The ruralist caucus will try to vote this Wednesday afternoon (23), at the Senate Agriculture and Agrarian Reform Commission (CRA), on the proposal that legalizes the time frame. The ruralist group, which has 50 of the 81 parliamentarians in the House, invests in the strategy of speeding up the project to try to anticipate the Federal Supreme Court (STF) and convert the thesis into law before the Court definitively judges the case. As part of the plan, the tendency is for the text to be approved at CRA with a probable margin of support from the collegiate, where the conservative wing has a majority.
The timeframe is discussed in the National Congress through Bill (PL) 2903/2023. The essence of the measure consists in determining that indigenous peoples can only request lands that they had been occupying since before the enactment of the Federal Constitution of 1988 or that at that time were at least being disputed by the segment. The proposal is politically sponsored by the Agricultural Parliamentary Front (FPA), the formal arm of the ruralist caucus.
The text was approved in the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies at the end of May, when it was still being processed as PL nº 490/2007, and soon after it went to the Senate, where it needs to pass through the CRA and the Constitution and Justice Commission (CCJ) to be taken to the plenary. The report was read last week at the Agriculture Commission, when they tried to vote on the PL, but the government members negotiated a postponement of the text’s evaluation. Parliamentarians from the progressive field articulate so that the PL is also evaluated by some other merit evaluation committee.
“It is very fast. We had this matter in the Chamber. In the Senate, she arrived recently. So, it was necessary for us to have a greater dialogue on this topic because even the project that is underway is not just about the timeframe. The PL opens up so that indigenous lands can be leased to producers and for other activities, for example. In my opinion, bringing this into legislation is extremely wrong”, assesses Senator Beto Faro (PT-PA), who is a member of the CRA.
The project also brings other points considered critical for the progressive field. This is the case of the prediction that demarcations can be contested at any stage of the administrative process, which environmentalists point out has the potential to make the procedures unfeasible. The text also allows transgenic plantations in indigenous areas, a practice currently prohibited due to the risk of compromising biodiversity.
In addition, the PL allows the State and civil society to contact isolated indigenous people to “provide medical assistance or to mediate state action of public utility” through the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (Funai). The measure is one of the most controversial in the text due to the risk of cultural contamination and the gradual elimination of these groups, which generally live in isolation by their own decision.
“There are studies showing that, when they begin to relate to other groups, these communities are at risk of death, extermination and things like that. In my opinion, the Senate needs to debate this calmly, so we are working so that the President of the House takes this at least to the Human Rights Commission”, says Beto Faro. The petista told Brasil de Fato that he will present different amendments asking for changes in the most controversial parts of the PL.
Negotiations around the content of the proposal, however, have a low margin of success. Despite having met with interlocutors from civil society and the Minister of Indigenous Peoples, Sônia Guajajara, this week, the PL’s rapporteur in the Agriculture Committee, Senator Soraya Tronicke (Podemos-MS), has said that she prefers to keep the text as is to prevent the project from returning for evaluation by the Chamber. The current version of the PL is the opinion signed by Deputy Arthur Oliveira Maia (União-BA).
In an interview to the press on Tuesday (22) shortly after a meeting with parliamentarians from the ruralist group, the rapporteur said that she currently sees “a calmer climate” for evaluating the PL. “We need to turn this page, end the fights. There are ideological issues that have become passions”, she said, in defending the vote on the text this Thursday.
The haste serves the interests of the FPA, which is running out of time to obtain a final approval of the PL before September 7, the date from which the STF can reassess the issue of the time frame. The trial of the case was interrupted on June 7 after a request for a review by Justice André Mendonça. The Court’s internal regulations provide for a 90-day deadline for this type of request. So far, the score in the Supreme Court is two votes against the thesis – which came from ministers Edson Fachin and Alexandre de Moraes, the first being the rapporteur of the case –, against a favorable position, expressed by Nunes Marques.
The president of the FPA, deputy Pedro Lupion (PP-PR), said on Tuesday that the front defends PL 2903 for reasons of “legal security”. “Recognition of the time frame will provide legal security for producers and conditions for them to continue developing, growing and generating jobs and income”, he said. While the ruralist caucus tries to get ahead of the STF to approve the project in the Senate, different interlocutors from the indigenous segment have pressured the Court to move forward with the case, whose judgment has already been postponed seven times.
The reading of the movement is that, despite the safeguards provided for in the Federal Constitution for indigenous rights, the vagueness of the judgment and the strong pressure of the ruralist group in the Legislative help to bring greater instability to the communities. “It brings legal uncertainty. There are many indigenous lands in different phases of processing, of identification, and that is why we have been demanding that the government homologate the lands that are ready to be homologated”, says the legal advisor of the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), Ivo Macuxi , who was in Congress in recent days along with a delegation of leaders who pressure parliamentarians to reject the PL.
The group filed a document with the Senate asking for an audience with the president, Rodrigo Pacheco (PSD-MG), to deal with the bill. He also met at the end of Tuesday afternoon (22) with the president of the STF, Rosa Weber, to address the concern with the time frame thesis. The minister compulsorily retires in September and intends to return the issue to a vote before saying goodbye to the Court.
Funai data show that there are 137 areas in the study phase in the country, the entry point for administrative land demarcation processes. The step-by-step process is long, usually takes years to complete and includes several stages of case analysis. After the conclusion of the first stage, the territories undergo a delimitation process, in which the studies are approved by the municipality – there are currently 44 areas in this situation.
Subsequently, the process progresses to the declaration phase, when the case is submitted to the Minister of Justice for evaluation. He is the agent responsible for indicating the limits of the area, which must be formalized by means of an ordinance. There are 73 areas in this process status in Brazil. Then comes homologation, a situation in which eight indigenous territories are now. This stage includes the formal creation of the land through a presidential decree, in which the georeferenced boundaries of the site are detailed.
Finally, comes the regularization phase, when the area is registered by the Federal Heritage Secretariat (SPU), which receives assistance from Funai during the process. According to the autarchy, the country has 475 regularized indigenous territories.
Back to the past
For environmentalists and indigenous leaders, PL 2903 represents a return to the past because, among other things, it provides for the nullity of the demarcation of lands that do not meet the rules set forth in the proposal and establishes the understanding that demarcation processes that have not yet been finalized need to adapt to the norms dictated by the PL. It also prohibits the expansion of areas already demarcated.
Interlocutors in the segment point out that this forecast makes the situation of communities such as those in the Indigenous Land (TI) Manoá/Pium, located in the municipality of Bonfim, in Roraima, difficult. The site brings together more than 3,200 indigenous peoples of the Wapichana and Macuxi peoples. The territory was delimited by Funai at 67,000 hectares and faces a conflict related to the pressure promoted by landowners on the TI.
“The area was homologated in 1982, but there are 24 thousand hectares that were left out of the demarcation. Today the community is in the process of resuming, trying to add that part. This bill situation directly affects the area, and this is very worrying for us. If the framework is approved, it will be difficult”, says Lázaro Alexandre, from the Tuxaua people, who were excluded from the demarcation. The case is in the Federal Court.
Sources from the environmental movement told the report in recent days that they have missed the presence of high-ranking political articulators in the government in the negotiations that seek to bar the PL from the time frame. It is common among specialists in the field to read that the Lula administration has avoided wasting cartridges on articulations in defense of the environmental agenda in Congress.
Equally common is the understanding that, given the unfavorable correlation of forces that the government has today in the Legislative, the option of the top management has been to direct political capital in favor of voting on priority agendas for the agenda of this first year management, such as tax reform and the new fiscal framework. Despite this, some articulations have emerged on other command fronts. In addition to the pressure made by Minister Sônia Guajajara with party leaders in recent days in Congress, there was an attempt at dialogue through the Secretariat for Access to Justice (Saju) of the Ministry of Justice.
The secretary, Marivaldo Pereira, is one of the guests at a public hearing scheduled to take place at the CRA of the Senate this Thursday afternoon before the PL vote. In conversation with Brasil de Fato, he said that the government proposed last week the creation of a dialogue table to “build a consensus”. The proposal was made in a meeting with advisors of Senate parliamentarians.
“The way the proposal is presented, it makes the demarcation of indigenous lands unfeasible, so it was very important to seek a consensus. I have been following this issue for a long time and for the first time I see the possibility of creating proposals to mitigate conflicts that may arise from demarcations without making demarcations unfeasible. So, there is good will from the MPI and the government, but at the meeting there was no favorable signal for the constitution of the dialogue table so that we could move forward in this”, says Pereira. He points out that the resistance came from the ruralist group.
“It’s a shame because, if we started to dialogue, there is a willingness of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples to sit at the table, there is a willingness of the entire government to dialogue and seek consensus. I think that, regarding this provision, it is very bad if this opportunity is lost”, adds the secretary. Asked about how it would be possible to format an agreement with the FPA, given the rigid way in which the group sees the proposal and especially given the difference between this position and the demonstrations already made by government names, contrary to the PL, Pereira defends that the Constitution be used as a reference in the debate.
“There are numerous points that the Supreme Court has already consolidated, such as what happens to indigenous people who were expelled from their lands before 1988 and were prevented from returning to them. If a law is approved contrary to understandings of the STF, it is a work that tends to be questioned, and then it will not prevail. That wouldn’t help anyone because what everyone wants is public safety. The best way to build this is dialogue, so we are going to insist a lot on this point this Thursday in the Senate”, reinforces Marivaldo Pereira.
Editing: Rodrigo Chagas