Brazil: anti-indigenous laws advance in congress

Brazil congress

The Brazilian Congress has approved two measures that undermine indigenous land rights and clash with the environmental policy of the new President Luiz Inácio da Silva. On May 30, the Lower House voted in favor of a bill that limits the demarcation of indigenous territories to lands that native peoples can prove they physically occupied when Brazil’s current constitution was enacted in 1988. Advocates for indigenous peoples say this marco temporal or “time limit trick” could wipe out scores of legitimate land claims by groups who had already been evicted from their traditional territories before 1988.

Another move, approved by the Lower House and Senate alike on June 1, reduces the powers of the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change and newly created Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. With the changes, Environment Minister Marina Silva, a longtime ecological advocate, would lose authority over the Rural Environmental Registry (established in 2017 to monitor land use in forested areas), which is to be transfered to the Ministry of Public Services, and the National Water Agency, which is to be transferred to the Ministry of Integration & Regional Development. Most significantly, the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (FUNAI), with responsibility for land demarcation, is to be transfered from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples to the Ministry of Justice & Public Security.

The changes still need the approval of President “Lula” da Silva—although he may face a veto override by Congress. (Mongabay, PRI, The Guardian)

The destruction of the Brazilian Amazon accelerated dramatically under the previous right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, who launched a legislative assault on indigenous rights and rainforest protective measures. President da Silva, who took office in January, has already declared several new indigenous reserves. He has accused his predecessor Bolsonaro of “genocide” against Brazil’s indigenous peoples.

Photo via Mongabay

  1. Brazil: Senate committee advances anti-indigenous legislation

    The Brazilian Senate’s Committee on Agriculture & Agrarian Reform approved a bill on Aug. 23 that would establish a continuous residency requirement for the recognition of lands belonging to indigenous communities. The bill, PL 2.903/2023, passed through the committee by a vote of 13–3.

    The bill would classify land as “traditionally occupied land of indigenous peoples” if it has been continuously occupied by an indigenous community since Oct. 5, 1988, the date Brazil’s current constitution went into effect. (Jurist)