Brazil set for Indian land ruling
Friday, 29 August 2008

BBC Online

Brazil's Supreme Court has begun considering the future of one of the country's biggest indigenous reserves.

The judges will decide whether the Raposa Serra do Sol reservation should remain a single unbroken territory.

Indian leaders believe the case will set a crucial precedent regarding the protection of their rights and land.
 
Non-indigenous farmers are demanding the right to remain in the area and say if they are evicted it will harm the region's economic development.
 
Indigenous groups arrived in the capital, Brasilia, to make their voice heard, staging a traditional protest just across the road from where the Supreme Court judges will reach their decision.
 
Conflict
 
The Indian reservation known as Raposa Serra do Sol is home to 19,000 people and was given official status in 2005.
Indian leaders want the court to confirm that the reservation, which stretches over 1.7m hectares (4.2m acres), should be preserved as a single unbroken territory.
 
They say if the court decides against them it will send a signal to land grabbers, prospectors and loggers that it would be acceptable to invade indigenous territory.
 
However, about 200 non-indigenous farmers who live and work in the area say if the court upholds the reservation's status they will be forced to leave, harming Roraima's economy.
 
The issue has been the subject of growing tension and conflict between the two sides.
 
Julio Macuxi, an Indian leader who has come to Brasilia for the decision, expressed optimism about the decision.
 
"The communities are very hopeful - that is our expectation," he said

We are gathering not in a sense of celebrating but as a way of saying that from today we will be building our peace and we will have our dignity and our happiness which is what I believe the Supreme Court above all cares about - the peace and happiness of the community which they haven't had for a long time, because there are still invasions of our land."
 
There are more than 100 similar cases before the Supreme Court but it is thought this ruling will establish an important legal precedent.
 
There has also been concern among military leaders that a large Indian reservation on Brazil's border undermines the country's sovereignty - a claim strongly contested by indigenous communities who say it would remain Brazilian territory.
 
There is only one issue on which all sides in this argument are agreed, and that is over the importance of this judgement and its longer-term implications.

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