Brazil tries to defuse conflicts with Indians over land, dams

June 5, 2013

Anthony Boadle and Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 06/04/2013

Lawmakers from the Brazilian farm state of Mato Grosso do Sul asked President Dilma Rousseff’s government on Tuesday to send troops to end land invasions by Indians claiming their ancestral territory.

Justice Minister Jose Cardozo said a request for troops would have to come from the state governor and announced he will meet with the Indians on Thursday in a bid to reach a settlement. The government is seeking to defuse mounting conflicts with indigenous tribes over farm land and hydroelectric dams in the Amazon.

Air Force planes flew 144 Munduruku Indians to Brasilia for talks to end a week-long occupation of the controversial Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River, a huge project aimed at feeding Brazil’s fast-growing demand for electricity.

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Rains bring some relief to depleted reservoirs of Brazil’s hydroelectric plants

January 16, 2013

The Washington Post/AP, 01/15/2013

Recent rains have brought some relief to the depleted reservoirs of Brazil’s hydroelectric plants but have done little to dispel concerns over the country’s ability to fulfill its energy demands for the year.

A hotter than usual summer and lack of rain have caused water levels at hydroelectric dams in most of the country to drop to a third of their capacity. The levels are similar to those registered in 2001, when rationing was imposed and blackouts occurred.

The government has said Brazil will not resort to energy rationing because the country has thermal power plants that can be activated.

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Don’t mention the B-word

February 14, 2011

The Economist, 02/10/2011

Graphic: The Economist

It was not a “blackout”, said Edison Lobão, merely a “temporary interruption of the electricity supply”. Brazil’s energy minister was speaking on February 4th after nearly 50m people across eight states in the country’s north-east had spent most of the night without power. Engineers are still investigating, but their preliminary conclusion is that a component in a substation failed just after midnight. That caused safety systems to malfunction, and transmission lines and then a power station to shut down.

Mr Lobão is trying to reserve the b-word for something more serious, which his government is determined to avoid: a big and sustained mismatch between electricity supply and demand. That last happened in 2001-02, after decades of growing energy use and low investment were followed by drought (70% of Brazil’s power comes from hydroelectric dams.) Back then, only rationing kept the lights on, and the after-effects dampened demand for some years.

Electricity use is growing strongly once more, rising by 7.8% last year. That is partly because Brazil’s economy is booming. But even if this changes, power use is unlikely to fall. Brazilians who have recently levered themselves out of poverty would give up much else before unplugging their first-ever fridges and washing machines. Luz Para Todos (Light for All), a government rural-electrification programme launched by Dilma Rousseff, the president, when she was energy minister, has hooked up more than 2.4m homes since 2003, and is continuing. The government reckons demand for electricity will rise by 5% a year over the next decade. Officials plan to mobilise investment totalling some 214 billion reais ($128 billion), from both private and public sources, in order to meet it.

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Brazil president orders probe of blackout

November 12, 2009

Jonathan Wheatley-The Washington Post, 11/12/09

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Wednesday ordered an investigation into why more than half the country, including the major cities and industrial center, lost electricity for several hours Tuesday night.

All of neighboring Paraguay also lost power, but only for about 15 minutes.

The blackout, which the Brazilian energy ministry said affected 18 of the country’s 26 states and brought chaos to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, the capital, raises doubts about the reliability of the country’s infrastructure a little more than a month after Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

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