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By Darío Aranda
The Garabí Hydroelectric Complex is a mega-enterprise between Brazil and Argentina that originated in the 1980s. It consists of building one or more dams on the Uruguay River, in the area shared by Misiones and Corrientes with the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul In 2011, a cooperation agreement was signed between Brazil and Argentina and the project was formally relaunched. Two other projects in the pipeline are Panambí and Corpus.
The Provincial Table No to Dams brings together 46 organizations. Indigenous people, peasants, trade union and human rights organizations, churches (Evangelical, Lutheran and Catholic). A wide range and diversity of political positions, with the coincidence of rejecting the dams. They denounce the social (massive forced evictions), health (diseases), environmental (flooding of large areas and loss of biodiversity) and "maldevelopment" (sacrificing territories and producing energy in an unsustainable way).
The Provincial Board requires compliance with Law IV-56 in force in Misiones. Article 6 states that "to carry out hydroelectric projects and dams the prior participation of the people of Misiones is required, through the obligatory, binding and inalienable plebiscite mechanism." Governor Maurice Closs, for three years, refused to call a vote.
Social organizations have been carrying out informational activities since 2011, they demand that the law be observed and that they be able to vote. Now, the Provincial Table No to Dams organized the popular consultation. “Don't represent your voice. The people decide. You decide ”, is the slogan that calls from Monday to Sunday 26 to vote in the entire province. There are a thousand ballot boxes in squares, schools, community centers, headquarters of social and union organizations, universities, cultural centers and indigenous communities. The question it raises is: "Do you agree with the construction of new dams that affect missionary territory?" There are two ballots, one with a "Yes" and one with a "No". All missionaries over 16 years of age vote, they must attend with a DNI and have lists and a computer system that will allow control and that no one votes more than once. The conference will be supervised by NGOs and national and international observers. On Monday 27 the votes will be counted.
Raúl Aramendy, a member of the Provincial Board, explained that the dams in Misiones caused "a deep conflict of social, economic, political and environmental aspects." He explained that the most publicized is Garabí (which will flood 40 thousand hectares), but there are at least five projects in the pipeline. He warned that the installation of dams without citizen participation "violates the law, is not fair and with injustice there can be no peace." He called for a vote to "be heard and teach democracy by practicing it in the streets."
The Provincial Board No to Dams also points out the health effects. The lakes that generate the dams are the habitat of vectors that transmit malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis, among other diseases. "The spread of these diseases is associated with the alteration of the river regime, which is why it has been called the dam disease," explains the missionary organization Cemep-Adis, part of the Agroecological Movement of Latin America (Maela). The Provincial Board proposes a gradual change towards a national energy matrix that focuses on renewable energies.
Nora De Dieu, from ATE Misiones, wondered for whom the energy produced by the dams will be: "They need more energy to ensure the extractivist policies of multinationals that advance over territories and lives." Juan Yahdjian, 80 years old, doctor and historical socio-environmental activist from Eldorado, recalled the direct link between dams and diseases and quoted the Guaraní people: “They teach us that the river is for the ecosystem like blood for the body. If the blood does not arrive, that part of the body becomes ill. Where the river does not reach, that area will die ”. And it linked the hydroelectric plants and the "hidrovías" (deepening of rivers for large ships) to the extractive model in force in Latin America and which was formalized in 2000 by twelve governments.