Lula vetoes major setbacks to Bill 2903 and keeps commitment to indigenous peoples and Brazil

outubro, 24 2023

National Congress must keep vetoes and honour the international commitments assumed by the country
By WWF-Brazil 

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva published on Friday night (20), with vetoes, the text of bill 2903/2023, approved in September by the National Congress. When sanctioning the bill, he vetoed sections that removed protection from indigenous lands, allowed the revocation of areas already demarcated and made the demarcation of new lands in the future almost impossible. One of the vetoed points was the one that attempted to revive the Temporal Milestone thesis, rejected in September by the Supreme Federal Court (STF, in Portuguese).

The indigenous movement,  environmental organisations (among them WWF-Brasil) the Federal Prosecution Service, the Federal Council for Human Rights and several other bodies asked that the project be vetoed in its entirety by the Executive, as it represents the greatest setback in the protection of indigenous rights since the promulgation of the Federal Constitution of 1988.

Although he did not fully veto the bill, the President removed provisions that, by weakening the rules for protecting already demarcated territories, could lead to the deforestation of up to 55 million hectares of forests in the coming years, an area almost 2,5 times the size of Great Britain. With this, he kept open the possibility of fulfilling his commitment to eliminate deforestation in the country by 2030 - which would be impossible without these vetoes - and kept alive the hope of preventing the Amazon Forest, the country's great rain factory, from coming to collapse (tipping point) due to excessive degradation, which would affect the lives of all Brazilians.

By removing the section that allowed the extinction of indigenous lands already demarcated if someone from the government assessed that the communities had “altered” their cultural traits, the President sent a clear message: indigenous lands are a right of the original peoples and a national heritage of the highest importance, and there will be no turning back.

In the last 30 years, while private lands lost almost 20% of their original native vegetation, indigenous lands lost only 1.2%, that is, 17 times less. They currently protect ¼ of what remains of preserved forests in the Amazon. Studies show that indigenous territories in the Amazon send 5.2 billion tons of water vapour to the rest of Brazil, free of charge, every day, through the transpiration of the billions of trees they preserve. It is this humidity that forms the rain that allows Brazilian producers to harvest two crops a year in a large part of the national territory, making the country an agricultural champion. They are true water factories, in which more than 517 thousand springs are protected.

For this reason, it is salutary that the section of Bill 2903/23 that allowed the construction of works with significant environmental impact (roads, transmission lines, railways, etc.) on indigenous lands, without any consultation with the impacted communities, has been vetoed. In addition to directly violating the provisions of ILO Convention 169, which has the force of law in Brazil, this disrespectful rule would create various kinds of problems, which would certainly alienate investors from the country, who would not like to see their resources invested in projects that evidently disrespect the rights of local communities and increase deforestation.

For WWF-Brazil, therefore, it is essential that the National Congress keeps President Lula's vetoes, which is not only a common sense measure, but also honours the international commitments assumed by the country, such as the Paris Agreement (on climate), and Kunming-Montreal Agreement (on biodiversity).
For WWF-Brazil, therefore, it is essential that the National Congress keeps President Lula's vetoes
© Katarina Silva/WWF-Brasil