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Bishop on Hunger Strike In Defense of São Francisco River

October 2005

It is the seventh day of Dom Luiz’s hunger strike to protect the S Francisco River from a potentially catastrophic “Watershed Transposition” project that the Brazilian government wants to implement in the country’s arid northeast. He is growing weak, but is determined to continue his hunger strike.

Dom Luiz is a Franciscan Bishop who lives at the margin of the S Francisco river in a town called Cabrobo (ca-bro-boh), in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. He has been a strong advocate of the revitalization of the river and a strong voice during the public hearings about the plan to re-distribute the water of the river using a series of dams and canals. In a letter to the people of the northeast, he stated the problems of the project and appealed to the families from the four states that are supposed to benefit from this mega project: “If the S Francisco river was not dying and the watershed transposition were the best solution to end your thirst, I would not be in disagreement and would fight with you for it.”

Dom Luiz has become the icon of the struggle of fishermen, indigenous people and small-scale farmers against the proposed re-distribution of the river’s water. A series of mobilizations have been planned around the region in solidarity with Dom Luiz (see schedule bellow). People from different states in the northeast are traveling to visit him. When the mobilizations began to gain space on national TV, President Lula sent one of his advisors to persuade Dom Luiz to stop his strike. The advisor told Dom Luiz that the President wanted to talk about the revitalization of the S Francisco river. In response, Dom Luiz agreed to speak about revitalizationzation, but said that he will continue his hunger strike until the government drops its plans that “eventually will kill [his] brother, the S Francisco river.” – Site in Portuguese about Dom Luiz’s hunger strike.

Insights newsletter fall 2005 issue, featuring an article about the struggle for water rights in the region and the movement to block the S Francisco river re-distribution project.

Popular mobilizations in solidarity to Dom Luiz:

September 30th, at 4:00pm – Manifestation for Life (several towns and cities in the Northeast region).

October 1 and 2nd – Caravans from different states to the town of Cabrobo, PE.

October 2nd – The Brazilian Confederation of Bishops are coordinating with all Dioceses to dedicate this Sunday to Dom Luiz.

October 3rd through October 4th – 24 hour Vigil in solidarity with Dom Luiz.

October 4th – Dom Luiz’s Birthday and mobilizations in Cabrobo and major cities of Northeast.

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