Belo Monte: Brazil’s Damned Democracy

The Belo Monte dam project shows the government’s failure to respect indigenous rights and reform energy policy.

Source: Al Jazeera

It’s rather ironic to find commonalities between President Rousseff’s government and past Brazilian military regimes. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is particularly emblematic of democracy’s victory over dictatorship.

Not only has she consolidated democratic politics and overseen continued growth in the world’s sixth largest economy, Brazil’s first female head of state was once a guerrilla jailed and tortured by the military regime. She has pushed for a Truth Commission, forcing the military to bend to accountability and transparency.

Simultaneously, however, she is pushing forward the Belo Monte Dam, the largest in Brazil and the third largest in the world, thus following in the footsteps of the developmental policies the military regime once pursued in the Amazon.

Belo Monte perpetuates military strategies to develop the country by modernising the Amazon. Despite widespread opposition against the social and environmental costs of this huge hydroelectric plant, Rousseff has stubbornly advanced with little respect for national and international norms.

Across the region, mega-projects are drowning entire ecosystems and damning democracy. Beyond the long-term, irreversible impact of the Amazon dams, the tale of Belo Monte calls attention to what the left has yet to learn about democracy.

From Balbina to Belo Monte

Many predict Belo Monte will be another Balbina. Built on the Uatuma River, the Balbina hydroelectric plant was one of the many mega-projects the military government (1964 – 1985) constructed in the Amazon in the name of national development. The plant, which cost about a US $1bn, destroyed 240 thousand hectares of forest. To give an idea of the scale, this represents about seven times the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro.

Read More