Brazil: protesters briefly reoccupy Belo Monte dam

In the early morning of March 21 some 150 indigenous people and other local residents occupied one of the four construction sites at the giant Belo Monte dam now being built on the Xingu River in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The action, which brought construction at the Pimental site to a halt, was carried out by members of the Juruna, Xypaia, Kuruaia and Canela indigenous groups and by non-indigenous riverside dwellers, who mostly support themselves by fishing. The protesters were demanding clarification of the boundaries of their territories and also compensation they said had been promised them by Norte Energía, the consortium of private and state-owned companies in charge of the hydroelectric project.

Argentina: provincial court blocks Monsanto facility

Judges in Córdoba City, capital of the central Argentine province of Córdoba, issued an order Feb. 25 suspending construction of a corn seed-drying plant by Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company. Provincial Labor Court judges Silvia Díaz and Luis Farías cited potential "environmental risks" as a basis for the suspension, which was in response to an appeal by the Argentine Law Foundation Club. The company plans to build the 27-hectare facility at a cost of $300 million in Malvinas Argentinas, a working-class suburb located 14 km from the provincial capital. Malvinas Argentinas residents are demanding a referendum on the planned construction and have held protest marches, including one on Feb. 21. (La Mañana de Córdoba, Feb. 21; Télam, Argentina, Feb. 25, via; MercoPress, Montevideo, Feb. 27)

Brazil: Amazon peoples declare against hydro

Some 500 members of the Munduruku indingenous group held a grand assembly Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 at the villahe of Jacareacanga, Pará state, in the Brazilian Amazon, where they denounced the Bacia Tapajós development project slated for their territory. The scheme calls for a complex of five hydroelectric dams on the Rio Tapajós, with the first slated for Teles Pires. Read the statement from the meeting: "We are not against the development of the country, but we will not accept having our lives destroyed in the name of a type of progress that will only benefit the great entrepreneurs who will be increasingly rich."

Brazil: landless leader assassinated

Sugar-cane cutter Cícero Guedes dos Santos, a leader of Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Campos dos Goytacazes, Rio de Janeiro state, was shot dead by unknown gunmen Jan. 26 as he was riding his bicycle home from work. The attack came near an abandoned sugar plant which MST members have occupied amid a legal battle between the landless and the heirs of its deceased owner. A judge ruled last year that the plant and its lands of some 3,500 hectares were "unproductive" and should be expropriated. The heirs are appealing the decision. The MST, who had occupied the land for six years before being evicted by police in 2006, launched a second occupation in November.

Latin America protests attack on Gaza

In a Nov. 17 statement the leaders of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), a trade bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay (suspended), Uruguay and Venezuela, expressed their "strongest condemnation of the violence unleashed between Israel and Palestine" and their "concern with the disproportionate use of force" since Israel began a military offensive against Gaza on Nov. 14. Mercosur also expressed "its support to the request from the state of Palestine to obtain the status of [United Nations] observer member."

Brazil: crime wars rock Sao Paulo

Brazilian police this month launched "Operation Saturation" to crush the Sao Paolo criminal network known as the First Capital Command (PCC), in response to the mafia's campaign of assassinations of police officers and employees. So far this year, 95 officers have been murdered in and around the sprawling city, according to official figures—up from 47 in 2011. Most were ambushed off duty by presumed gang members. Operation Saturation was launched after Marta Umbelina, an office worker at Sao Paolo's military police, was shot dead in front of her house and in sight of her 11-year-old daughter Nov. 3. In one of the operation's raids, military police found what they say is a hit list with the names and addresses of 40 officers.

Brazil: Amazon native killed by federal police

A Munduruku indigenous man was killed in a gunfight with Brazilian federal police at the remote Amazonian settlement of Teles Pires, straddling the border of Mato Grosso and Pará states, authorities said Nov. 9. Six other Mundurukus and three officers were wounded, the federal police said. The police were part of a multi-state operation targeting illegal gold mining. Police said a group of Munduruku men armed with shotguns and bows and arrows attacked the officers as they were destroying mining equipment. Authorities charge Munduruku leaders were receiving monthly payoffs from illegal miners. (Otramérica, Nov. 25; Agência Estado, Nov. 21; EFE, Nov. 9)

Brazil: violence halts work at Belo Monte dam

Work on Brazil's controversial $13 billion Belo Monte hydro-dam has been at a halt since Nov. 11, when workers torched buildings at three work sites of the Monte Belo Construction Consortium (CCBM), hired by parastatal Norte Energia to build the massive complex. The violence broke out after CCBM proposed a seven percent wage hike to the workers in an area where the inflation rate is at 30%. In addition to labor undest, CCBM has also faced physical obstruction by local indigenous peoples. On Oct. 9 a group of protesters—150 natives and local fishermen—interrupted construction, accusing Norte Energia of backtracking on accords signed in June when indigenous people occupied the dam site for three weeks. (AFP, Nov. 13; Xingo Vivo, Nov. 11) A local court halted construction of the project Aug. 14, finding that indigenous inhabitants had not been consulted, but Brazil's Supreme Federal Tribunal ordered construction to resume two weeks later, citing the project's criticality to "the administrative order, the economic order and the Brazilian energy policy." Brazil's Prosecutor General is to meanwhile investigate the question of whether indigenous peoples had been properly consulted. (The Rio Times, Aug. 30)

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