Brazil protesters occupy 5,370-MW Tucurui

Protesters occupied the 5,370-MW Tucurui hydroelectric project in the Amazon rain forest May 23, storming the gates and seizing the control room.

The government sent in troops after about 600 protesters led by MAB, an organization for people affected by hydropower dams, took over Tucurui and threatened to shut off the power. Local television showed the activists, who are demanding land and compensation for families affected by inundation of the area 23 years ago, breaking down the gates and hurling a gasoline bomb.

Troops surrounded Tucurui Dam in Para State and blocked off nearby roads while officers tried to negotiate with the protesters, Agencia Estado news agency said.

Many protesters abandoned the plant overnight but an undetermined number remained May 24, a presidential spokeswoman said. They had left the control room. The operating utility, Centrais Eletricas do Norte do Brasil S.A. (Eletronorte), said the station was operating normally.

An MAB spokeswoman said the protesters would surrender only when the Energy and Mines Ministry agrees to a formal audience to hear their demands.

The deployment of troops drew attention to an already heated debate over hydropower projects in the rain forest. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is promoting a US$250 billion private and public investment plan to expand infrastructure, including two controversial new dams on the Madeira River in the Amazon. (HNN 5/24/07)

Earlier this month, Eletronorte reported Tucurui had achieved record output from the plant as the result of the addition of three 375-MW generating units in March and April. That increased project capacity to 5,370 MW from the 4,245 MW of the 14 units in its original powerhouse. Eletronorte plans to complete an 11-unit second powerhouse bringing total project capacity to 8,370 MW.

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