Brazil’s lower house of Congress approved on Tuesday night a bill to limit the recognition of new Indigenous reservations, a decision seen by environmentalists and human rights advocates as a setback after intense pressure from the farm lobby.
The approval, by 283 votes to 155, comes after Indigenous groups blocked a highway and burned tires to protest the measures earlier on Tuesday.
Outside Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, demonstrators blocked a major motorway with flaming tires and used bows and arrows to confront police, who dispersed them with tear gas.
Indigenous groups from across the country planned a week of protests outside Congress in the capital Brasilia.
Bill 490 would not affect currently recognized reservations, but, may impact hundreds of territories under evaluation.
The lower house fast-tracked the bill after pressure from Brazil’s powerful agricultural lobby.
Establishing a reservation gives Indigenous communities legal protections that can deter illegal loggers and wildcat gold miners from land invasions.
Those surged under far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro, who called for commercial agriculture and mining even on recognized reservations.
Indigenous leaders want President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in last year’s election, to protect some 300 territories that were mapped out years ago but have not been formally recognized.
Lula legally recognized six Indigenous territories last month.
Some 300 different ethnic groups live on 730 territories that they consider ancestral lands, mainly in the Amazon rainforest. The issue of recognition of tribal lands is also being examined by the Supreme Court.
The bill still needs approval in the Senate and signing by Lula. He could veto it but there might be enough support in Congress to override that.
( Source Reuters)