Brazil: high court puts off key ruling on indigenous land rights

Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) postponed a ruling Sept. 24 in a landmark case to decide if the Patax贸 H茫-H茫-H茫e indigenous people have legal rights to lands opened to farmers and ranchers 26 years ago by state authorities in Bah铆a. The 54,000 hectares were delineated as indigenous territory by the federal Indian Protection Service in 1937, but some 300 farms now cover approximately half the territory. Some 4,000 Patax贸 live on the other half. The case was initiated in 1982 by the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), successor to the Protection Service, which sought to annul land titles illegally granted by local governments.

Judge Eros Grau issued a preliminary ruling to annul the farmers’ titles. But immediately afterward, Judge Carlos Alberto Direito requested more time to study the issue before voting on the ruling. The STF session was attended by Patax贸 representatives in traditional garb and face-paint. “The life of the Patax贸 is tied to this land, which is drenched with the blood of our elders,” said Patax贸 leader Ilza Rodrigues. (AFP, Sept. 26)

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