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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 02:33 GMT
Brazilian bishop in hunger strike
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio
The bishop is on his second hunger strike
A Roman Catholic bishop in Brazil has rejected a plea from other church leaders to end a hunger strike against a planned river diversion.

Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio has been staging his protest for nine days.

It is the second time he has launched a hunger strike over the plan to divert the Sao Francisco river.

The government believes the irrigation scheme could benefit millions of people but critics say it will cause irreversible environmental damage.

The plan to divert the Sao Francisco river as part of a scheme to irrigate one of the driest and poorest regions of Brazil has long been enormously controversial.

The government says more than 12 million people will benefit from the $2bn (960m) project.

Long campaign

But opponents say it will cause major environmental damage and will only serve the interests of big business and wealthy landowners.

This is the second time that Bishop Cappio has staged a hunger strike against the Sao Francisco river project.

Map of Brazil, showing Sao Francisco River

He ended a similar protest in 2005 after 11 days when the government agreed to hold public debates about the scheme.

But he says ministers later failed to honour that promise.

Since starting the hunger strike on 27 November the bishop says he has lost around 3kg (6.6lb) in weight, but he is still drinking water and is said by doctors to be in good health.

He has now rejected a plea from a Brazilian cardinal and several fellow bishops who, while they sympathise with his cause, want him to end the hunger strike.

The Sao Francisco river, with a length of around 3,000km (1,860 miles), is the fourth largest river system in South America.

It has always held a special position in Brazilian life, often celebrated in song and stories and at carnival.

The government, it seems, is determined to stand firm.

And with the bishop appearing equally resolute, an agreement may be harder to find this time round.

SEE ALSO
Brazil bishop protest wins delay
07 Oct 05 |  Americas
End protest, Brazil bishop urged
03 Oct 05 |  Americas
Brazil bishop makes river protest
29 Sep 05 |  Americas
Battling for Brazil's environment
20 Aug 03 |  Americas

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