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Venezuela-Brazil Power Line OKd

April 7, 2000

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ A controversial power line linking Venezuela and Brazil will be built in the heart of the Amazon jungle, after indigenous group dropped their opposition to the project, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday.

Chavez said during a meeting with his Brazilian counterpart that Venezuela had reached an agreement with indigenous leaders who had vowed to stop construction of the electrical line in a national park.

The high-voltage line is to provide energy to Indian communities, gold mining companies and towns in northeast Brazil.

``We expect to begin operating in eight months,″ Chavez said.

The announcement was good news for Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso who is in Venezuela on a two day trip to discuss strengthening economic ties between the two countries.

Construction of the electrical line was put on hold after the Pemon tribe in southeast Venezuela’s region of rain forests and ancient geological formations vowed to stop the project. The group opposed the project saying it would ruin the pristine forest and damage their communities.

The agreement between the Venezuelan government and the indigeneous federation, a coalition of some 24,000 Indians, was reached early Thursday morning, the group’s leader Jose Luis Gonzalez told The Associated Press.

While a formal accord won’t be signed until late April, Gonzalez said both sides agreed to creation of a commission that will study the Indians’ land claims as well as guarantees from the government to ban construction of any industrial projects in the zone.

In addition, the government pledged to create a fund aimed at promoting socioeconomic projects in the region.

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