Brazilian President Recognizes Two Indigenous Territories, Declines Four Others

Brazilian President Lula officially recognized two Indigenous territories, but delayed four others due to ongoing occupations, highlighting the ongoing conflicts over land rights in Brazil.

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Brazilian President Recognizes Two Indigenous Territories, Declines Four Others

Brazilian President Recognizes Two Indigenous Territories, Declines Four Others

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva officially recognized two Indigenous territories on Thursday, granting legal protection against illegal loggers, miners, and ranchers. The Aldeia Velha land of the Pataxó people in Bahia state and the territory of the Karajá people in Cacique Fontoura, Mato Grosso, covering a combined area of almost 132 square miles, were formally designated as Indigenous reserves.

However, Lula refrained from approving four other Indigenous territories due to ongoing occupations by farmers or peasants who have ownership rights to those lands. The president acknowledged the potential frustration among Indigenous people, who were expecting the demarcation of six new territories. "I don't want to lie to anyone. It is better for us to solve the problems we have instead of just authorizing the territories," Lula stated, explaining that the government cannot evict the current occupants without providing them with an alternative.

Some state governors have requested time to negotiate the eviction of these territories in a peaceful manner. The Brazilian government cited legal issues as the reason for the delay in setting aside the additional lands. Last year, Brazil's Supreme Court ruled to enshrine Indigenous land rights, rejecting a legal theory that would have set a deadline for when Indigenous peoples had to have already occupied or be legally fighting to reoccupy the land.

Why this matters: The recognition of Indigenous territories is an essential step in protecting the rights of native peoples and preserving the Amazon rainforest. However, the decision to delay the demarcation of four territories highlights the ongoing challenges and conflicts between Indigenous communities, farmers, and the government in Brazil.

Indigenous leaders and activists criticized Lula's government for falling short on promises to safeguard native land rights. One leader stated that Lula cannot speak about fighting climate change without fulfilling his duty to demarcate their lands. The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders also called for the demarcation and titling of Indigenous lands, emphasizing that this is key to the protection of these defenders.

Key Takeaways

  • Lula recognized 2 Indigenous territories, covering 132 sq mi, to protect from illegal activities.
  • Lula delayed demarcation of 4 other territories due to ongoing occupations by farmers/peasants.
  • Lula cited legal issues and the need to provide alternatives for current occupants as reasons for delay.
  • Indigenous leaders criticized Lula for falling short on promises to safeguard native land rights.
  • UN rapporteur called for demarcation of Indigenous lands to protect human rights defenders.