Indigenous Brazilians protest ahead of land rights ruling

Published : August 26, 2021 20:10 IST

About 6,000 people from scores of different native groups assembled in protest. Photo: Reuters

Thousands of Indigenous people have gathered in the Brazilian capital ahead of a landmark land rights ruling. Miners and farming groups want land protections removed.

Several thousand Indigenous people marched in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia on August 25 ahead of a major land rights ruling. The Supreme Court is hearing a case that activists fear could lead to the removal of protections for native lands. Some 170 different ethnic groups united in protest of the hearing and against allegations of systematic persecution under President Jair Bolsonaro's administration.

Organizers said it was the biggest Indigenous protest in the country's history, as about 6,000 attendees carried bows and arrows and wore traditional headdresses.

What is the case about?

The case centers on the constitutional protection of Indigenous lands. The agrobusiness lobby has argued that protection should only apply to native populations who can prove they have lived in an area since at least 1988, when the constitution was adopted. This is a legal argument known as Marco Temporal.

Indigenous groups have argued that there is no cutoff date in the constitution, and that native inhabitants have often been forced to move from their ancestral lands. The Supreme Court case specifically looks only at a reservation in the southern state of Santa Catarina, but it will set a legal precedent for dozens of similar cases.

The government of Santa Catarina has filed an eviction notice for the Indigenous territory of Ibirama-La Klano, where the Guarani and Kaingang peoples live in addition to the Xokleng. The court is expected to rule on August 25.

Why do groups want the land?

Business groups want to use these lands for mining and industrial agriculture. President Bolsonaro has long called for the economic exploitation of the Amazon region, and said in his 2018 election campaign that not one inch of the region would be classified as a protected area under his rule.

Bolsonaro warned on August 24 that if the court did not rule in favor of the 1988 cutoff there would be "chaos." Syrata Pataxo, a 32-year-old chief of the Pataxo people from the northeastern state of Bahia, told the AFP news agency at the protest that the government was "attacking indigenous peoples."

"Today all humanity is calling for the Amazon rainforest to be protected. But the government wants our rainforest, the lungs of the planet, to be replaced by soybeans and gold mining," he said.

aw/nm (KNA, AFP, dpa)