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GUARDING THE RAINFOREST

Brazil’s Lula grants legal protection to two more Indigenous reservations in Amazon

Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Tuesday officially recognised two Indigenous territories, granting them legal protection as reservations to defend against invasions by illegal loggers, gold miners and cattle ranchers.

The announcement came on the day Brazil celebrates its Amazon region, home to the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the preservation of which is seen as essential to soaking up carbon emissions responsible for global warming.

Environmentalists say Indigenous groups are the best guardians of the rainforest and deforestation data shows that the forests on their reservations are the best conserved.

Lula, who pledged to legalise the greatest number of reservations possible, has so far signed decrees recognising eight Indigenous territories since taking office in January.

It is a race against time as Brazil’s Congress is pushing through legislation that would restrict the recognition of Indigenous land claims, a move backed by the country’s powerful farm lobby.

The Supreme Court, however, is expected rule that the cut-off date for claiming ancestral lands that were not lived on in 1988 is unconstitutional for denying recognised Indigenous rights.

The reservations legalised by Lula on Tuesday are the Acapuri de Cima and the Rio Gregorio Indigenous territories in the states of Amazonas and Acre, respectively.

About 500 Kokama people live on 19,000 hectares of rainforest in the first reservation, and 2,000 Katukina and Yawanawá people live on 187,944 hectares in the second.

Lula plans to recognise six more reservations by the end of the year, said Indigenous Peoples Minister Sonia Guajajara.

She said the government’s plans to legalise more reservations has led to threats of violence against Indigenous communities based on unfounded rumors.

“They are saying that the demarcations will take land away from farmers, and even villages and towns, which is causing terror,” she told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Sandra Maler.)

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