Transnationalizing the Dam: The Unanticipated Consequences of the Itaipu Dam in the Making of the Upper Paraná Region, 1957–92

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 8:50 AM
Cabinet Room (Omni Shoreham)
Carlos Gómez Florentín, Stony Brook University
In February 2012 the “carperos” (tent dwellers), a group of Paraguayan landless peasants, occupied the lands of Brazilian agribusiness tycoon Tranquilino Favero in the department of Alto Paraná. The “carperos” strategically occupied the lands below the transmission lines of ANDE (the Paraguayan electricity corporation) that carry electricity from the Itaipú Dam on the Paraná River. Ex-Bishop Fernando Lugo, Paraguay’s first leftist president ever, pressed by the Brazilian government and agribusiness groups, quickly had moved the peasants to the Ñacunday National Park where they clashed with the indigenous Mbya Guaraní over the last bites of the legendary Atlantic Forest. Lugo’s move corroded his political support without pleasing conservative elites. Four months later, a conservative coalition put an end to Paraguay’s first non-Colorado regime in six decades after a thirty hours long political impeachment trial.[1]

My papers centers on the deep history behind this dramatic political event. The story of the connections between the largest developmental megaproject of the western hemisphere – the building of the Itaipú Dam in the late twentieth century – and its unintended effects in the making of a new transnational region: the Upper Paraná. I argue that the most significant consequences of the Itaipú Dam were unforeseen by its planners: informal modernization; unplanned urbanization; the unexpected effects of scientific management of the environment; and the rise of unruly borderlands. I bring these seemingly unrelated issues together through the theory of the unexpected consequences of social actions while putting developmental megaprojects into the context of the recent transnationalization of the Southern Cone.

[1] The Colorado Party ruled the country from 1947 to 2008. ABC Color, “Carperos entran al Parque Nacional de Ñacunday,” February 26, 2012, available at, accessed October 20, 2012; New York Times, “Senate’s Vote Ousts Leader of Paraguay After a Clash,” June 23, p. A8.