebody else’s backyard?
Leaders of the Guarani Kaiowá boldly announced that the entire community would rather die in their land defending from businesses and corporations. Their assertion is more than a war declaration. For us, the buyers of “clean energy,” their pronouncement is a jarring wake-up call that the “Green Economy” actually promotes genocide of indigenous people and Afro-descendent communities –whether in the form of a slow die off of disposed peoples or a quicker resistance.
Before becoming Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Roussef helped to engineer an ambitious development plan that would change the country. Known as the Accelerated Growth Plan and the Ten-year Energy Plan, it would build 134 dams by the year of 2020 in the Amazon alone. Among the losers in the plan: thousands of acres of forest; habitat for endangered species; and thousands of families unfortunate enough to have ancestors who chose to settle these lands. According to Grassroots International’s partner, the Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), the ambitious development plan failed to include any funding to offset hunger and unemployment, or to revamp public services for those displaced populations whose livelihoods will be wiped.
Created in 1978, the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) was the first national organization formed by peasants and indigenous people in Guatemala. CUC is represented in over 200 communities and 6 micro-regions of the country. The organization is dedicated to rights to land, water and food sovereignty in impoverished peasant communities in Guatemala. Its approach includes:
The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending the rights of Garifuna peoples in Honduras. Garifuna peoples are Afro-descendent and indigenous communities who have successfully resisted various threats – from slavery and colonialism, to current-day pressures of neoliberalism. OFRANEH’s work to defend Garifunas’ land and territorial rights is part of that long struggle for the human rights of Afro-descendent indigenous populations.
They left San Vicente searching for a peaceful place to live, free of the oppressive British colonial powers. Three thousand women, men and children sailing atop the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea were thirsty and hungry. The sun over their heads was abrasive. Many perished before reaching the island of Roatan, Honduras, their new home. Today, many of their Garifuna heirs, an Afro-descendant population in the Caribbean coast of Central America, are still struggling for days of peace, like their ancestors envisioned some 213 years ago.
This summer, a group of Grassroots International supporters and allies participated in a delegation to Pernambuco, Brazil. There they saw first-hand the resilient and powerful work of the Landless Workers Movement, the Movement of People Affected by Dams, and the Via Campesina. Along the way, delegates talked with with small farmers, families living in encampments waiting for land, and indigenous communities working to protect their ancestral lands from the incursion of impending dams.
Below is a blog from Peggy Newell, one of the delegates and a Grassroots International supporter, offering her reflections on the journey.
Traveling to Not That Brazil, by Peggy Newell