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Brazil's 11.2-GW Belo Monte hydropower project on hold again

Work at the controversial Belo Monte hydropower plants has been delayed once more as representatives from a number of indigenous groups have occupied one of the project's three construction sites.

Sources report that the group -- comprised of members from the Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapo, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakana and Ara tribes -- arrived by bus and were armed with traditional weapons, preventing workers from entering or exiting the site.

According to a letter intended for Brazil's government, the protestors said Belo Monte's development has been barreling forward without consent or input from indigenous groups.

"We want dialogue, but you are not letting us speak," the letter said. "This is why we are occupying your dam building site. You need to stop everything and simply listen to us."

This stoppage comes less than six weeks after Brazil's Ministry of Mines and Energy dispatched about 250 federal and military police troops to Belo Monte in an effort to quell future delays, and though sources say tensions have been high, there have been no reports of violence.

"What we want is simple," the group's letter said. "You need to uphold the law and promote enacting legislation on free, prior and informed consent for indigenous peoples. Until that happens, you need to stop all construction, studies and police operations in the Xingu, Tapajos and Teles Pires rivers. And then you need to consult us."

The indigenous group also said many of the laborers in the occupied camp have shown support for their cause, reflecting poor conditions that have previously caused strikes and worker upheaval.

"They are sympathetic to our cause," the group said. "We and them are at peace."

For more past stories about Belo Monte, click here.


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