Brazil: high court nixes ‘time limit’ on native land claims

Ato Pela Terra

Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal on Sept. 21 struck down the spurious thesis behind a legislative proposal advancing in the country’s Congress, which would impose a marco temporal or “time limit” on indigenous land recovery claims. The marco temporal law would nullify any indigenous group’s claim to traditional lands that they weren’t physically occupying on Oct. 5, 1988, the day of the enactment of Brazil’s Constitution, which for the first time recognized native peoples’ territorial rights. Instead, these lands would be considered the property of those currently in occupancy, or of the state. The thesis ignores the forced displacements that occurred during Brazil’s dictatorship in the generation before 1988, as well as the nomadic lifeways of some indigenous groups. Environment Minister Marina Silva declared the high court’s annulment of the marco temporal thesis an “act of justice.”

The case stemmed from one such forced displacement in the state of Santa Catarina. Members of the Xokleng people petitioned the state government for restitution of their lands, of which they had been dispossessed by tobacco farmers. The state government had refused them, on the basis that they were not in occupancy of the land in 1988. The high court ruling does not stop the marco temporal  bill from advancing in Congress, but establishes precedent for its overturn if it should still pass. (Mongabay, Jurist, Al Jazeera)

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