Brazilian deputies voted on Tuesday a bill limiting the demarcation of indigenous lands, a setback for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who had revived the policy of protecting indigenous peoples and the Amazon.

This text, approved by 283 votes against 155, establishes that the natives are only entitled to the lands they occupied at the time of the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution.

A thesis rejected by the natives, who argue that they did not occupy certain lands in 1988 because they had been driven out over the centuries, especially during the military dictatorship (1964-1985).

The bill, which still has to go through the Senate before it takes effect, was promoted by pro-agribusiness lawmakers and other opposition groups.

His approval by the lower house is a setback for Lula. Returning to power at the start of the year, the left-wing president has pledged to make environmental preservation a priority, after four years marked by a sharp rise in deforestation under his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. (2019-2022).

The approval of the project “puts an end to hope for the future”, lamented Tuesday the Brazilian Minister of Indigenous Peoples, Sonia Guajajara.

“This is a genocide against indigenous peoples, but also an attack on the environment,” she added.

According to scientists, the demarcation of indigenous lands is a key barrier against deforestation of the Amazon, the largest rainforest in the world.

Brazil has a total of 764 territories of indigenous peoples, but about a third of them have not yet been demarcated, according to figures from the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples (FUNAI).

In April, Lula’s government recognized six new territories, the first in five years.

The MPs’ vote sparked protests in Brazil, and caught the attention of environmental organizations and international activists, including US actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo.

“There is a war against indigenous peoples and forests. Our planet is in danger. Lula, be the hero your people have chosen, prevent (the project) from moving forward,” Ruffalo tweeted on the eve of the debate.

Ahead of the vote, around 100 indigenous people temporarily blocked a road on the outskirts of Sao Paulo early Tuesday morning before police dispersed them using tear gas, according to footage shown by local television.

“The Chamber of Deputies has sent a message to the country and to the world: Bolsonaro is gone, but the extermination continues… The Senate has an obligation to reconsider the approved nonsense,” the advocacy organization said. of the environment Observatorio do Clima in a press release.

MPs passed the bill under an emergency procedure, under which it could be voted on directly in plenary, without first going through committees.

The Brazilian parliament could inflict a new defeat on Lula later this week, if it approves a project to modify the attributions of several ministries, to the detriment in particular of those of the Environment and Indigenous Peoples.

The text provides in particular for the withdrawal from the Ministry of the Environment of powers over the cadastre of rural land and the management of water resources. As for the Minister of Indigenous Peoples Sonia Guajarara, whose portfolio was created by Lula, he would lose the responsibility for the demarcation of new indigenous reserves, which would fall to the Minister of Justice.

05/31/2023 03:53:50 –         Brasilia (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP