Social Issues

Brazil’s indigenous peoples mobilize to defend lands

Brasilia, Jun 6 (EFE).- Indigenous activists marched in this capital Tuesday as part of a mobilization to defend their “ancestral rights” to lands against what they see as threats emanating from Brazil’s Congress and Supreme Court.

The high court is set to take up a case based on the so-called temporal framework, a theory that contends indigenous people can only lay claim to land they occupied as of Oct. 5, 1988, when the current constitution was enacted.

While last week, the lower house of Congress passed a bill that would enshrine the temporal framework in law.

The Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) says that the temporal framework is being pushed by right-wing lawmakers acting on behalf of powerful agri-business interests who want to expand their activities in Amazonia.

Representatives of APIB told EFE that they are planning protests nationwide to counteract what they regard as an attempt to erase history.

Article 231 of the 1988 constitution recognizes the right of indigenous people to “their social organization, customs, beliefs, and traditions” and to the lands “they traditionally occupy.”

APIB points out that many indigenous communities were forced off their lands prior to 1988 by settlers, leading to ongoing conflict.

Since 1988, the Brazilian government has created 487 indigenous reserves that together account for nearly 14 percent of the country’s territory.

The process of designating reserves was suspended for four years under rightist President Jair Bolsonaro.

But upon taking office Jan. 1, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reactivated the process and created a Cabinet-level department of indigenous affairs.

Some 200 indigenous reserves are awaiting approval by the government, most of them in Amazonia, according to APIB.

Brazil’s 1.6 million indigenous people belong to 305 distinct groups and speak 247 different languages. Around 500,000 of them live on designated reserves.

The case before the Supreme Court is about lands in the southern state of Santa Catarina that indigenous people occupied until they were driven off by force in the mid-20th century.

EFE ed/dr

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