Indigenous people watched the broadcast of the "Temporary Framework" trial on a giant screen set up in front of the Supreme Federal Court in Brasilia, Brazil, September 20 2023. EFE/André Borges

Brazilian Senate approves bill cutting Indigenous land rights, defying Supreme Court

Brasilia, Sept 27 (EFE).- The Brazilian Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that restricts the right to land of Indigenous Peoples, contradicting a ruling by the Supreme Court on Thursday that granted them a constitutional right to lands occupied “historically”, “traditionally” and “permanently.”

The bill, approved a few hours earlier by a commission, was sent to the full Senate with “urgency” by the most conservative groups defending the interests of powerful rural businessmen.

The bill gives legal force to the “Temporary Framework” that limits the rights of Indigenous Peoples to the lands they occupied on Oct. 5, 1988, when the current Brazilian Constitution was promulgated, and not to lands which they claim on the basis that they were forcibly evicted by settlers before that date.

The strength of the conservatives

On Wednesday, in the plenary session, the bill was approved with 43 votes in favor and 21 against, showing the strength that the conservatives still maintain in Parliament vis-à-vis the government of the progressive President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who opposes the “temporary framework”.

Last week, these right-wing and ultra-right groups protested against the Supreme Court, which began debating the decriminalization of abortion up to 12 weeks and the possible legalization, with certain restrictions, of cannabis for “recreational purposes.”

The rapporteur of the bill on the ” Temporary Framework “, Marcos Rogério Brito, on Wednesday rejected pressure from the ruling party, which claimed that even if the new provision on Indigenous lands was approved by the full Senate, it would be referred to the Supreme Court and declared unconstitutional.

The head of the ruling party’s Senate caucus, Randolfe Rodrigues, also promised that the bill “will be vetoed by President Lula,” which would only send the text back to the legislative chambers for further deliberations.

But Brito did not accept these arguments. “The competence of the Supreme Court is clear in the Constitution, but it is as clear as the competence of the legislature,” said the rapporteur, who denied that the bill was a “challenge” to the court or that it could provoke a possible institutional conflict.

In favor of the bill, Brito claimed that it would give “legal security” to the settlers who have been occupying territories claimed by the Indigenous Peoples for decades.

Indigenous people watched the broadcast of the “Temporary Framework” trial on a giant screen set up in front of the Supreme Federal Court in Brasilia, Brazil, September 20 2023.EFE/André Borges

Supreme Court determines compensation

The Supreme Court acknowledged that many settlers had paid “in good faith” for the lands now under scrutiny to regional or municipal administrations, which sold them under the protection of legal loopholes that existed before the 1988 Constitution.

For those instances, the Supreme Court on Wednesday discussed forms of compensation, but only for those cases in which the settlers did not occupy the lands by force and acquired them legally.

The judges unanimously ruled that farmers with “valid” titles to land that was not yet considered Indigenous by the state at the time of purchase must receive “just and prior” compensation from the authorities if they are evicted.

In addition, they opened the possibility that if it was “absolutely impossible” to return the land to the Indigenous Peoples, they might be offered other areas in exchage.

The Supreme Court’s ruling against the “Temporary Framework” was welcomed by the UN Human Rights Office, which said it would have had “extremely serious” consequences for Indigenous communities and would have perpetuated historical injustices suffered by these peoples.EFE