Indigenous land in Brazil

Illegal occupiers to become legal owners (Press Release)

"MP da Grilagem", the land-grabbing bill, as a recent administrative act of the Brazilian government is often called, is about to become law. The vote on PL 2633/2020 is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19. The law allows amnesty for the illegal occupation and logging of indigenous land, giving illegal occupiers an opportunity to become legal owners.

"If the new law comes into force as the powerful agricultural lobby wants it to, land conflicts will flare up all over Brazil. Indigenous territories in the Amazon, for example, would be affected as well," fears Juliana Miyazaki, expert on indigenous communities at the Society for Threatened Peoples in Göttingen. "The law would be an invitation to more land theft, more slash-and-burn, and more violence against indigenous people in their protected areas." 

Organizations such as CIMI, ISA, IMAZON, Greenpeace, and WWF-Brazil – as well as researchers, celebrities, and politicians – have already expressed criticism, emphasizing that it is unacceptable to put such a measure to the vote in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Moreover, the vote will take place without much transparency or public participation. "The timetable was changed slightly, but the draft law is still on the agenda. Despite minor adjustments, its contents remain very problematic," Miyazaki explained.

The draft law provides that applications for land titles will be based on aerial photographs as well as on the CAR (Cadastro Ambiental Rural) land registration system, which collects self-information. Thus, occupiers could register illegally appropriated land themselves, and overlaps with environmental or indigenous protected areas are to be expected. "A sad example of this is the Ituna-Itatá territory in Pará," stated Miyazaki. "There are indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation in the region. Last year, it was the indigenous region most affected by deforestation. According to the CAR, 94 percent of the indigenous territory are now registered as private property."

There are numerous other administrative actions by the Bolsonaro administration that are a threat to the indigenous inhabitants of the country. In April of this year, the indigenous protection agency FUNAI issued the 9/2020 standard, which states that indigenous territories can only be officially recognized by a presidential decree (homologação). A total number of currently 237 indigenous areas that are in the midst of the lengthy process of recognition might become available for private land ownership under the new standard.