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BRAZIL
Court defends indigenous lands
4/16/2009
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Supreme Court upholds ruling protecting indigenous lands from rice farmers.

Brazil´s Supreme Federal Tribunal in early April upheld a recent ruling demarcating a reservation home to 20,000 indigenous Brazilians in the northern Roraima state that had been invaded by rice farmers. The latest ruling is final and cannot be appealed.

The court first ruled 10-1 on March 19 to uphold the border of the Raposa-Serra do Sol reservation, where Macuxi, Wapichana, Taurepang, Ingarico and Patamona live, and that the rice farmers who had held plantations within the area must leave.

The tribunal´s president, Gilmar Mendes, said the case will serve as a precedent for other similar disputes.

The 1.7 million-hectare Raposa Serra do Sol reservation was demarcated in 1998 and officially recognized in 2005.

Last year, the federal police were called up to supervise the eviction of rice farmers who had set up on the reservation. But state governor, José de Anchieta, called on the Supreme Federal Tribunal to call off the operation.

With this final ruling, the non-indigenous population must leave the reservation.

However, the ruling places conditions that could affect the rights of the indigenous living on the reservation, near the border with Guyana and Venezuela, by allowing the installation of military bases and posts as well as the development of alternative energy sources and exploitation of strategic natural resources.

It also authorizes state security forces to act on their lands without being consulted by the communities or the government-run National Indian Foundation, a violation of the International Labor Organization´s Convention 169 on indigenous peoples.

The convention also states that indigenous parties must be guaranteed the right to decide on certain development projects that could affect their lives, beliefs, institutions, spiritual well-being or their lands, as well as their own economic, social and cultural development.
—Latinamerica Press.


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