SAO PAULO – A congressional panel in Brazil has summoned directors of a company building a huge dam in the heart of the Amazon rain forest to explain the alleged presence of a brothel where women were forced to work in slave-like conditions, a spokesman for the lawmakers said Friday.
Vicente Bezerra, press adviser to the president of the panel, Congressman Arnaldo Jordy, said directors of the Belo Monte Construction Consortium have been called to "explain how a brothel could operate inside the area where the dam is being built." They are expected to be questioned within the next two weeks.
"There is no way the Belo Monte Construction Consortium did not know of the existence of the brothel," Bezerra said, adding that to reach the brothel, investigators passed through an area with signposts indicating the land belonged to the consortium.
Bezerra said 18 women and one teenage girl worked in slave-like conditions in the brothel that was recently dismantled by police.
"The women were lured from to the region from all over Brazil with promises of a good jobs and high pay," he said. "But when they got there they were forced to work as prostitutes."
The teenager escaped the brothel a few weeks ago and alerted the police, he said
"We will certainly send directors to speak to the panel," said consortium press officer Fernando Santana. "We have done nothing wrong nor do we have anything to hide."
He said the brothel was located near the Belo Monte construction site but on land that belongs to "private parties and not to the consortium." He said he did not know who owned the land.
The $11 billion, 11,000-megawatt Belo Monte dam, on the Xingu River feeding the Amazon, will be the world's third-largest hydroelectric energy producer behind China's Three Gorges dam and the Itaipu dam, which straddles the Brazil-Paraguay border.
The government has said it will be a source of clean, renewable energy, and damage to the environment would be minimized.
But environmentalists and indigenous groups say the dam would devastate wildlife and the livelihoods of 40,000 people who live in the area to be flooded.