On his first trip to Indigenous land in the Amazon rainforest since taking office, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva expressed support for creating new territories for those communities, but stopped short of announcing any demarcations.
Wearing white cap and dark shirt in the heat, Lula addressed some 2,000 Indigenous people who painted their faces, wore traditional feather headdresses and sang songs to welcome him Monday to the Raposa Serra do Sol region bordering Venezuela and Guyana.
He said he wants quick demarcation of their lands “before other people take over, invent false documents” to claim ownership rights. That has been a common occurence throughout Brazil’s history, which prompted the start of demarcation processes over a half century ago. “We need to quickly try to legalize every land whose (demarcation) studies are almost finished so the Indigenous can take the land that is theirs,” Lula said at the 52nd general assembly of the Indigenous peoples of the State of Roraima.
Yet Lula stopped short of actually announcing any new designations that are much anticipated by Indigenous people and rights activists. Their movement has pressured Lula to demarcate 13 new Indigenous territories that have cleared all regulatory steps and require nothing more than presidential approval to be official.
.Lula authorized the demarcation of Raposa Serra do Sol in 2005, during his first term as president. Different from other reserves in the Brazilian Amazon, Raposa Serra do Sol is mostly tropical savannah. It is home to 26,000 people from five different ethnicities.
Since receiving its protected status, it has been a scene of conflict between rice farmers and Indigenous people and has had sporadic violence, making the territory something of a case study in the challenges of protecting land that is increasingly under pressure from without.