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Indigenous people of Brazil protest as lawmakers vote to limit their land rights

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A proposition has been sanctioned by legislators in Brazil, which critics contend will undermine the rights of Indigenous lands and environmental conservation.

The approval on the fast-track indicates the robustness of Brazil’s influential agriculture sector, while indigenous leaders pledge to stage further demonstrations.

Late Tuesday, Brazil’s lower house of Congress easily passed a law that is anticipated to be approved by the Senate. One of its stipulations concerns the restriction of establishing fresh Indigenous reserves to territories exclusively inhabited by indigenous individuals in 1988, the year when Brazil’s current constitution was promulgated.

Indigenous people of Brazil protest as lawmakers vote to limit their land rights
The Guarani Indigenous community has obstructed the Bandeirantes highway in protest against a proposed law that seeks to modify the policy that governs the demarcation of Indigenous territories located on the periphery of Sao Paulo. (Ettore Chiereguini/AP)

In objection to the proposed legislation, the indigenous leaders barricaded a significant roadway. Several of them displayed placards that proclaimed “our existence predates 1988.” The situation escalated into a confrontation with law enforcement, where some protestors used bows and arrows against security personnel. The authorities eventually dispersed the assembly using water cannons and tear gas.

Critics of the legislation argue that numerous tribes were forced out of their territories during Brazil’s military regime, which concluded in 1985, and only managed to reclaim their lands years later.

In Brazil, there exist 764 Indigenous territories, out of which over 300 remain in a legal grey area as they await official demarcation. The majority of these areas are situated in the Amazon region and are vital in preventing deforestation.

In April, six new territories were acknowledged by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who pledged to safeguard Indigenous rights and counteract the rainforest’s destruction that has taken place over the years. During the previous far-right government led by President Jair Bolsonaro, the demarcation of Indigenous land had come to a standstill.

Indigenous people of Brazil protest as lawmakers vote to limit their land rights
On January 11, Sonia Guajajara, the newly appointed Minister of Indigenous Peoples, delivered a speech at her inauguration ceremony held at the Planalto Palace in Brasília, Brazil. (Eraldo Peres/AP)

A new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples was established by Lula, and its minister, Sonia Guajarara, criticized the new legislation as a “genocide against Indigenous peoples” and an “assault on the environment.”

The agricultural industry in Brazil experienced significant progress during the previous year’s election, and the conservative legislators who support the sector are endorsing the proposal. The legislation will be presented to the Senate for a vote, where the agriculture lobby is expected to have substantial support and may have the power to nullify a presidential veto.

Kyle James Lee

Majority Owner of The AEGIS Alliance. I studied in college for Media Arts, Game Development. Talents include Writer/Article Writer, Graphic Design, Photoshop, Web Design and Development, Video Production, Social Media, and eCommerce.

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