Brazil Plans Major Land Grab Of Indigenous Lands With New Bill

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Brazil Plans Major Land Grab Of Indigenous Lands With New Bill

A bill has been introduced to Brazil’s Congress that would prevent or hinder Indigenous peoples from claiming their right to traditional lands, violating their rights under international law.

Bill 490/2007, has been proposed to the Chamber of Deputies. By passing the bill, Indigenous peoples will be prevented from obtaining legal recognition of their traditional lands if they were not physically present there on October 5, 1988, or if they had not initiated legal proceedings to claim them by then. However, the Constitution recognizes Indigenous people’s right to “the lands they traditionally occupy,” without any time limits or arbitrary cut-off date. Furthermore, the bill hinders Indigenous people from expanding their already delineated territories. It would also allow the government to eliminate Indigenous reserves when it deems that land is no longer “essential” for those purposes due to changes in their “cultural traits” or other factors due to “passage of time.” The bill could lead to forced removals. There are 60 Indigenous reserves in Brazil, which are home to almost 70,000 people. The bill would also allow the government to destroy protected land for resource corporations and mining, set up military bases, and expand roads in Indigenous lands without any consultation with Indigenous peoples. 




On August 25, 2021, the Supreme Court is scheduled to start ruling on the legality of the 1988 cut-off date, known in Brazil as the “time frame” argument, although justices can ask for a postponement. A key congressional committee passed the latest draft of the bill in June. If approved by the full Chamber of Deputies, it would go to the Senate. In 2017, the federal government under President Michel Temer adopted the 1988 cut-off date, and the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro has continued it. The Bolsonaro administration has effectively suspended the demarcation of 27 Indigenous territories based on this policy.


Indigenous people in Brazil face an invasion of their lands by miners and loggers, they also face harassment by the Bolsonaro administration. A number of federal agencies tasked with protecting forests on Indigenous lands have been weakened by Bolsonaro. His legislative priorities include opening Indigenous lands to mining and commercial activities that could exacerbate the rampant destruction of rainforests under his administration. This cut-off date allowed large landowners to ask for judicial orders to expel communities from lands, stating they could not prove they were there in 1988. Lands in the process of demarcation or already demarcated lands may be affected by such petitions.


The bill prevents Indigenous people who were expelled from their territory before the arbitrary cut-off date, or who otherwise cannot prove that they were present at that time, from having their land claims recognized. Choosing an arbitrary cut-off date and refusing to recognize lands claimed after that date violate international standards. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that Indigenous peoples are entitled to the lands, territories, and resources that they have traditionally occupied or used. Traditional lands, including those that Indigenous peoples have been forced to leave or otherwise lost, must be recognized and protected by the state.

In order to oppose Bill 490/2007 protests are scheduled from August 22 - 28 across Brazil.




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