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By María José Veramendi Villa
In a recent trip to the area, I was able to see how the situation of the thousands of residents - indigenous, riverside and inhabitants of the city of Altamira - continues to deteriorate. Their communities and ways of life are being irreversibly affected and their human rights, systematically violated due to the construction of the hydroelectric plant. When night turns to day
From the plane, the lights coming from the beds are only momentary flashes. But for the indigenous and riverine communities near them, those lights have meant a radical change in their way of life. Mr. José Alexandre lives with his family in Arroz Cru, a riverside community located on the left bank (bank or left side of a river or stream) of the Volta Grande of the Xingú River (municipality of Vitoria do Xingu), in front of the construction site. Pepper patch. His entire life has been spent in that place, with hunting and fishing as the main activities. However, everything changed since the construction of the dam began.
The force of the lights that illuminate the flowerbed is such that it is no longer possible to fish or hunt as before. Frightened by the light and the explosions, the animals do not appear anymore. José Alexandre has been forced to live off his children's agricultural work: a radical shift in his way of subsistence. The night, which before was truly twilight, is now permanently illuminated ... The stars no longer look the same.
But that is not all. As construction progresses, the river's Volta Grande will be dammed and its flow will be drastically reduced. José Alexandre will then have to leave his home to relocate most likely to an urban area. Although you will receive a payment for your land, how much is enough? Is it possible to make up for the loss of your home, life and culture?
Before the imminent departure from his territory, José Alexandre experienced another painful process: the bodies buried in the community's cemetery, including those of his loved ones, were exhumed a few weeks ago to be transferred to the Altamira cemetery.
When the dead are no longer ours
The Santo Antonio community cemetery is now owned by the Consorcio Constructor de Belo Monte (CCBM). The cemetery was the only thing that remained of that community. Its inhabitants had to leave it because it was nestled between the stone beds of the works.
A sign with the following text was placed at the site:
Norte Energía informs the residents of Villa Santo Antonio and neighboring communities that the cemetery of Villa Santo Antonio will be restricted by the Vitória de Xingu Prefecture as of January 1, 2012, with any and all burial on the premises being prohibited. The burial that is necessary in the period of the interdiction and until the construction of the new cemetery will be carried out in the municipal cemetery of Altamira.
Deaths that occur after that date must be reported to Norte Energía at the […] telephones for the appropriate measures. The sign, posted at the time when the community resettlement was being discussed, looks like a prohibition to die.
Photo: Sign posted by Norte Energía in the San Antonio cemetery. Credit: Xingu Movement Alive Forever
Now it is possible to see in each grave a wooden stake with the initials of the dam and a registration number as an inventory. Needless to say, the resettlement and compensation process was seriously questioned, with the former residents of Santo Antonio being the most affected and whose way of life was destroyed.
When all ties to home are lost
All his life he dedicated himself to fishing. Now his days pass with bags of cement weighing approximately 50 kilos in tow and severe back pain. As a result of the start of work on the Belo Monte dam, Élio was forced to leave his home in the community of San Antonio and move to Altamira, where he now works in the construction industry to survive. In Altamira, Élio lives with some friends, in a room that they gave him for charity. After leaving Santo Antonio, his family separated and each one looked for his own means of sustenance. Elio has lost contact with his friends and the rest of his community. With deep sadness he admits not knowing where or how they live.
They are some of the thousands of stories
Like these there are thousands of stories around the construction of Belo Monte. They are stories of death, destruction and forced displacement. They describe separated families, lost cultures and traditions, abandoned lands; damage to life, health and the environment; and the criminalization of defenders, social movements and victims. They narrate impunity. They are a true reflection of the human rights violations perpetrated by a State that supposedly pursues development, but does so at all costs and, in particular, at the cost of thousands of lives that will never be the same again.