July 22, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Brazil’s Senate approved legislation to limit the creation of new Indigenous territories, overriding a recent Supreme Court ruling and potentially dealing a major blow to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s efforts to protect tribal lands.

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Lawmakers voted 43-21 to pass the bill Wednesday, a week after the top court overwhelmingly rejected the so-called Marco Temporal theory, an interpretation of Brazil’s constitution that would allow tribes to claim only the lands they were occupying or legally disputing on Oct. 5, 1988 — the day the governing document was ratified.

The lower house approved the legislation to codify Marco Temporal into law in May, as part of a broader push against Lula’s attempts to ramp up protections for the environment and tribal territories. Senate leaders let the bill linger while the court case unfolded, but picked it back up after the ruling drew backlash from conservative lawmakers.

The leftist president, who during last year’s campaign pledged to demarcate new tribal lands across Brazil, can still veto the bill. But lawmakers can also override that veto with a majority in each chamber.

Read More: Brazil Court Upholds Tribal Land Protections in Win for Lula

The back-and-forth is part of a brewing dispute between Brazil’s top court and factions of lawmakers who saw the Marco Temporal ruling as another judicial overstep on matters they say should be left to the legislature.

Earlier on Wednesday, a group of opposition lawmakers announced a legislative filibuster and said they would push for the creation of a committee to discuss new legislation allowing congress to annul court decisions.

“Each branch of power must be restricted to its role,” congressman Altineu Cortes said as he announced the filibuster. “We want understanding and respect, nothing more.”

Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said the approval of the legislation isn’t about a confrontation with the top court.

“We believe that issues of this nature should be deliberated by the congress,” he told reporters.

But the tension may only increase if the legislation is enacted, an outcome that could lead Indigenous leaders, human rights groups or lawmakers who oppose Marco Temporal to launch a new challenge in the court.

Brazil’s agribusiness sector, which holds significant influence in the country’s conservative congress, and other industries have supported the effort to make Marco Temporal the law.

Tribal leaders, by contrast, argue that it would drastically curb their ability to reclaim traditional lands, while also increasing threats to their communities and the environment from increased mining, farming and logging.

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