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Brazil“s Lula resumes creation of Indigenous reservations halted by Bolsonaro

2023-04-28T13:44:01Z

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced the formal recognition of six Indigenous reservations on Friday, fulfilling a campaign promise to reverse the policy of his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

They were the first reservations to be effectively recognized by the state since 2016, as one recognition in 2018 was overturned later by a court.

Lula made the announcement as part of the annual meeting in Brasilia of representatives of Brazil’s one million Indigenous people. The Free Land Camp is a five-day event featuring music, dance and food in tents erected on the grass esplanade of the capital.

Indigenous leaders called on the president to speed up the recognition of some 300 Indigenous territories that have been mapped out but have waited for years to be formally recognized.

Former President Bolsonaro, who was backed by Brazil’s agricultural sector and its powerful farm lobby, vowed publicly never to allow “one more centimetre” of land for reservations, saying Indigenous people had too much land for so few people.

Some 300 different Indigenous peoples live on 730 territories that they consider ancestral lands, mainly in the Amazon rainforest, but only 434 have been officially recognized.

Farm sector representatives in Congress are currently calling for the passage of legislation that would set a cut-off date for reservations that were not occupied at the time Brazil’s current constitution was enacted in 1988.

The deadline, which would leave tens of thousands of Indigenous people without the protection of official reservation land, is also being debated by the country’s Supreme Court which is expected to rule in July.

With no state protection, Indigenous communities are in danger of invasions by illegal loggers and wildcat gold miners that surged under Bolsonaro. He wanted to allow commercial agriculture and mining even on recognized reservations.

Bolsonaro gutted the government’s Indigenous affairs agency Funai, which began to work for non-Indigenous interests in land conflicts, anthropologists and community leaders said.

Lula created a Ministry of Indigenous People on his first day in office in January and named Sonia Guajajara, the leader of the main Indigenous umbrella organization APIB, to head it.

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An indigenous man from the Mura tribe takes part in the Terra Livre (Free Land) camp, a protest camp to demand the demarcation of land and to defend cultural rights, in Brasilia, Brazil April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

Indigenous men take part in the Terra Livre (Free Land) camp, a protest camp to demand the demarcation of land and to defend cultural rights, in Brasilia, Brazil April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

Indigenous people take part in the Terra Livre (Free Land) camp, a protest camp to demand the demarcation of land and to defend cultural rights, in Brasilia, Brazil April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo