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Lula Recognizes Six New Brazilian Indigenous Reserves

Above Photo: First Lady of Brazil Rosangela ‘Janja’ Lula da Silva, President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Chief of the Kayapo people Raoni Metuktire attend the Terra Livre Indigenous Camp closing ceremony on April 28, 2023 in Brasilia, Brazil. Andressa Anholete / Getty Images .

The Amazon rainforest plays a critical role in the mitigation of climate change, but in recent years it has been the target of a steep increase in deforestation.

A demarcation decree by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil has established six new Indigenous reserves in the South American country where no mining will be permitted and restrictions will be placed on logging and commercial agriculture.

The lands include an extensive area of about 1.5 million acres of Amazon rainforest.

The decree was signed on the last day of the 19th Terra Livre gathering, attended by thousands of Indigenous peoples in the country’s capital city of Brasília.

“We are going to legalize Indigenous lands. It is a process that takes a little while, because it has to go through many hands,” the 77-year-old Lula, who was also president from 2003 to 2010, told a crowd of people at the gathering, as BBC News reported. “I don’t want any indigenous territory to be left without demarcation during my government. That is the commitment I made to you.”

Lula has promised to reverse policies — including the promotion of mining on Indigenous lands — of his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

Average yearly deforestation in Brazil increased by 75 percent compared with the previous decade during Bolsonaro’s four-year presidency, the policies of which prioritized commercial farming and logging, reported Le Monde.

“If we want to achieve zero deforestation by 2030, we need registered Indigenous reserves,” Lula said, as Le Monde reported.

Two of the newly established reserves are in the Amazon, the largest of which — Unieuxi — was officially designated to belong to the Maku and Tukano peoples, who live on more than 1.36 million acres in the Northern Amazon.

A third reserve is in Southern Brazil, another is in the central part of the country and the last two are in the northeast.

“This lifts a weight from our shoulders,” Unieuxi resident Claudia Tomas told AFP-TV, as reported by Le Monde. “It’s the best news we could have gotten, that our lands have been legalized. It fills us with hope.”

Lula called the decree “an important step” in a tweet.

While hailing the proclamation, Indigenous leaders pointed out that additional areas still need to be protected, BBC News reported. Lula’s government had originally pledged to recognize 14 new Indigenous territories.

“When they say that you occupy 14 percent of the territory and that it is a lot, it is necessary to remember that before the arrival of the Portuguese you occupied 100 percent,” Lula said, as reported by Le Monde.

The move grants exclusive use of the reserves’ natural resources to the Indigenous peoples. “We are going to write a new history, for the sake of all humanity, of our planet,” said Minister of Indigenous Affairs Sonia Guajajara, as Le Monde reported. “We, the Indigenous peoples, represent only five percent of the world’s population, but we preserve more than 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity.”

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