November 22, 2019 / 4:25 PM / 24 days ago

Portuguese group receives new offers to build luxury resort in Bahia, CEO says

LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese hotel group Vila Gale has received new offers to build a luxury resort in the Brazilian state of Bahia and “will advance” with one of them, its CEO said on Thursday, three days after the company canceled a project in the same region due to public pressure over the disputed nature of the land.

The indigenous Tupinambá de Olivença group has been fighting for the land where Vila Gale previously planned to build to be designated as a reserve for the past 15 years.

Vila Gale canceled its plans for the resort on Monday after mounting public pressure.

But at a conference on Thursday, CEO Jorge Rebelo de Almeida said he had been presented with “two or three opportunities” this week to build in the same municipality and would be advancing with one of them, Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.

Vila Gale did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for more details on whether Vila Gale is considering a second attempt at building on the same, disputed territory, or other land within the same municipality.

The company, Portugal’s second largest hotel group, said on Monday it had been invited by the Bahia government and the city council of Una, the municipality in question, to invest in the project with a local business partner.

The planned resort had the support of the regional governments and Brazil’s tourism agency, Almeida said, which will help it start a new project in the same region. 

But according to Juliana Batista, a lawyer for a Brazilian NGO that defends indigenous rights, local authorities should not have licensed the projects. “This is totally illegal. The land rights of indigenous people take precedence over any other rights,” she said.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose signoff would be required for the project to go ahead, had not spoken publicly about the now-canceled resort, but has said he does not intend to sign off any more territory for indigenous groups, because there is “too much land for too few indigenous people”.

Reporting by Victoria Waldersee and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Giles Elgood

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