It's incredibly interesting to see how differently the same event can be reported. That was certainly the case last week when the Indians gathered to protest the building of dams along the Xingu River in the Amazon basin.
First, here is the video report from Brazil's GLOBO:
Here is how the altercation was reported to the world via the Associated Press:
Indians attack Brazil official over proposed dam
GO TO ORIGINAL
By ALAN CLENDENNING – May 20, 2008
ALTAMIRA, Brazil (AP) — Painted and feathered Indians waving machetes and clubs slashed an official of Brazil's national electric company Tuesday during a protest over a proposed hydroelectric dam.
Mobs of Indians from different tribes surrounded Eletrobras engineer Paulo Fernando Rezende minutes after he gave a presentation to a gathering debating the impact of the Belo Monte dam on traditional communities living near this small, remote city in the Amazon region.
Rezende emerged shirtless, with a deep, bloody gash on his shoulder, but said "I'm OK, I'm OK," as colleagues rushed him to a car.
It was not immediately clear whether Rezende was intentionally slashed or received the cut inadvertently when he was surrounded and pushed to the floor. Police said they were still investigating and no one was in custody.
Tensions were running high at the meeting, where about 1,000 Amazon Indians met with activists to protest the proposed dam on the Xingu River. Environmentalists warn it could destroy the traditional fishing grounds of Indians living nearby and displace as many as 15,000 people.
"He's lucky he's still alive," said Partyk Kayapo, whose uses his tribe's name as his last. "They want to make a dam and now they know they shouldn't."
Following the attack, Kayapo and dozens more members of his tribe danced in celebration with their machetes raised in the air, their faces painted red and wearing little more than shorts and shell necklaces.
From another viewpoint, here is how it was reported by The Independent UK writer PATRICK CUNNINGHAM, whose blog "Encontro Xingu ‘08" was established to cover the event:
GO TO ORIGINAL
Encontro Xingu - Day 2
Indians continued to arrive throughout the day. There are now over 600 people from 35 ethnic groups, including old friends from the Xingu Indigenous Park.
The morning saw a review of the 1989 gathering, and an emotional speech from Marcelo Kamaiura, who talked about proposals for six so-called ’small’ dams on the headwaters of the river in Mato Grosso State. His impassioned call for unity of all the people, Indian and non-Indian alike, the length of the river, drew huge applause. Riverside dwellers and small-scale family farmers reinforced this call.
The afternoon began with the arrival of a few new communities, each of which made a stirring entry, singing and Indians dancing in the hall of the gymnasium. dancing their way into the hall. Professor Oswaldo Sevá, who lectures in engineering at Campinas University and has a long and detailed understanding about the history of the several previous attempts to dam the Xingu explained the extent of flooding local people could expect. He highlighted many shortcomings, from the engineering, economic, social and environmental perspectives. In plain language he detailed which areas would be flooded and explained the reasons why it is highly likely that Eletrobras will not stop at a single dam, which on its own would not be viable.
Next it was the turn of the Eletrobras representative, Paulo Fernando Vieira Souto Rezende. He used a bewildering series of charts, lists, statistics and maps in what appeared to be an attempt to confuse everybody in the room. In a haranguing presentation, he seemed intent on talking over the heads of his entire audience.
His approach did not go down well with the Indians, who became increasingly preoccupied as he continued. It went down no better with the small farmers and riverside dwellers, who broke into a fit of spontaneous booing and chanting in opposition to the proposals. The Indians continued to listen in silence until he had finished.
A few minutes later, the Indians suddenly rose up in unison, chanting and dancing across the room. A mixed group of warriors and women, some with babies and small children, approached the table where Rezende was sitting, chanting and brandishing their war clubs and machetes. Rezende was pushed to the floor and the Indians, their anger patent, poked at him with their weapons. His shirt was torn from his back, and he received a deep cut in his upper arm.
The police and security guards failed to respond, and it was left to the bravery of some of the organisers, who put themselves between the Indians and Rezende to protect him, receiving symbolic threats themselves.
The episode was over quickly, and order was rapidly restored.
This was not an attempt to inflict serious harm, and it is much more likely that Rezende’s injury was the result of an unlucky or over-excited jab. The Indians accused the unfortunate Eletrobras representative of lying. They were carrying war clubs and long machetes, and Rezende could easily have suffered far worse. The Indians were trying to make their point and felt they had no other option, feeling powerless in the face of this serious threat to their culture, their way of life and their homes.
Since the gathering in Altamira, the Brazilian media have focused mostly on the issue of violence. GLOBO included a special report in its extremely popular weekend TV magazine FANTASTICO and here's the text (computer) translated into rough English. As you can see, the focus is on the engineer and the Indians associated with the confrontation and there is very little about the many consequences of building the dam.
While the Brazilian mainstream media are preoccupied with the "hot" story, various blogs and NGOs have been struggling to deliver the deeper messages.
Encontro Xingu ‘08 provides great coverage of the whole event with in-depth analysis by David Cunningham and lots of wonderful photos by Sue Cunningham.
The Xingu Encounter was also reported by International Rivers along with English translations of the declarations of the Xingu Peoples.
And here's the (computer) translated final statement of the broad coalition of Brazilian grassroots organizations that are opposing building of the Belo Monte dam.