Bill PL 490/2007

Image: Kamikia Kisedje

Bill PL 490/2007: A death sentence for the Brazilian Amazon and Indigenous peoples.

Blog Post - July 2021

Brazil’s Indigenous peoples are under attack. On the frontlines, their traditional territories are being burned and deforested at alarming rates. Now, Bolsonaro’s government intends to strip Indigenous peoples of the few protections they still have by legalizing crimes against them. New legislation, presented in the form of a bill known as PL 490/2007, would cancel legal protections of Indigenous territories if signed into law. The bill has been under consideration since 2007 and was first proposed by Brazil’s powerful agro-business lobby, which has an obvious desire to open more of the Amazon to cattle ranching, logging, and mining. Bolsonaro’s administration is giving new life to this bill, and on June 23, 2021, a committee in the lower house of the Brazilian parliament approved an initial draft, which will now be voted on by lawmakers. If accepted, the government could allow unrestricted access to natural resources.

 

Before even being elected, Jair Bolsonaro made it clear that he is no friend to Indigenous peoples, claiming that, “If I become president there will not be a centimeter more of Indigenous land.” He has backed up his words with action, and since taking office he has presided over the destruction of about 10,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest. Fires have increased each year at an alarming rate, and Bolsonaro’s administration has effectively looked the other way. Environmental protection agencies and FUNAI, the Indigenous affairs agency, have been systematically weakened so that they provide very little protection for Indigenous peoples against Bolsonaro’s agenda.

Drone footage, captured by our Ambassador Kamikia Kisedje, showing the deforestation within the Xingu Amazon basin that started right after the approval of draft bill 490/2007 by the  lower house of the Brazilian parliament.  Date of drone footage: June 27, 2021. 

In our podcast interview with Kretã Kaingang, co-founder of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), the largest Indigenous-led organization in Brazil, he described the dire situation that Indigenous peoples are now facing. “It’s important to know that Indigenous peoples have always suffered and have always been in danger, regardless of the government,” he said, “however, the current administration is completely different. It acts under racism, prejudice, and is against any kind of Indigenous expression.” According to him, local community leaders and grassroots leaders are being put under strict surveillance by the Brazilian Intelligence Agency. There have also been increased incidences of violence against Indigenous peoples, and several prominent leaders have been murdered. In 2019, the murder of Indigenous peoples reached an 11-year high.

 

Bill PL 490 is a clear violation of Indigenous rights recognized under the Brazilian Federal Constitution and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was accepted by Brazil in 2007. If passed into law, the bill would open a new wave of colonization that would devastate Brazil’s Indigenous population on unprecedented scales. Additionally, the bill would:

 

  • Deny the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous communities affected by large projects, even though this is a right guaranteed by ILO Convention 169.

  • Recognize Indigenous rights to their land only if they were in legal possession of it on the date of the promulgation of the Constitution (October 5, 1988). For many groups who were forcibly dispossessed from their land during this time, it would make it impossible for them to ever reclaim their traditional territories.

  • Open the possibility of ending the “no contact” policy with Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. By allowing big businesses or missionaries into these territories, it would allow the introduction of diseases, like influenza or tuberculosis, that could easily decimate these populations.

 

In June, over 450 Indigenous leaders gathered to protest the bill in the Brazilian capital. Their peaceful protest was met with tear gas and rubber bullets. Now more than ever, the international community must stand beside the Indigenous peoples of Brazil. A long list of international businesses have already proposed boycotting Brazilian products should the government pursue its anti-Indigenous agenda. Such strong measures are needed to protect Indigenous communities and the environment from further colonization and destruction.