Considered one of the largest power stations on the planet, Itaipu binational hydroelectric plant, located between Brazil and Paraguay, was built from 1975 to 1982 when both countries were living in the era of military dictatorship. Itaipu binational hydroelectric plant claims itself as “a model of sustainability”, nonetheless, it has generated extensive environmental degradation, affected the entire ecosystem of the region, and continues to disturb the lives of the Avá-Guarani people who live there.
Brief historical context of the dam construction and how it affected the Guarani people
In 1973 the Itaipu Treaty was signed and in the same year INCRA (National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform) took over most of the land in the Ocoy-Jacutinga community (Guarani territory) with the aim of resettling settlers who were removed from their homes due to the creation of the Iguaçu National Park (located between Brazil and Argentina). As the park is an integral environmental conservation area, the Brazilian government does not allow human presence, therefore, indigenous peoples and settlers were removed from the area where the park is located.
In 1974 the construction of the plant began. In 1982, the rest of the Ocoy-Jacutinga community was flooded when the construction of the Itaipu Power Plant ended, creating Itaipu lake and affecting the families that lived on the banks of the Paraná River and its surroundings. The report provided by the Yvyrupá Commission (2017) states that about 47 occupied areas were flooded by Itaipu, 9 communities on the Brazilian side and 38 on the Paraguayan side (COMMISSION YVYRUPÁ, 2017). The creation of Itaipu also imposed the separation of families that previously circulated on the river and could go from Brazil to Paraguay freely.
Map 1: Region where the Avá- Guarani communities were located in 1981. In contrast, the 2014 map with the areas flooded by the construction of Itaipu Hydroelectric Plant.
Source: Mamed, Lemos e Rossito, (2016).
After pressures against Itaipu, the Guarani were provisionally offered a narrow strip of land in Santa Rosa do Ocoi region, in the municipality of São Miguel do Iguaçu (PR). Today there are 170 families, more than 800 people, living in an area of 231,887 hectares, surrounded by rural properties aimed at agribusiness.
Violations of territorial rights consequently lead to violations of other rights and generated tensions within the territory. According to Minitstério Público da União (ESMPU, 2019), Itaipu disseminated the idea that originally there was no presence of the Guarani people in the region, and that they came from Paraguay and Argentina. This has created the ideia of “inexistência construida” (ESMPU, 2019 ), which continues to perpetuate social injustices in the region.
Map 2: identification of Tekoha Ocoy Community – Narrow strip, outlined in red, between the lake of Itaipu and the agribusiness crop.
Source: Hosoya (2020)
Guarani struggle and resistance
In the region, few communities are recognized by the government of Brazil, only 3 are in a “legal” situation. They are: Ocoy, located near the city of São Miguel do Iguaçu, Añetete and Itamarã near the city of Diamante d’Oeste.
There are more communities or Tekoha (“territory” or “place”) that are in an “occupation” or “camp” situation and consequently are facing judicial repossession lawsuits in addition to the fact that they are suffering pressure from local society, according to data from Ministério Público Federal (ESMPU, 2019 ).
There are 10 Tekoha from the traditional territory Tekoha Guasu-Ocoy- Jacutinga and another 14 Tekoha from Tekoha Guasu Guavirá. On the Paraguayan side, the Guarani situation has not been resolved so far.
Photo 1: partial view of Tekoha Ocoy. In the background a flooded area.
Source: Hosoya, (2020).
To understand more about the theme, at this link it is possible to download the book “Avá- Guarani: the construction of Itaipu and territorial rights” from 2019. The book is the result of the investigation and research work of an interdisciplinary group from the MInistério Público Federal do Brasil, that has analyzed the case from the past to the present. This work generated two reports: the first has an anthropological approach to the theme and the second assesses the possible legal consequences of the damage caused to the Guarani people and the possible form of reparation. This material was shared with Guarani leaders in May 2019 in the Ocoy Tehoka. In Brazil, indigenous territorial issues are complex cases, although constitutionally recognized “the original right over the lands they traditionally occupy” (BRASIL, 1988), having indigenous territorial rights recognized is an uphill battle. The struggle of Avá-Guarani people continues, as does that of the other indigenous peoples in Brazil.
Photo 2: Delivery of the Report “Avá- Guarani: the construction of Itaipu and territorial rights” in the village Ocoy in May 2019 made by the Public Ministry of the Union
Source: Hosoya, (2020)
Written by Laisa Massarenti Hosoya and Clara Lorena Páez
BRASIL. Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil de 1988, 1988. Disponivel em: <http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/constituicao/constituicaocompilado.htm>. Acesso em: 04 jan.2021.
ESMPU, A. G. K. et al. Avá- Guarani: a construção de Itaipu e os direitos territoriais. 1a. ed. Brasília: ESMPU, 2019.
HOSOYA, L. M. Os desafios da comunidade do Tekoha Ocoy no enfrentamento e prevenção da violência de gênero e doméstica. Dissertação (Mestrado em Políticas Públicas e Desenvolvimento)- Universidade Federal da Integração Latino- Americana, Instituto Latino – Americano de Economia, Sociedade e Política. Foz do Iguaçu,p.126.2020.
MAMED, D.O.; LEMOS, A.; ROSSITO, F. D. Impactos Sociais da Implementação da Usina de Itaipu. In: MAMED, D. D. O.; CALEIRO, M. M.; BERGOLD, R. C. Os Avá-guarani no oeste do Paraná (re) existência em Tekoha Guasu Guavira. [S.l.]: Letra da Lei, 2016. p. 432.
YVYRUPÁ, C. Guaíra e Terra Roxa: relatório sobre violações de direitos humanos contra os Avá- Guarani do este do Paraná. Yvyrupá e CTI. [S.l.]. 2017.