Photo: @richard_wera_mirim

With a score of 9×2 against the anti-indigenous thesis, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib) celebrates the results but warns about two proposals presented in the trial that still need to be discussed: compensation for land occupation and mining in Indigenous lands.  

In a historic session this Thursday (09/21), Justices Luiz Fux, Cármen Lúcia, Gilmar Mendes, and Rosa Weber of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) voted against the temporal framework and formed a majority of votes to overturn the thesis in the judiciary. With a score of 9×2, the Justices’ votes concluded by overturning the Time Frame thesis. However, the trial is set to resume on the 27th to discuss two proposals raised by Moraes and Toffoli regarding prior compensation for invaders of Indigenous Territories and the utilization of resources within Indigenous Territories, which concerns the indigenous movement. The Senate vote, advocated by the ruralist caucus to begin on September 20, has also been postponed to September 27.

“We have indeed emerged victorious from the Time Frame thesis, but there is still much to be done to ward off all the threats that are also pending in the Senate, through the law proposal 2903. We remain mobilized, we continue to fight because we need to ensure and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Dinamam Tuxá, executive coordinator of Apib, after the conclusion of the voting session at the Brazilian Supreme Court on September 21 in Brasília.

We continue mobilised to ensure that no rights are negotiated!

The Apib celebrates the victory on the Time Frame vote that recognises indigenous rights but warns that the mobilization continues because various indigenous lands are being invaded. “It is a victory for indigenous peoples because for years we have been fighting to reject this thesis that, in a way, was paralyzing the demarcation processes in Brazil. However, there are some important points to be noted because the votes of Toffoli and Moraes brought quite dangerous elements for Indigenous Peoples,” warns Tuxá. Even in a scenario with increasing violence caused by the illegal occupation of Indigenous territory, Minister Moraes raised the possibility of compensation for invaders who supposedly hold titles to rural property in “good faith,” and Toffoli defended the possibility of natural resources exploitation (water, organic, and mineral resources) located within Indigenous Lands.

The ministers voting against the Time Frame thesis were: Edson Fachin, Alexandre de Moraes, Cristiano Zanin, Luís Roberto Barroso, Dias Toffoli, Luiz Fux, Cármen Lúcia, Gilmar Mendes, and Rosa Weber. André Mendonça and Nunes Marques voted in favor of the thesis. 

The Time Frame is a political thesis asserting that indigenous peoples would only have rights to their territories if they were in possession of them on October 5, 1988, the date of the promulgation of the Federal Constitution. Apib argues that the thesis is unconstitutional and anti-indigenous because it violates the original right of peoples to ancestral territory, as provided for in the Constitution itself, and ignores the violence and persecution, especially during the Brazilian military dictatorship, preventing many peoples from being on their lands on the 1988 date.

In the Supreme Court, the Time Frame refers to a possessory action (Extraordinary Appeal No. 1,017,365) involving the Xokleng Ibirama Laklaño Indigenous Land of the Xokleng, Kaingang, and Guarani peoples and the state of Santa Catarina. With the status of general repercussion, the decision in this case will serve as a guideline for all Indigenous land demarcation processes in the country. As Minister Luís Roberto Barroso stated, “the (Brazilian) Constitution is very clear, there is no ownership of land traditionally belonging to Indigenous communities. This is the solution to this case.”

Even though the result of the vote is a victory for the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, other proposals raised by the ministers in their votes threaten the current scenario of the fight for our rights.

Minister Alexandre de Moraes voted against the Time Frame in the Supreme Court session held on June 7, 2023. Despite his opposition to the thesis, he raised a highly threatening proposal for Indigenous Peoples. Moraes assumed the existence of rural landowners in “good faith” who could receive compensation from the State if they were to be expropriated from the illegally occupied lands for the demarcation as a indigenous land.

Apib considers that, despite the existence of a little portion of small landowners who acquired titles to Indigenous lands in “good faith” due to the illegality committed by the State, the compensation proposal assumes a reward for illegal invaders who represent the majority of properties with overlaps on Indigenous lands, thus incentivizing illegal land occupation paid with public funds. Based on the cross-referencing of land data from the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra) and the data from the “The Invaders” (Os Invasores) reports conducted by De Olho nos Ruralistas, there are 1,692 farm overlaps on Indigenous lands, totaling 1.18 million hectares, and out of this total, 95.5% are in territories pending demarcation. With his proposal, Moraes ignores the extensive history of land grabbing in Brazil and the criminal actions of ruralists, which have led to increased violence against Indigenous peoples and deforestation. Between 2008 and 2021, 46,900 hectares were deforested in areas of farm overlaps on Indigenous lands, according to the data from the aforementioned report.

On the other hand, Minister Dias Toffoli voted on September 20, representing the 5th vote against the Time Frame thesis. However, Toffoli chose to expand the topics with a theme unrelated to the one discussed in the case and included the possibility of exploiting water, organic, and mineral resources from Indigenous Lands, arguing that the issue suffers from a supposed legal omission and hinders the country’s economic development. Maurício Terena, legal coordinator of Apib, adds: “At the last moment, he (Toffoli) brought up an issue that concerns us greatly as an indigenous movement. He sets out theses on economic exploitation in indigenous lands. We understand that this is not the time for this debate, and the way he did it, to some extent, undermines the exclusive use of indigenous peoples.”

Read the full statement issued by Apib’s Legal Advisory on Justice Dias Toffoli’s vote.

Who Benefits from the Time Frame thesis?

Among the threats, we highlight the illegal occupation of some Indigenous lands by certain farmers who are directly linked to the rural political power. Brazilian politicians, both in the National Congress and the executive branch, own 96,000 hectares of land overlapping Indigenous Lands. Furthermore, many of them were funded by farmers invading Indigenous lands, who donated R$ 3.6 million to the electoral campaign of ruralists. This group of invaders financed 29 political campaigns in 2022, totaling R$ 5,313,843.44. Out of this total, R$ 1,163,385.00 was directed to the defeated candidate, Jair Bolsonaro (PL).

Senate Vote Delayed

Under pressure from the ruralist caucus, the Senate Judiciary Committee had planned to begin debating the Law Project (PL) 2903 on September 20th, which aims to turn the Time Frame thesis into law and legalize crimes committed against Indigenous peoples. However, a lack of dialogue marked that day: Indigenous leaders were prevented from entering, and the Committee rejected a request for a public hearing. The vote was postponed to September 27th after a collective request for further examination by the senators. “The rights of Indigenous peoples are being violated, and we are not being heard. Parliament is not listening to public opinion, which only benefits the interests of agribusiness,” warns Tuxá. For the Apib, the clash between the legislative and judicial branches is an affront by politicians who want to impose their economic interests on Indigenous lands at the expense of Indigenous lives.

About Apib

The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib) is a national reference body of the indigenous movement in Brazil, created from the bottom up. It brings together seven regional Indigenous organizations (Apoinme, ArpinSudeste, ArpinSul, Aty Guasu, Terena Council, Coaib, and Guarani Yvyrupa Commission) and was born with the purpose of strengthening the unity of our peoples, fostering coordination among different regions and Indigenous organizations in the country, as well as mobilizing Indigenous peoples and organizations against threats and violations of Indigenous rights.

For more information and to schedule interviews, you can contact the Apib press service:

[email protected]

Communication management – Samela Sateré Mawé – +55 (92) 98285 5077

International communication service –  +55 (65) 99686 6289 / +55 (21) 96665 5518 / +55 (92) 99430-3762