September 25, 2021, 8:30

    Brazil’s top court halts indigenous land rights case, no new date set

    Brazil’s top court halts indigenous land rights case, no new date set

    BRASILIA, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Brazil's Supreme Court on Wednesday suspended a high-profile land rights case that the country's indigenous people say is vital for their survival, with no new date for when it will re-take the matter.

    The top court is weighing whether a state government applied an overly narrow interpretation of indigenous rights by only recognizing tribal lands occupied by native communities at the time Brazil's constitution was ratified in 1988.

    Indigenous rights groups say the rule was unconstitutional because there was no timeframe in the 1988 constitution, which guaranteed the right to ancestral lands.

    The case was suspended after one of the justices, Alexandre De Moraes, asked for more time. As things stand, two members of the 11-member court have ruled so far, with one justice in favor of a cut-off date for land claims, while another has voted to end the timeframe.

    The government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro draws support from the agricultural sector, which largely supports the timeframe. It argues the time framework gave legal security to farmers, many of whom have lived for decades on land once inhabited by natives.

    Protected indigenous lands offer a bulwark against deforestation in the Amazon, advocates say. A defeat in court for the indigenous people would set a precedent for the rollback of native rights that Bolsonaro has sought with the backing of powerful farming interests, critics say.

    Lawyers for the indigenous people, who today number some 850,000 in Brazil, say the constitution that set in stone their rights to ancestral lands makes no mention of a time framework.

    Their ancestors were driven off of their hunting grounds when European settlers began to arrive centuries ago, or expelled from coveted farm land more recently but before the 1988 cutoff.

    Families of white farmers in many cases have lived for decades on land now claimed by indigenous communities, and even hold title in some cases showing they bought it from the state.

    "If the Supreme Court doesn't maintain the 1988 timeframe … it will kill agribusiness in Brazil, there will be no incentive to invest in agriculture," Bolsonaro said recently.

    Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Aurora Ellis


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