The majority of Brazil's Supreme Federal Court's (STF) justices decided Wednesday to maintain the demarcation of the Raposa Serra do Sol Indian Reserveon the country's northern border.
The decree on the demarcation of the 1.67-million-hectare reserve in Roraima state has been contested by rice farmers who live in the area. They proposed that the reserve be divided into several independent parts, so that the non-Indians who live in thearea could be allowed to stay.
The Roraima state government supports the farmers by saying that their departure will damage the state's economy.
Eight of the 11 STF justices voted for the continuous demarcation, which will most likely lead to the expulsion of the non-Indians from the area.
Justice Marco Aurelio Mello requested more time to examine the process, which means that the final decision will have to be postponed until 2009.
The other two justices yet to cast their votes are Celso de Melo, who said he would wait until Justice Mello made his decision,and Justice Gilmar Mendes, the Court chief, who is expected to be the last one to cast the vote. All justices are required to vote.
In the next court hearing, yet to be scheduled, the justices who have already voted are allowed to change sides, but observers say that is almost unlikely to happen.
Even though the decision was practically made, it is possible Justice Gilmar Mendes may rule against a final order for the expulsion of all the non-Indians from the Reserve.
Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Funai), which is responsible for all government policies concerning the Indian population, is optimistic about a verdict for continuous demarcation.
According to Funai President Marcio Meira, the institution only defends what is in the Brazilian Constitution.
"The Constitution is very clear, in its articles 231 and 232, on the subject of the demarcation of the indigenous lands, the physical survival of the Indian population should be guaranteed with respects for their habits and traditions," he said.