Brazilian deputies voted on Tuesday (May 30th) a bill limiting the demarcation of indigenous lands, a setback for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who had revived the policy of protecting indigenous peoples and the Amazon. The bill, approved by 283 votes to 155, establishes that indigenous people have the right only to the lands they occupied at the time of the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution. A thesis rejected by the natives, who argue that they did not occupy certain lands in 1988 because they had been driven out over the centuries, especially during the military dictatorship (1964-1985).
The bill, which still needs to be submitted to the Senate before coming into force, was promoted by pro-agribusiness MPs and other opposition groups. Its approval by the lower house is a setback for Lula. Returning to power at the beginning of the year, the leftist president has pledged to make environmental preservation a priority, after four years marked by a sharp increase in deforestation under his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022).
This vote 'ends hope for the future'
The approval of the draft"puts an end to hope for the future," Brazil's Indigenous Peoples Minister Sonia Guajajara said on Tuesday. "This is a genocide against indigenous peoples, but also an attack on the environment," she added. According to scientists, the demarcation of indigenous lands is a key barrier against deforestation in the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest. Brazil has a total of 764 indigenous peoples' territories, but about a third of them have not yet been demarcated, according to figures from the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples (FUNAI). In April, Lula's government recognized six new territories, the first in five years.
The MPs' vote sparked protests in Brazil, and drew the attention of environmental organizations and international activists, including American actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. "There is a war against indigenous peoples and forests. Our planet is in danger. Lula, be the hero your people elected, prevent (the project) from moving forward," Ruffalo tweeted on the eve of the debate.