• Although the Time Frame thesis was one of the points vetoed by President Lula, the National Congress still has the power to reverse the vetoes.

  • Furthermore, the President approved certain measures from PL 2903 that threaten the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples over their lands and the global climate future.

Contrary to the Indigenous movement’s demand for a complete veto of PL 2.903/2023, President Lula announced his partial veto on October 20th. Therefore, the presidential decision removes the Time Frame from the proposal, as well as the cultivation of genetically modified species in Indigenous Lands; the construction of major infrastructure projects, such as hydroelectric plants and highways, without prior, free, and informed consultation; and the relaxation of policies protecting Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation. On the other hand, two of the measures in PL approved by the President relax the exclusive use of Indigenous peoples over their territories, which are considered critical by the Apib.

In 2023, Bill 2,903/2023 represented one of the greatest threats to the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil. It was conceived based on anti-Indigenous principles and approved by the National Congress under the influence of the ruralist caucus. For this reason, Apib called for the total veto of the project that prioritizes large landowners’ interests at the expense of Indigenous rights.

Last Friday (20), President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced that he would veto certain aspects of the bill, including the proposal to establish the Temporal Marker, but he approved other threatening provisions for Indigenous Peoples. This includes the loss of exclusive use of their lands due to defense or national sovereignty interests in the land, as well as economic cooperation activities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

These measures went into effect on October 20, under Law 14,701/2023. The remaining vetoed aspects will be reviewed on 9th November by a joint committee of senators and deputies who will decide whether to accept or annul the measures vetoed by Lula.

Which aspects of Bill 2,903/2023 were vetoed by Lula?

  • Time Frame: the thesis that Indigenous Peoples need to prove their presence on their ancestral lands on the date of the promulgation of the Federal Constitution on October 5, 1988, to be entitled to recognition and demarcation as Indigenous Land, was overturned. The Time Frame thesis had already been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Federal Court (STF) on September 27, 2023.

  • Compensation for invaders and illegal occupants of recognized Indigenous territories.

  • Annulment of the demarcation of an Indigenous Land and expropriation due to the “alteration of cultural characteristics” of the Indigenous community.

  • Installation of equipment and communication networks, as well as the construction of infrastructure in Indigenous Lands, such as roads and transportation routes.

  • Cultivation of genetically modified organisms in Indigenous Lands.

  • Forced contact with Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.

Permission to establish military bases, units, military posts, or military interventions in Indigenous Lands.

  • Exploitation of resources for energy generation, energy projects in general, and extraction of natural resources without prior, free, and informed consultation of affected communities or the competent federal Indigenous agency.

What are the next steps for the analysis of the vetoes?

Apib emphasizes that the Indigenous movement’s demand was for Lula to fully veto Bill 2,903/2023. In this context, we are alerting about the need for the partial vetoes to be upheld by lawmakers. Senators and deputies will form a mixed committee to review the points vetoed by Lula. The date for such an assessment has not been determined yet, but the ruralist caucus (Frente Parlamentar da Agropecuária) has already issued an official statement claiming to have enough votes to overturn all vetoes in the National Congress.

The struggle, therefore, is not over. Apib warns of the need to continue mobilizing because if these vetoes are annulled by Congress, they will be officially included as part of Law 14,701/2023. This threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples, violates the guidelines of the UN Human Rights Committee of which Brazil is a signatory, and jeopardizes the global climate future. Only the Supreme Federal Court (STF) could reconsider the constitutionality of the law through a new judicial process.

Which measures were not vetoed and are threatening Indigenous Peoples and the fight against the climate crisis?

PL 2903 has already come into effect as Law 14,701/2023 with the provisions that were not vetoed by President Lula. Among them, there are still various threats to Indigenous Peoples, biodiversity, and the guarantee of climate balance provided by Indigenous Lands. Among the non-vetoed points, two are critical as they open the door to violations of Indigenous rights:

  • Article 20 states that exclusive use of Indigenous Land does not override the interest of defense and national sovereignty policy.

  • Article 26 deals with cooperation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people for the exploitation of economic activities, which can increase pressure from third parties to relax the rights of Indigenous Peoples to exclusive enjoyment of their lands.

We assert that Article 20 is dangerous, as it could similarly provide a loophole to mitigate exclusive use, based on the generic concept of “defense policy interest,” justifying military interventions in the territories. It is also relevant to consider that there are already 96,000 hectares of overlapping areas with Indigenous lands illegally, and this supposed cooperation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people will not be peaceful or free from high costs to the autonomy and preservation of Indigenous ways of life. Furthermore, we reinforce that Indigenous Peoples are protected by Article 231, §6o, of the Constitution, which stipulates that the relevant interest of the Union should be determined by a Complementary Law, not an Ordinary Law, as is the case with Law 14,701/2023.

Questioning the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples in their territories is one of the factors contributing to the increase in land conflicts in Brazil. The Report on Violence Against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil in 2022 demonstrated that between 2019 and 2022, 795 Indigenous people were recorded as murdered during Jair Bolsonaro’s government, representing a 54% increase compared to the governments of Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer, with most of these crimes directly related to territorial conflicts. Apib believes that this significant increase in violence is directly related to the speeches promoted by then-President Bolsonaro against Indigenous territorial rights, combined with the complete dismantling of Indigenous policy during this period.

Similarly, deforestation and the destruction of biodiversity in Indigenous Lands represent an international threat to the global climate balance. In the last 30 years, Brazil lost 69 million hectares of native vegetation. However, only 1.6% of this deforestation was recorded in Indigenous Lands. Furthermore, Indigenous territories house 80% of the planet’s biodiversity but are threatened by the advance of agribusiness and extractive industries, development, and tourism, as highlighted in the UN State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples report published in 2021.

Therefore, Apib warns that the impacts of Law 14,701/2023 and the potential overturning of the presidential vetoes on PL 2903 will have consequences not only for Indigenous Peoples but also global repercussions for climate balance. It is impossible to establish consistent national policies and international agreements against climate change without ensuring full enjoyment of Indigenous Peoples in their territories. Hence, our struggle continues.