Brazilian government officials in the Amazonian state of Pará yesterday confirmed preliminary results showing that the referendum to divide the state into three parts was voted down. Pará is Brazil’s second-largest state, covering an area the size of Peru, and one of the most resource-rich. Spurred by economic growth, the referendum on Sunday represents the tension between the rural regions of the state and the capital city of Belém that is home to nearly half Pará’s population.
Nearly 4.6 million voters cast their ballots on whether they agree to the creation of one extra state, Tapajós, and then separately if they agree to the creation of the second, Carajás. Around 67 percent of voters rejected each proposal and the official results were announced by president of the Higher Electoral Tribunal, Ricardo Lewandowski, and the head of Pará’s Regional Electoral Tribunal, Ricardo Nunes. Some 1,200 federal troops were deployed in 16 cities across Pará, joining 6,700 police officers to provide security for the vote.
Proponents of the split said that it would benefit marginalized populations in the rural areas of Pará, while opponents claimed that the creation of two additional states would be too costly. Under the breakup plan, a truncated Pará would include the state capital and be left with 17 percent of the territory but 64 percent of the population; Tapojós would have 59 percent of the territory, including large protected indigenous areas and forests, and only 15 percent of the population; and Carajás would consist of 24 percent of the territory and 21 percent of the population. Even if the referendum had passed, it would still require approval by both chambers of Congress and President Dilma Rousseff.