When Pedro Álvares Cabral’s squadron landed in 1500 on the coast of Monte Pascoal, currently southern Bahia, Pero Vaz de Caminha saw indigenous people and described them in a letter to the king of Portugal: “they were brown, all naked”.
524 years later, farmers are using the newly enacted time frame law to claim the same land. They went to the Federal Supreme Court (STF) to try to stop the process of expanding the Barra Velha do Monte Pascoal Indigenous Land (TI) from 8 thousand to 50 thousand hectares.
The judicial requests, obtained exclusively by the Brazil in fact, came from four large landowners from rich and influential families in the region. The process is reported by minister Cristiano Zanin, who took a stand against the time frame in the Supreme Court’s judgment that overturned the legal thesis.
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“Our ancestors were attacked, and today is no different. It’s a conflict that has been going on since the Portuguese invasion. They say we are invaders, but they are invaders”, says Erilza Pataxó, deputy chief of TI Barra Velha.
The time frame will be judged again by the Supreme Court this year, in actions that ask for the law to be declared unconstitutional. Until then, the validity of the demarcation criteria should continue to encourage conflicts, say lawyers and indigenous people.
The Barra Velha IT is located within the Monte Pascoal National Park, heavily exploited by tourism / ISA
Dispute is not just legal: “we are at risk of death”
According to leader Pataxó, 14 villages that are involved in a self-demarcation process could disappear if the farmers win in court. Due to the time frame, indigenous people only have the right to the lands they occupied on October 8, 1988, when the Constitution was promulgated.
Erilza fears that the ruralist legal offensive will fuel the growing wave of violence that left two young indigenous people dead a year ago – according to the leaders, victims of police officers and gunmen, who try to prevent indigenous repossessions without a court order.
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“Today we are at risk of death. Last week two hooded guys came looking for me to kill me. They asked my relatives who was the vice-cacica who led the self-demarcation movement”, Erilza told Brazil in fact.
The situation will repeat itself across the country, says Cimi lawyer
Repudiated by practically all indigenous and civil society organizations, the time frame law was enacted by Congress on January 3, 2024, after a tug of war between Lula and parliamentarians.
The president wanted to exclude from the law the prohibition on expanding indigenous lands and the temporal criteria for demarcations – sections now used by farmers to claim the Monte Pascoal Indigenous Land – but the vetoes were overturned by parliamentarians.
In addition to ignoring the fact that people have been violently expelled from their lands, the new law prohibits the expansion of areas that have already been designated for indigenous people, as is the case of Barra Velha do Monte Pascoal.
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Based on sections of the law vetoed by Lula and restored by Congress, landowners made new legal petitions to Minister Cristiano Zanin of the STF on January 11, eight days after promulgation.
“Requests of the same nature will certainly occur in other actions that deal with the matter, both in the Superior Courts and in the lower courts, requiring the Judiciary to stabilize this scenario of legal uncertainty through the protection of the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples”, assessed Paloma Gomes, legal advisor to the Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi).
Who are the farmers and what do they claim?
The new requests to the STF made based on the time frame law were filed by four landowners: Adilson Braz Bosi, Creuza Antônio Chicon, Ordelino Campo Dall’Orto and Lindomar Antônio Memonci.
O Brazil in fact spoke with their lawyer, Flávio Roberto dos Santos. He stated that his clients’ claim is legitimate, as there is no court decision annulling the previous demarcation process of 8 thousand hectares. Furthermore, he said that the anthropological expansion report is biased in favor of the indigenous people.
“Of course, every conflict is reprehensible and a harmonious solution must always be sought. However, we have an intensification, considering that at the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023 we had a significant advance in these invasions by indigenous people claiming their lands. They invade the properties and this generates conflict”, stated the legal representative of the farmers.
To date, at least seven Pataxó indigenous people have died in disputes related to the Barra Velha Indigenous Land, including a 14-year-old teenager. There are no records of farmer deaths.
Editing: Nicolau Soares