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Brazil's Government Slows Down Creation of Indigenous Areas

11/30/2016 - 12h07

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RUBENS VALENTE
FROM BRASÍLIA

In an unusual decision, the Chief of Staff's Office of the President of the Republic ordered the devolution to Funai (National Indian Foundation) of 13 processes of demarcation of indigenous lands that were awaiting Presidential homologation.

The Justice Ministry also returned to the indigenous entity six other processes that were in the identification phase, a stage before homologation.

The processes were awaiting the signature of President Michel Temer and of Minister Alexandre Moraes (Justice).

They referred to 1,5 million hectares of land in 11 States claimed by Indians from 17 different ethnicities.

The majority had been opened between 2004 and 2014. One case had been opened since as long ago as 1982.

The Chief of Staff's Office said that their intention was to investigate eventual "legal obstacles" surrounding the lands.

For the CNPI (National Council of Indigenous Policies), which is subordinate to the Justice Ministry, the Government is disobeying the demarcation rites, which don't provide for the suspension of homologations due to the existence of legal disputes.

This understanding is reinforced by the under-prosecutor general of the Republic, Luciano Mariz Maia, coordinator of the 6th Chamber of the PGR (General Brazilian Prosecutor), specializing in indigenous populations and traditional communities.

Maia includes the episode in a political scenario that involves the recreation of the Funai CPI (provisory investigation), and decisions by the STF (Brazil's Supreme Court) against Indians and the emptying out of the entity, including a recent announcement regarding restructuring under terms not yet divulged.

The Funai Presidency position has been unfilled since May.

A member of the CNPI, Weiber Tapega, declared that the devolutions are a step backward.

Sônia Guajajara, one of the principal indigenous leaders in the country and also a frequent critic of the government of Dilma Rousseff, classified the devolution of the processes as a "violation and disengagement" of the government with indigenous peoples.

In a written communication, the Office of the Chief of Staff declared that "there has been no alteration in the system of demarcation of indigenous lands".

According to the entity, the processes were devolved "with the intention of discovering whether any judicial decisions existed that could obstruct the signature of the respective presidential decrees".

"After verifying the non-existence of judicial obstructions, the homologation processes will be returned to the Presidency of the Republic for signature of the respective acts. There will, therefore, be no change in the system of demarcation of indigenous lands", declared the Office of the Chief of Staff in a written communication.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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