More on Monte Belo

2 Sep

Well a hydro electric project that will destroy thousands of hectares of Amazon rainforest and displace thousands of forest dwellers in order to give billionaire manufacturers a source cheap power paid for by the Brazilian taxpayer has received the go-ahead. ‘O Lula’ , as everyone calls him, recently signed a decree authorizing the government to put out tenders for the project that is destined to become the world’s third largest dam. Its cost? More than US $10 billion, or 19 billion reais, 80% of which will be financed by the state-owned Brazilian Development Bank, or BNDES. And I assume it will probably end up costing more, unless people decided to do what they did with the Tucurui dam and simply flood vast acreages of standing forest, wildlife and all. I am not against hydro-electricity (why will no one build small, local dams for local communities?) the same way I’m not against bio-fuels. It’s just that when the profit motive takes over, social and environmental destruction generally ensues.

I remember Lula when he was still leader of a struggling political party that was meant to unite the working class and social movements into a force for positive change. To stem government corruption and spread democratic decision-making.

I remember when he told Sandino Mendes, the then four-year-old son of union leader Chico Mendes that he would be his father since his own father had been murdered.

Economists might say that reality took over from ideals, emotion and honesty once Lula was elected president, that he had to think about the good of the nation – and its GDP – instead of the poor who make up the vast majority of that nation. They will calculate the amount of wealth created because of that GDP growth but not the way it is skewed to the already well-off.

Now Lula’s days in power are coming to an end. Presidential elections are slated next month in Brazil and the frontrunner is the Workers Party’s Dilma Roussef. She’s already made the break between the old party and the social movements that once campaigned for it crystal clear. She’s declared that she will not, for example tolerate “land invasions by the MST,” or Landless Peasants Movement. 

If the children of rural union leaders and community activists – like the ones protesting Belo Monte – lose their parents, they won’t get much sympathy Dilma Roussef. A growing GDP just doesn’t seem to allow for that.

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