Brazil´s Supreme Federal Tribunal is debating the constitutionality of a decree that could grant land titles to Quilombola groups, communities formed by freed slaves.
Seven years earlier, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva passed the decree that calls for the identification, demarcation and land titles for lands occupied by Quilombola communities.
But in 2004, the Democratic Party, backed by large agricultural and ranching groups, including the Rural Brazilian Society and the National Confederation of Livestock Farmers, questioned its constitutionality in a lawsuit.
According to Raquel Rolnik, the United Nations special rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Lula´s decree is one method aimed at addressing the country´s “historic debt with communities affected by centuries of domination and the violation of their rights” and that if it is overturned would “suffocate the rights of the Quilombola communities to access lands and natural resources.”
She added that it would also contradict Brazil´s international obligations such as the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of which it is a signatory.
There are currently 1,408 Quilombola communities registered by the government.
Participants in the First National Meeting of Tourism in Quilombola Communities, in the city of Registro, in the São Paulo state June 7-10, wrote an open letter to the Brazilian state urging it to “guaranteeing [community members] fundamental right to Quilombola lands” as a road to social justice and “the promotion and protection of ethno-cultural pluralism, a relevant aspect for the whole nation.”
The participants also said a public hearing should be granted on the issue before the court issues its ruling, based on the International Labor Organization´s Convention 169, which requires previous consultation of indigenous or native communities before legislative or administrative measures that could affect them are implemented.