Over the last several years, with an avidly anti-Indigenous president and a National Congress focused largely on the interests of big business, Indigenous peoples in Brazil have experienced extreme setbacks to their constitutionally guaranteed rights. These include territorial rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution of 1988 as a result of great struggle. Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has kept his campaign promise not to demarcate one centimeter of land for Indigenous people, and to roll back existing protections. In doing so, he has emboldened agribusiness, loggers, and miners to occupy Indigenous lands.
There are currently 33 proposed laws in the National Congress that include more than 100 projects threatening Indigenous rights. Most of these bills, largely designed by agribusiness and extractive industries, modify the criteria for demarcation and/or open Indigenous territories to resource exploitation. Two of the most significant legal threats are Bill (PL) 490 and the Federal Supreme Court Extraordinary Appeal (RE) 1,017,365, both of which make demarcation (government recognition and protection) of Indigenous territories practically impossible and open Indigenous territories to mining and other extractive industries.
A central issue is the application of the theory of “Original Right” and the “Teoria do Indigenato” (“Indigenous Theory”) vs. the “marco temporal” (“temporal mark/time frame”) framework. The Original Right and Indigenous theories recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples to their territories prior to the establishment of the Brazilian State. The 1988 constitution adopted the Indigenous Theory by recognizing the original right of Indigenous peoples to traditionally occupied lands. On the other hand, the marco temporal is a framework that limits demarcation of Indigenous lands to lands that were in Indigenous possession or under proven physical or legal dispute as of October 5, 1988. If the marco temporal is upheld, already demarcated Indigenous territories could be revoked and the process of demarcation of new territories would be even more difficult than it already is.
For RE 1,017,365, The STF will decide on whether or not to apply the marco temporal framework, which will set the precedent for cases going forward. The STF ruling is scheduled to take place on August 25, 2021, and the PL 490 is also likely to be voted on in the Chamber of Deputies that same week. In this context, Indigenous movements and organizations are organizing a mass mobilization in Brasília to defend their rights.
Grassroots International is supporting the participation of Indigenous peoples from Acre and southern Amazonas in the national mobilization Levante pela Vida/Uprising for Life, which will take place the week of August 23-27. This includes support for the coordination of a delegation of around 100 people – 50% Huni Kui and 50% other peoples from Acre and the southern part of the state of Amazonas. Significantly, 80% of the delegation are youth, as a means of bolstering youth leadership and as a form of formation through the practice of struggle.
Grassroots International will be sharing updates from our Indigenous partners and allies in Brazil over the coming days of mobilization and will continue to accompany them in their struggle for permanent territorial rights.
Learn more! Watch the webinar on “Indigenous Land Rights in Brazil: Strategies for Advocacy and Resistance” (live-streamed at 6 PM EST on August 19, 2021 and available for subsequent viewing here).