Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil tribes allow workers to leave hydro plant


Indigenous people protesting against the construction of a hydro-electric plant in the Brazilian Amazon have allowed most workers to leave the site, the Brazilian authorities say.

A spokesman for the National Indian Foundation said only five employees remained there.

Nearly 300 protesters occupied the site in Mato Grosso state on Sunday, confining about 100 workers to their barracks.

They say the plant is being built on an ancient burial ground.

Some of those occupying the plant were armed with bows and arrows, but there were no reports of any violence or injuries.

The plant is being built on the Aripuana river, some 400km (250 miles) north of the Mato Grosso state capital, Cuiaba. It is the first phase of a hydro-electric project there and is expected to start operations by January 2011.

'Cultural impact'

The indigenous groups say the construction of the plant has destroyed an ancient burial ground and archaeological site and are demanding compensation, as well as more government funding for health and education.

"This site is 30km from our reserve and has caused great cultural and social impact in our community, not to mention environmental damage," Aledeci Arara, a tribal leader, told the G1 news portal.

The plant's manager, Paulo Rogerio Novaes, said the indigenous protesters were seeking better living conditions, demands the government should address.

"The company has never refused to do something for the community, but we are awaiting a study from Funai, which is analysing what should be done," he said, referring to the government's indigenous affairs agency.

About 80% of the energy in Brazil comes from hydro-electric dams and the government has been pushing ahead with the construction of new plants.

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