Social Issues

Brazil indigenous demonstrators set up roadblock to protest land demarcation bill

Sao Paulo, May 30 (EFE).- Members of a Brazilian indigenous group set up a roadblock Tuesday to protest a bill that may complicate their efforts to obtain land titles.

The protesters – residents of the Jaragua reserve, home to several Guarani indigenous villages on the outskirts of Sao Paulo – used burning tires to blockade the Bandeirantes highway that links that metropolis with Santos, Brazil’s main commodities exporting port, causing traffic to be backed up for five kilometers (three miles).

The indigenous demonstrators, who had protested Monday outside the Law School of the University of Sao Paulo, say the bill would make it more difficult for their communities to establish geographical boundaries to their territories and allow farming, mining and logging interests to encroach upon environmental protection areas in the Amazon rainforest.

Tuesday’s protest lasted several hours before the Military Police of Sao Paulo State used tear gas to clear the highway.

Last Wednesday, Brazil’s lower house of Congress granted expedited status to the bill, which is expected to be put to a vote on Tuesday. If it passes, it would then head to the Senate.

The bill recognizes as indigenous land only those territories that were occupied by native populations on Oct. 5, 1988, when Brazil’s current constitution was ratified.

If it passes, indigenous peoples who were expelled from their lands before then would not be able to obtain title to them unless they could prove they had been engaged on the cutoff date in an ongoing dispute over the territories, New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

Center-left President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last month legally recognized six indigenous territories that cover an area of some 560,000 hectares (2,160 square miles), thereby resuming a process that had been suspended in 2019 by his predecessor, rightist Jair Bolsonaro.

HRW said, however, that Lula’s administration has “sent mixed signals” with respect to its position on the cutoff date.

“While the minister of indigenous people and the head of the indigenous affairs agency have strongly rejected it, Lula’s agriculture minister defended it during an interview for a talk show,” the rights watchdog said. EFE


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