URGENT ACTION NEEDED: Stop the São Francisco river Project, Support Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio's Hunger Strike

Dear Friends of the MST

As we conveyed in the most recent MST Informa, many NGOs and social movements in Brazil are against government's plan to redirect water from the São Francisco river. According to some estimates, the project will spend billions out of the public coffers, drastically change ecosystems, cause migration of peoples, and bring few benefits for those who most need
the water. The beneficiaries will be the big agricultural companies.

Two years ago, the Catholic bishop of the diocese of Barra, Bahia, Luiz Flavio Cappio, known as Frei Luiz, took a bold initiative and began a hunger strike as means to divert national attention to the project, and to ask the government to halt the project.

His strike ended when President Lula promised to put the project on hold and to sponsor nation-wide debates on it. In July of 2006, the government began to organize itself for these debates; however, as 2006 was an election year, the plans were dropped. In December of that year, a federal judge ruled against measures to prevent the work from proceeding. The only thing preventing the project from going forward was licensing from the government's environmental agency (Ibama). That was conceded in March of 2007. In June, the army began the initial work on the project, and were met with resistance from 1,200 people who occupied the area. The General Procurator of the Republic, Antonio Fernando Souza, presented a petition for the immediate suspension of the work. To date, no judgments have been rendered on the cessation of the project as it continues to move forward.

"It has been two years that we have been waiting for this debate. So I am returning to my fast and prayer. It will only end once the army is withdrawn from the North and East Branch [of the river] and the project of the redirecting of the São Francisco River has been filed
away," wrote Frei Luiz to President Lula, laying down the conditions for the end to his hunger strike.

For additional background information on the redirecting project see: INSERT

We ask that you send a letter in support of Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio to President Lula. A sample letter is included below.

If you would like to send a letter in support of Bishop Luiz Flavio
Cappio to President Lula, you can go to this site:
http://www.presidencia.gov.br/presidente/falecom/. Click on the link
that says, "Escreva sua mensagem." Fill out the information and click
on "Enviar". You then will receive an email from the site, and then
you must click on "confirmar" to send the message.

Dear President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva,

I [NAME] am writing to express my support for Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio, who is on a hunger strike against the project, to be implemented by your government, of diversion of water from the São Francisco river. I fully support the Bishop's hunger strike and believe that the project is socially, environmentally and economically unsustainable.

I urge you to stop the implementation of this project.