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News > Brazil

Brazilian Judges Lean Towards Recognizing Indigenous Rights

  • The text reads,

    The text reads, "To halt the genocide, say NO to the time frame." | Photo: X/ @depchicoalencar

Published 21 September 2023

Right-wing politicians and businessmen try to prevent the Brazilian State from recognizing at least 200 areas as Indigenous territories.

On Wednesday, the Brazilian Supreme Court was inclined to recognize the right of Indigenous peoples to the lands they have historically occupied.


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So far, 5 out of 11 magistrates have ruled against "the time frame", an administrative definition that will limit the rights of Indigenous communities to those lands that Indigenous peoples occupied until October 1988, when the Brazilian Constitution was promulgated.

The Brazilian peoples, however, consider the “time frame” to be illegitimate because it does not recognize that they inhabited those lands long before 1988. In fact, settlers have been violently expelling Indigenous peoples from their territories for decades.

Even though five judges recognized Indigenous peoples' historical rights, some differences persist between them on how to apply territorial rights, especially in the case of lands that settlers have legally occupied.

This occupation occurred because white settlers bought land from subnational governments, which sold them under the protection of many legal loopholes that existed on this issue before the 1988 Constitution.

To resolve the disagreements, Judge Alexandre de Moraes proposes that the white settlers abandon the Indigenous territories and be compensated by the Brazilian State.

This policy, however, would not apply to those settlers who occupied land through violence since they would be evicted without any compensation.

Alternatively, De Moraes also proposes that Indigenous peoples be compensated with the concession of territories of equivalent extensions.

While the discussion continues in the Supreme Court, a Senate committee is discussing a bill that seeks to recognize the "time frame", which is what right-wing politicians and agricultural businessmen vehemently desire.

These groups try to prevent the Brazilian State from recognizing at least 200 areas as Indigenous territories, especially in the Amazon basin where their mining and other illegal extractive activities take place.

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