Hydroelectric Plant May Cause Lake to Cover Bodies of Disappeared Guerrillas

Posted by Rebecca Atencio

Plans for the Santa Isabel hydroelectric plant in the Araguaia region of Brazil threaten to flood an area where the Brazilian armed forces may have disposed of the bodies of 58 disappeared guerrillas, alleges Brazil’s Institution of National Historic and Artistic Patrimony, or IPHAN. The Brazilian government is currently conducting forensic work in the area in attempt to to locate the bodies. Proponents of the hydroelectric plant contend that the evidence collected so far indicates that the area in question is not the burial site.

If the hydroelectric plant is built and forms a lake over the Araguaia site, it would be an eerie echo of another government-sponsored massacre known as Canudos over one hundred years ago. Canudos was a town founded by an itinerant preacher, Antônio the Counselor, in the backlands of Bahia. In the 1890s, the Brazilian government, perceiving the preacher as a monarchist and threat to the established order, sent military forces to lay siege to the village, ultimately leading to the infamous massacre (a national trauma immortalized in one of the classic’s of Brazilian literature, Euclides da Cunha’s Os sertões, or Rebellion in the Backlands in its English translation). In the 1970s–during the military dictatorship–a hydroelectric plant was built nearby, flooding the site of Canudos. (Thanks to Leila Lehnen for bringing this development to our attention).

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