At the beginning of 2019, Brazil’s new government announced the construction start of an electrical transmission line from Manaus to Boa Vista, as an extension of the existing Tucuruí transmission line. It would connect the isolated state of Roraima to the Brazilian energy grid, following the same corridor as the BR-174, including about 125 kilometers running through the territory of the Waimiri Atroari and pass about 7 kilometers from the territory of the isolated Pirititi tribe. The line had been proposed since the controversial constructions of BR-174 highway in the 1970s but it was especially pushed forward in the last decade. It has faced strong opposition from the Waimiri Atroari group as well as regional politicians and non-government organizations. Looking back on a long history of violent conflict and ‘development’ interventions (see also related cases of the BR-174 construction, the Pitinga mine and the Balbina hydroelectric dam in the EJAtlas), leading to the group’s almost-extinction in the 1980s and an ongoing struggle for basic rights, the Waimiri Atroari (self-denomination: Kinja) today consists of 31 villages with a total number of 1,600 – 2,000 people.
In 2011, the Transnorte Energia S.A. consortium, formed by the private operator Alupar and the public enterprise Eletronorte, obtained the concession for the transmission line. However, constructions were delayed due to lack of a valid environmental permit. In 2015, Transnorte started to question the project’s feasibility and requested its cancellation at the National Electrical Energy Agency (ANEEL), blaming the involved administrative bodies and demanding compensations for the already taken investments and lost profits. At the same time, regional politicians and authorities attempted to start a dialogue with the Waimiri Atroari community and promised them participation in the project and compensations. Political pressure increased on Brazil’s agency for indigenous affairs (FUNAI) to not further halt the construction start along the proposed route. In 2015 FUNAI’s president eventually endorsed the transmission line plans and announced positive impacts for the indigenous community. In a letter to Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA signed by 23 Kinja leaders, the community dismissed FUNAI’s attempts to speak on behalf of them and declared their opposition to the transmission line. Fearing a renewed aggravation of their situation, and pointing to the 2014 environmental assessment that identified 37 negative impacts along the section, they claimed their right to be consulted over any interference, as guaranteed the ILO Convention 169 on the rights of tribal people and Brazil’s Constitution, and stated that precedences created through historical injustices do not legitimate the ignoring of their opinion today. Despite that, IBAMA, under the government of Dilma Rousseff, issued a preliminary environmental license to Transnorte Energia [4a][4b].
The license became suspended by the Federal Justice Court at the beginning of 2016, which stopped constructions and demanded project operators to first seek consent from the affected indigenous communities. However, under the Temer government, the Waimiri Atroari again started to face increased pressure from political and economic lobbies to accept the transmission line. Most notably, Eletronorte and FUNAI considered making funding for the Waimiri Atroari Program conditional to the community’s agreement to the transmission line – plans that were however halted in 2018 by an urgent civic action of the MPF of Amazonas which pointed to the legal obligations of Eletronorte to continue paying . In 2018, the Waimiri Atroari community – which since the 1970s has been closing off the BR-174 highway every night as a means of protection – eventually approved the conducting of new environmental studies in their territory with intermediation by FUNAI .
At the beginning of 2019, Brazil’s new government issued a decree that would allow an immediate start of the construction, justifying it as a matter of national interest. The Bolsonaro cabinet pointed to Venezuela’s aggravating political instability and Roraima’s so-far dependency on energy imports (currently about 70 percent) and frequent power blackouts. A government representative affirmed that the Indians will be consulted but their permission was no longer a condition for such concessions as national security must prevail - and thus override indigenous and environmental interests. While the government argues that environmental impacts will be minimal as the powerline will closely follow the existing highway, it can be expected that both the construction process and maintenance will require additional deforested corridors and access roads as well as the construction of 250 towers.  The involved companies promised that constructions would be supervised by 200 monitoring agents and that also new watch posts would be installed to protect the indigenous people, including the isolated tribe of the Pirititi, whose territory has recently seen invasions from loggers (see also related case in the EJAtlas). 
Critique also concerns the fact that the government’s accelerating of the transmission line omits the possibility of alternative renewable energy sources, which had been envisaged by the regional government together with representatives of the renewable energy sector. A study by Roraima’s federal energy ministry points to the large potential for wind, solar as well as hydroelectric power and also considered these options less expensive than the transmission line. Brazil’s first female indigenous congresswoman Joênia Wapichana, from Roraima, acclaimed such a renewable energy plan as an alternative to the transmission line. She also noted that environmental impact studies on the transmission line have still not been finished and demanded the formal consultation of the affected population .
In March 2019, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) announced the adoption of legal measures against the issued government decree that authorized the transmission line. It not only expressed its overall concerns about the project, but also criticized the decision-making as arbitrary because alternatives, as well as the indigenous participation and the need for consultation, have not been thoroughly considered. The Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab) publicly rejected the decree too, and declared their support for the Waimiri Atroari community .
In April 2019, indigenous mobilizations against the ongoing undermining of indigenous rights in the areas of education, health, demarcation, and the environment took place all over Brazil. In Roraima a coalition of indigenous groups coordinated by the Conselho Regional Indígena de Roraima (CIR) blocked the BR-174 and among others expressed solidarity with the Waimiri Atroari community and their struggle against the transmission line, demanding the right of free, prior, informed consultation.  Former FUNAI head Sidney Possuelo recently stated to the media: “The situation of Brazil’s indigenous peoples has never been good. But during 42 years of working in the Amazon, this is the most dangerous moment I have ever seen.” 
At the end of 2019, tensions between the regulator ANEEL and the Transnorte consortium continued. The company, which in the past already requested the cancellation of the project due to the invalid environmental permit, demanded higher economic returns that would amount for the triple of the initially agreed amount and also disagreed on central points related to the consultation and construction process. ANEEL made a new offer, which was however rejected by the company. In the following, as the platform Mongabay revealed, the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) pressured ANEEL to agree to the threefold return request and held meetings in the back with several players in the energy and national security sectors. As critics argue, this came due to the political and vested interests in further energy-intensive large-scale projects in the region. In the meantime the MPF continued to undertake legal steps to suspend the environmental licenses, saying that free consultation with the indigenous group in line with the ILO Convention 169 has still not happened. [4b]