11 Dec 2011
Voters in the Amazonian state of Para on Sunday rejected a proposal to split Brazil's second biggest state in three, authorities announced.
With 4.37 million votes -- 90 percent of the total -- counted in the landmark referendum, more than 67 percent rejected creation of a new state of Carajas and nearly 67 percent opposed establishment of a new state of Tapajos, they said.
The official results were jointly announced by the president of the Higher Electoral Tribunal, Ricardo Lewandowski, and by Ricardo Nunes, head of Para's Regional Electoral Tribunal, the official Agencia Brasil reported.
Speaking earlier in the state capital Belem, Lewandowski hailed the plebiscite as "a historic moment."
"It shows that Brazilian democracy is mature and strengthened," he told reporters.
Under the breakup plan, a truncated Para with Belem as its capital would have been left with 17 percent of the territory but 64 percent of the population.
Tapajos, home to large protected indigenous and forest areas, would have ended up with nearly 59 percent the territory and only 15 percent of the population.
Carajas would have been awarded 24 percent of the territory and 21 percent of the population.
The Brazilian media had portrayed the referendum as a feud between Belem, the state capital, and the Para hinterland, which feels marginalized.
Critics of the division, concentrated in the Belem area, argue that a split would saddle the new states with deficits and would create new expenses for the federal government.
If the yes vote had won, dividing the state -- which has a population of more than seven million -- would have still required approval by both chambers of Congress and President Dilma Rousseff.
Spread across an area more than twice the size of France, Para ranks second only to Amazonas, the country's largest state, and includes more than 74 million hectares (183 million acres) of protected areas.
Both are part of the Amazon region, the world's largest tropical rainforest and one of the world's largest reserves of fresh water.
In 1988, Tocantins, also located in the Amazon region, became the newest Brazilian state when it was created out of the northern part of Goias state.
Brazil, with a total population of more than 191 million people, has 26 states and one federal district which contains the capital, Brasilia.