Brazil’s lower house approves bill limiting recognition of indigenous land

Brasilia, May 30 (EFE).- Brazil’s lower house of Congress approved on Tuesday, by majority, the main text of a controversial bill that limits the recognition of indigenous lands in the country.

The bill, which was passed with 283 votes in favor and 155 against, will now go to the Senate.

If approved, it will head to the office of President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to be signed into law or vetoed.

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.

Under the current legislation, there is no need for verification of this occupation, which is done through an administrative procedure by the National Indigenous Peoples Foundation (Funai).

The approved bill allows indigenous people to be expelled from the lands they currently occupy if it is not proven that they occupied them before 1988, and also allows these lands to be commercialized.

According to official data, indigenous peoples in Brazil occupy 13.7 percent of the national territory, with 610 indigenous lands, of which 487 are demarcated.

Of that total, the vast majority are located in the Brazilian Amazon, with 329 demarcated areas.

The demarcation of indigenous territories was completely paralyzed during the term of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who also promoted measures to allow the exploitation of minerals in these areas, despite the fact that they are protected by environmental laws.

The measure to make it more difficult to demarcate new indigenous lands reflects the interest of rural landowners, who have significant representation in Congress, in accessing disputed territories.

Both the Ministry of Indigenous People and non-governmental organizations criticized the approval of the bill, describing it as a setback and a threat to the subsistence of ethnic groups.

The project “represents a legislated genocide because it directly affects isolated indigenous peoples, as it authorizes deliberate access to territories, on which people who have not yet had any contact with society or other indigenous peoples, live,” the ministry said in a statement.

The minister of indigenous people, Sonia Guajajara, who has asked Lula to veto the proposal in case it reaches his desk, said at a press conference that the non-demarcation of indigenous lands would cause serious harm to the people and the economy.

According to Climate Observatory, a network that brings together 50 environmental groups, the proposed legislation “violates the Constitution” and will increase conflicts in the countryside if it is approved by the Senate and not vetoed by Lula.

“Bolsonaro left but the extermination continues,” added the advocacy group, which cited data from the Indigenous Missionary Council according to which during his term, the number of invasions of indigenous lands grew by 200 percent and the number of murders of natives increased by 30 percent. EFE


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