THIRD REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN PARAGUAY
RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Since its inception, the Inter-American Commission has expressed a
constant concern for the human rights of indigenous peoples and their members.
In 1974, during the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, the Commission
received a report on the repeated and serious violations being committed against
the Ache people in eastern Paraguay, for which it held the Paraguayan State
responsible in a report issued in 1977, based on the acts of negligence,
inaction, and participation of state agents, and it recommended that the persons
responsible be punished. Since then, and in particular since the coming to power of
democratically-elected governments, the State’s policy towards the indigenous
populations has improved, and promotion measures have been adopted, including
the adjudication of lands and improvement of working conditions.
Nonetheless, the indigenous population, which still maintains its
ancestral traditions and organization, continues to be marginalized and to
suffer the worst living conditions in Paraguay, in a precarious situation that
constitutes an assault on the dignity of the human person.
In Paraguay, there are 17 indigenous ethnicities that belong to five
language families--Tupí-Guaraní, Enxet-Maskoy, Mataguayo, Zamuco, and Guaicurú;
the Tupí-Guaraní are the most numerous.
Thirteen of these peoples live in the western region, or Chaco, and four in the
While only 1.2% of the Paraguayan population presently identifies itself
as a clearly differentiated and organized indigenous population,
Paraguay’s contemporary culture and population draw heavily on the indigenous
cultures. For example, Guaraní is
one of the two official languages, and is spoken by most of the population, in
both rural and urban areas.
Over the last quarter-century, as occupation of the territory advanced
with colonization and the expansion of farming, ranching, and logging
areas, the traditional indigenous habitat was increasingly encroached
upon. The indigenous communities
have suffered intensive deterioration and community disintegration.
The Commission had an opportunity to learn more about the situation of
the indigenous peoples during its on-site visit to the Republic of Paraguay in
July 1999. It held working meetings with the Paraguayan Indigenous Institute (INDI),
and with representatives of several indigenous peoples, or particularidades,
non-governmental organizations, churches, and official authorities, in order to
hear their opinions and learn about the programs and plans each is carrying out.
As a positive action, the Commission highlights the case of the
Exnet-Lamenxay communities. This case is related to the land claims of the
communities of Lamenxay and Riachito (Kayleyphapopyet), both of the
Exnet-Sanapana, and was submitted to the IACHR by the indigenous organization
Tierra Viva, advised by the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).
A friendly settlement agreement was signed on March 25, 1998, promoted by
the IACHR, according to which the Paraguayan State undertook to acquire an area
of 21,884.44 hectares situated in the Pozo Colorado district, department
of Presidente Hayes, in the Paraguayan Chaco, to convey it to those indigenous
communities, and to title it with the competent organs in the name of the
communities in question. Earlier
the Paraguayan State had carried out its commitment to acquire those lands and
to convey them to the those communities, but it had yet to title them. During
the on-site visit, the Paraguayan State, in a meeting held with the President of
the Republic, Luis Angel González Macchi, informed the Commission that on July
27, 1999, it titled the lands in question in the name of the above-noted
communities, thereby completing implementation of the commitments it had
assumed. In that act, the President of the Republic delivered the corresponding
titles to ownership to the communities’ representatives, in the presence of
In its report on the friendly settlement, the Commission reiterated its
recognition of the Paraguayan State for its will to resolve the case by making
reparation, including the measures needed to acknowledge the land claim and
transfer it to those indigenous communities, and to provide them the necessary
community assistance. The IACHR also reiterated its recognition of the
petitioners and the persons affected for accepting the terms of the agreement in
question. In addition, the IACHR stated in that report that it would
continue to monitor implementation of the ongoing commitments assumed by
Paraguay regarding sanitary, medical, and education services in the Exnet
community of Lamenxay and in the Kayleyphapopyet community of Riachito, and the
commitment to maintain the access roads to their properties in good condition.
During the on-site visit the Commission went to the Pozo Colorado
district of the department of Presidente Hayes (El Chaco), to meet with
the indigenous communities of Yakye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa, of the Exnet people.
There it learned of the deplorable situation faced by the members of
those communities, who live alongside the national highway and have no services,
as they wait for the competent organs to assign them the lands they need.
The Commission valued the importance of Presidential Decree No. 3789 of
June 23, 1999, which declared these indigenous communities to be in a “state
of emergency” in view of their extreme situation.
Nonetheless, members of the indigenous communities told the Commission
that the competent organs have not adopted the effective measures ordered by the
Executive Decree to provide medical care and food assistance to the families.
The Commission received information that indicates that as of September
2000 the families continued living in that precarious situation, without
Presidential Decree 3789 implemented.
During and after its July 1999 visit the Commission received a series of
reports on violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in Paraguay that
suggest that while the State has made efforts aimed at protecting their rights,
for example allocating land to indigenous communities, at present the situation
continues to be grave due to the survival of an inadequate educational system,
deficient access to health, lack of protection for their labor rights, lack of
protection for their habitat, and the precarious operation of the mechanisms for
vindicating their land claims.
This chapter will address the human rights situation of the indigenous
peoples of Paraguay, considering mainly the information obtained during the
on-site visit, with special reference to the legal framework in place to protect
their rights. The IACHR hopes that the Paraguayan State will take the
necessary actions for giving due protection to the indigenous peoples who live
in Paraguayan territory.
International legal framework
The international instruments of the inter-American and universal systems
of human rights to which Paraguay has bound itself and undertaken to respect and
promote contain general norms that are relevant as they apply to indigenous
peoples. Both the universal and inter-American instruments establish
equality without discrimination as a basic right, and a pillar for the
protection of human rights. This is
particularly relevant when it comes to the relegation of and lack of public
services for the indigenous populations of Paraguay.
On February 2, 1994, Paraguay ratified the international human rights
instrument most relevant to the protection of indigenous rights,
Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) concerning
Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. By virtue of the order of priority of laws
established in the Paraguayan Constitution, international treaties that have
been approved and ratified are accorded preeminence over the statutes adopted by
the Congress and over laws and regulations of lesser rank.
13. As of the moment that ILO Convention 169 became part of its domestic law, the Paraguayan State undertook to take special measures to guarantee its indigenous peoples the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, without restrictions, and to include measures that promote the full effectiveness of their social, economic, and cultural rights, respecting their social and cultural identity, and their customs, traditions, and institutions. The Convention establishes obligations to consult and allow for the participation of the indigenous peoples in matters that affect them, and a series of rules regarding their rights to their lands, effective protection as regards hiring and employment, social security, health and education services, and resources for education.
Domestic legal framework
National Constitution of the Republic of Paraguay, 1992
The National Constitution of the Republic of Paraguay recognizes the
cultural diversity of the Paraguayan population and includes a series of
specific provisions on indigenous peoples, establishing a favorable legal
framework for them. The Constitution is consistent with the constitutional trend
seen in the last decade in Latin America, as it contains provisions to recognize the rights
of the indigenous peoples.
Paraguay is defined, in its Constitution, as a multicultural and
The Constitution, at Articles 62 through 67, recognizes the existence of
the indigenous peoples and defines them as ethnic groups whose cultures pre-date
the formation and organization of the Paraguayan State.
In addition, it guarantees them the right to preserve and develop their
ethnic identity and the right to freely apply their systems of political,
social, economic, cultural, and religious organization, making express reference
to recognition of their customary rules for regulating community life within the
As regards the right to property in the land, the Paraguayan Constitution
recognizes that the indigenous peoples have the right to community property of
sufficient size and quality to conserve and development their particular ways of
life; the Paraguayan State undertakes to convey such lands to them free of
In addition, it guarantees them the right to participate in the economic,
social, political, and cultural life of the country, in keeping with their
customary usages, the Constitution, and the national laws; and it exempts the
members of indigenous peoples from social, civil, or military service, and of
the public charges established by law. The
Paraguayan Constitution provides as follows on these matters:
62 Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Groups
Constitution recognizes the existence of Indigenous peoples, defined as ethnic
groups whose culture existed before the formation and constitution of the State
63 Ethnic Identity
right of Indigenous peoples to preserve and to develop their ethnic identity in
their respective habitat is hereby recognized and guaranteed. They also have the
right to freely apply their systems of political, socioeconomic, cultural, and
religious organization, and to voluntarily observe customary practices in their
domestic coexistence as long as they do not violate the fundamental rights
established by this Constitution. Indigenous customary law shall be taken into
account when deciding conflicts of jurisdiction.
64 Property Owned by the Community
peoples have the right, as communities, to a shared ownership of a piece of
land, which shall be sufficient both in terms of size and quality for them to
preserve and to develop their own lifestyles. The State shall provide them with
the respective land, free of charge. This land, which shall be exempt from
attachments, cannot be divided, transferred, or affected by the statute of
limitations, nor can it be used as collateral for contractual obligations or be
leased. It shall also be exempt from taxes.
removal or transfer of Indigenous groups from their habitat, without their
express consent, is hereby prohibited.
65 the Right to Participate
right of Indigenous peoples to participate in the political, socioeconomic, and
cultural life of the country in accordance with their customary practices, the
Constitution, and the national laws, is hereby guaranteed.
66 About Education and Assistance
State shall respect the cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples, especially
regarding their formal education. At their request, the State shall also defend
them against demographic decline, the degradation of their habitat,
environmental contamination, economic exploitation, and cultural alienation.
of Indigenous groups are exempted from the obligation to provide social
services, civil or military, as well as from discharging those public duties
established by law.
The official languages of Paraguay are Spanish and Guaraní.
Approximately 90% of the total population of Paraguay speaks Guaraní.
Article 140 of the Constitution establishes that the indigenous
languages, as well as the languages of other minorities, are part of the
nation’s cultural heritage. Article
77 of the Constitution provides that teaching at the beginning of school shall
be in the official language that is the student’s mother tongue, and students
shall be instructed to learn and use both official languages.
The indigenous minorities whose mother tongue is not Guaraní may choose
one of the two official languages.
With respect to labor rights, Article 88 of the Constitution provides
that there shall be no discrimination among workers on grounds of ethnicity,
sex, age, religion, social condition, or political or trade union preferences or
Among the duties and powers of the Public Ministry, the Constitution
provides at Article 268 the power to bring public criminal actions to defend the
public and social heritage, the environment, and other diffuse interests, as
well as the rights of the indigenous peoples.
Article 12 of the Constitution provides that the rights of detained
persons include access to an interpreter when necessary.
Law 904/81, which establishes the statute of indigenous communities
The purpose of this law is the social and cultural preservation of the
indigenous communities, the defense of their heritage and traditions, the
improvement of their economic conditions, their effective participation in the
national development process, and their access to a legal regime that guarantees
them property and other productive resources on the basis of equality with all
other citizens. That law provides that:
indigenous groups separated from their communities, or disperse, already grouped
together, or who, for carrying out the purpose of this Law, should be grouped
together, constituted by at least 20 families, should be located on lands
appropriate to their living conditions.
Among its principles it sets forth legal recognition of the indigenous
communities, respect for their traditional forms of organization, the use of
customary law to regulate their community life, and the duty of judges to take
account of customary law in proceedings involving indigenous persons. In
addition, it contains provisions on the settlement of indigenous communities,
calls for the creation of the Paraguayan Indigenous Institute (INDI), the
official government institution entrusted with implementing indigenous policy,
and establishes the administrative procedure for processing land claims before
the Institute of Rural Welfare (IBR) and INDI.
c. Law 1372/88, which establishes a
regime for legalization of the settlements of indigenous communities, amended by
This law considers settlements of indigenous communities to be
constituted by a physical area made up of a core of houses, natural resources,
crops, plantations, and their environs, linked insofar as possible to their
With respect to the areas claimed by indigenous communities, the legal
reform provides that no innovation of fact or of law will be permitted by third
party occupants or members of the community to the detriment of the
communities’ settlements during the processing of the administrative and
judicial cases related to the definitive titling of the lands.
As indicated in the chapter on economic, social, and cultural rights, supra,
legislation alone cannot guarantee human rights. While the legislation currently in force in Paraguay offers a
favorable legal framework for the indigenous peoples, it is not sufficient for
the due protection of their rights if not accompanied by state policies and
actions that ensure the enforcement and implementation of the norms to which the
State has sovereignly bound itself. As
indicated by a judicial authority of the State in 1998,
believe that if we undertake a simple analysis of what is happening with the
indigenous peoples and their rights, we’ll see that we have condemned them to
wandering about these lands that have been theirs.
treatment we have given these human beings has not always been just, and there
is a dark history of neglect, discrimination, and persecution of which we
Paraguayans should be ashamed.
There is no discrimination against the indigenous peoples in the
legislation. Nonetheless, these
practices persist in Paraguay and are clearly reflected in the economic, social,
and cultural marginalization today of the 17 indigenous groups that survive
there, and who have been reduced to a minimal percentage of their original
numbers, accounting today for 1% to 2% of the total population.
This has not been improved, notwithstanding efforts by the State to
improve the situation of the indigenous peoples and to offset their situation
with special economic or other measures that facilitate their access to public
services, educational and social opportunities, and bolster their capacity for
development. Following are specific
areas that bear out this assertion.
Right to education
The IACHR received information that indicates that the Paraguayan State
does not have an effective program for indigenous formal education, which is
needed to attain the objectives of multicultural respect established in its
Constitution. To date, the measures adopted in this regard have been
insufficient. It has been noted:
national education system has yet to take account of the cultural specificity of
the indigenous groups in Paraguay. The
structure of the Ministry of Education is inadequate to implement this type of
indigenous scholastic education, thus the omission or inaction in the area of
schooling by the State agencies is violating indigenous rights enshrined in the
According to the Education for All report, issued by the World Education
Forum, illiteracy is 64% among the indigenous groups of Paraguay.
The same report indicates that in 1997 there were 170 indigenous basic education
schools with 720 teachers and 10,059 students, and that of these only 1,504 were
in the age-appropriate grade. Only
39 of the 655 indigenous education teachers (6%) have degrees.
The drop-out rate is high. Even though primary education is compulsory in
Paraguay, of 100 students entering the first grade, 21 reach fifth grade and 14
sixth grade; the efficiency is very low for the indigenous schools (28%).
That loss of 84% of the indigenous children who do not finish primary school is
not fought effectively by special means to keep them in school and to help them
complete their primary education, not to mention to prepare them to continue
While there is bilingual education by law, most of the rural teachers do
not have the cultural preparation or fluency in both official languages to be
able to successfully perform their task with the indigenous children, for most
of whom Guaraní is the dominant language.
Right to health
Most of the physical and human resources in the health sector in Paraguay
are concentrated in the capital city and in the Central department, not easily
accessible to the rural population and especially the indigenous populations.
A study in regional hospitals of the Ministry of Public Health and Social
Welfare of 11 health regions revealed that 52.8% of the equipment was out of
service and that 45% of the equipment in the health centers needed repair or
There is a medical clinic specifically for indigenous persons, under the INDI,
in Asunción, with a small budget, and consequently insufficient staff and
inadequate equipment. The geographical location of the clinic makes it difficult
for the indigenous people, who for the most part live in rural areas far from
the capital, to gain access to it. The
low health services coverage means that indigenous populations do not have
adequate and efficient medical services, and that there is a need for approaches
to health that respect the traditional medicine of the indigenous peoples.
It has been noted that by virtue of the precarious conditions in which
the indigenous people live in Paraguay, they are more vulnerable to diseases and
epidemics, particular Chagas’ disease, tuberculosis, and malaria, and that
approximately 80% of the indigenous households are infested by Chagas’
During the last quarter century, as the territory came to be occupied by
colonization and migratory flows, the traditional indigenous habitat was
encroached upon, with a negative impact on infant mortality and infant
malnutrition for indigenous children, which are several times higher than the
national average. A study by the Pan American Health Organization notes that:
total fertility rate in the indigenous population averages 5.7 children per
woman, with differences between ethnic groups ranging from 3.7 for the Lengua
group to 7.8 for the Aché ethnic group. The infant mortality rate — calculated by using the Coale‑Trussel
variant of the Brass method and based on 1992 census data — was 106.7 per
1,000 live births for the indigenous population as a whole. Interethnic
differences ranged from 64 per 1,000 for the Maká to 185 per 1,000 for the
Chamacoco. In addition to having the highest infant mortality rate in the
country, the indigenous population has the highest rate of tuberculosis — 10
times the national average.
As indicated to the Inter-American Commission, the exploitation of
indigenous labor, poor working conditions, low wages, and the absence of social
security are the rule in Paraguay. This
lack of respect for the labor rights of indigenous persons recognized by
Paraguayan legislation and by ILO Convention 169 may even be seen in the areas
where indigenous labor is essential for the production of enterprises who
exploit them, as in the Chaco, in the Mennonite colonies and the cattle ranches.
It has been noted, in this regard, that:
While most of the indigenous peoples have as their main economic activity gathering, hunting, and fishing, they have been gradually forced to enter the labor market as the cheapest labor available. This has worsened in recent years with the appropriation and general abuse the indigenous suffer in the areas they have traditionally occupied. Unable to develop their traditional way of life, as they lack the vital physical space, they have been forced to join the labor market as the only way to survive, in very unfavorable conditions, which often only allow them to eat. In the area with the greatest ranching tradition, the Chaco, the main labor force is no doubt indigenous, who are often paid only a small serving of food, with no monetary remuneration. This situation of exploitation reaches that point since objective conditions exist that make it impracticable to implement the labor guarantees and rights stipulated in the law. For example, in vast areas of the country there are no administrative or judicial authorities, or, if there are, they do not have means of transportation or communication.
salaries are paid, they are no more than 70 to 80 dollars a month, for working
every day of the month, including Sundays and holidays.
Few employees have medical insurance, vacation, family allowance, or
other social benefits provided for by law.
In addition, access to justice, the assistance of public defenders, or
the hiring of private attorneys are virtually out of reach for the native
A Paraguayan indigenous man said, in Guaraní:
mbo hasy eterei, ñande py’aite. Oho la ñande vida.
The Commission received complaints indicating that the Paraguayan State
had not taken the necessary measures for protecting the habitat of the
indigenous peoples from deforestation and ecological degradation, as established
by Article 64 of the Constitution of Paraguay.
The environment is being destroyed by ranching, farming, and logging
concerns, who reduce their traditional capacities and strategies for food and
The forest area of the eastern part of the country was 55% of the area
(8,805,000 ha) in 1945, and only 15% (2,403,000 ha) in 1991.
This means that in Paraguay the loss of forest -- the natural habitat of
the Paraguayan indigenous peoples -- is alarming.
The process of agrarian colonization begun in the early 20th century in Paraguay
in the initial stage favored European colonists and ignored the indigenous
populations living in the eastern zone, considering their lands as no-man’s
land (terra nullius).
Most of the indigenous communities obtained the animals and fruits
necessary for their food from the forests; nonetheless, the process of agrarian
colonization led to the dispossession of their territories and the ecological
degradation of their lands.
In the Chaco and in the Eastern region, indigenous leaders have denounced
that deforestation of their lands is continuing, at the hand of non-indigenous
individuals or companies, and even members of their communities, pressured by
indigence. In the Exnet community of La Esperanza (Chaco), the leaders
denounced the invasion and deforestation of their lands by an intruder, who even
shot at one member of the community. In
addition, and as regards the Yakye Axa community, it was reported that their
lands, which are being claimed by that community, were deforested by the owners,
apparently as part of a campaign of intimidation against the community’s
In addition to the deforestation of the ancestral lands of the indigenous
communities, the waters have been polluted, which affects, in particular, the
communities in eastern Paraguay. It
has been noted that two large hydroelectric projects--Yacyretá and Itaipú--have
represented major state investments and
revenues for the national treasury. Nonetheless,
some observers are of the view that the benefits have not reached the local
population in general, and even less the indigenous communities.
In this respect, it has been indicated that these hydroelectric projects
have caused the flooding of large areas of forest, the natural habitat of
several indigenous communities in the area.
In the case of the Yacyretá dam, a unique system of islands in the river
that contained invaluable biodiversity and was the ancestral homeland of some
indigenous communities was destroyed.
The contamination of the communities’ water reserves is a public health
problem. To date the State has yet to perform the pertinent studies for
evaluating the harm and possible mitigation measures.
Right to their lands
While the Paraguayan State, through INDI, has solved the land claims of
the indigenous communities in part, cases are still pending that endanger the
integrity of the members of the communities making the claims.
From 1994 to 1998, of a total of 47 territorial claims, 19 (40.4%) have
been resolved, two (4.2%) have been partially resolved, and 26 (55.3%) are still
pending. Of these 47 territorial claims, 20 had already been made as
of 1994. In only one of the 19
“resolved” cases of land purchases is title in the name of the respective
community, while in the other 18 it is in the name of INDI. These cases are as follows:
The Commission has received information that in the process of buying
lands the State has generally paid prices much higher than market, as indicated
by INDI itself in some of its reports, using institutional resources that could
have been used to buy more lands for indigenous communities. This information
shows that in addition, often the process of adjudication is not accompanied by
the installation of basic services for the communities, nor development loans.
The well-known non-governmental organization “Tierra Viva” notes in
this respect that:
2000 the tendency to cut state social spending worsened, particularly with
respect to the indigenous peoples, as the budget of the Paraguayan Indigenous
Institute (INDI), the leading agency for the restitution of indigenous
territories, was slashed. With that
cut, in 1999 the budget was cut 58% in relation to the 1998 budget ... and given
its low execution, no legitimate territorial claim was resolved.
The process of sorting out territorial claims, to which the Paraguayan
State committed itself more than 20 years ago, to benefit the indigenous
communities, is still pending. This
obligation is not met only by distributing lands.
While the territory is fundamental for development of the indigenous
populations in community, it must be accompanied by health, education, and
sanitary services, and the protection of their labor and social security rights,
and, especially, the protection of their habitat.
One clear example of the urgency of solving the land claims is the
inhuman situation suffered by the community of Sawhoyamaxa, made up of 63
Exnet-Lengua families living along a road, which the Commission visited during
its on-site visit. That community,
90% of its members illiterate, has been seeking 15,000 hectares, equal to 6% of
their ancestral territory, since 1991, without any solution to date.
Even though INDI decided to go before Congress to recommend expropriation
of the land claimed by the community, Congress has not promulgated the
respective expropriation law. The
situation is no different for the land claims of other communities, including
Xarmok Kásek and Ayoreo Totbiegosode.
The Commission observes with concern that in late 2000, legislative and
administrative measures were ordered that had a significant detrimental impact
on the enjoyment of the rights of indigenous peoples.
In this respect, the IACHR received the following details:
clearest indicators [of the recent violation of the rights of the indigenous
peoples] are: the allocation of
funds to the Paraguayan Indigenous Institute for only the first six months of
2001, and the elimination of the budgetary allocations for acquiring lands
claimed by the indigenous communities and peoples; the rejection by the Senate
of two bills for expropriation for the communities of Pueblo Exnet, Sawhoyamaxa,
and Xakmok Kásek; the need to withdraw two other expropriation bills, one for
the community of Yakye Axa, and the other, for part of the claim of the
Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, in view of the negative opinions of the study missions
from the respective chambers of the Congress, in which they were addressed; and
finally, the proposed amendment of Law 904/81, promoted by the Executive, which
would restrict the indigenous territorial rights guaranteed in the lower-ranking
laws, and derogate the law that protects indigenous lands that have been claimed
and whose restitution is being processed, and other provisions violative of
recognized indigenous rights.
as a whole, the decisions and initiatives of the various branches of the
so-called Government of National Unity against the indigenous peoples suggest a
shift from a wanting indigenous policy, to a virtually non-existent one.
In view of the foregoing analysis, the Commission makes the following
recommendations to the Paraguayan State:
Enforce and implement, without further delay, the provisions of the
Paraguayan Constitution concerning respect for and restoration of the community
property rights of the indigenous peoples, and regarding the granting of lands,
at no cost, of sufficient extent and quality to conserve and develop their ways
Ensure the funds are allocated for carrying out the preceding
Respect, monitor, and promote labor rights, as provided for in Paraguayan
labor legislation, in keeping with the provision of Article 20 of ILO Convention
Favorably resolve the applications claiming lands put forth by the
indigenous communities and pending before Paraguay’s administrative and
legislative authorities, to this end annulling the regressive provisions adopted
in late 2000. With respect to the
claims already resolved, the Inter-American Commission recommends that they be
given title in the name of the respective communities.
Implement presidential decree No. 3,789, of June 23, 1999.
It declared a state of emergency in the indigenous communities of Yakye
Axa and Sawhoyamaxa, of the Exnet people, and recognized that they have been
deprived of access to the traditional means of subsistence linked to their
cultural identity; the decree orders that this access be re-established.
Adopt, as soon as possible, the necessary measures to benefit the
indigenous communities so as to improve the implementation of and access to
health services. Preventive health
and medical care actions should be carried out, with special emphasis on efforts
to diminish the high rates of malnutrition, infant mortality, and tuberculosis,
and to combat and prevent Chagas’ disease and malaria.
7. Improve educational services, respecting cultural diversity and effectively realizing the right to free primary education, including the educational measures needed to diminish the drop-out rate and illiteracy.
8. Adopt the necessary measures to protect the habitat of the indigenous communities from environmental degradation, with special emphasis on protecting the forests and waters, which are fundamental for their health and survival as communities.
The violations against the Aches reported to the IACHR in Case No. 1802
included their enslavement, torture, and murder in the indigenous reserve;
restricted access to food and medicine, which was causing their death;
killings outside the reserve by hunters and slave traffickers; splitting up
families and kidnapping youths to enslave them or force them into
prostitution; and the denial and destruction of their culture. In 1977 the
IACHR adopted a report and established the international responsibility of
the State, asking that it take “forceful measures to protect the
indigenous people and punish those responsible.”
See Davis, Sheldon, Land Rights
and Indigenous Peoples.
The Role of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Cultural Survival Report 29, Cambridge, Mass. 1988.
Tupí-Guaraní linguistic family: Paï-tavyterä; Mbyá-guaraní; Ava
chiripa; Ache guayaki; Ñandeva; Guarayo.
Lengua Enxet-Maskoy linguistic family: Angaité; Sanapaná;
Mataguayo linguistic family: Nivaklé; Manjuy; Maká.
Zamuco linguistic family: Ayoreo; Chamacoco.
Guaicurú linguistic family: Toba Qom.
Ethnographic map of the Republic of Paraguay, prepared by Branislava
The term “particularidades” is
a traditional Paraguayan expression used to refer to indigenous communities
The ILO expressly declared that this Convention 169 is an international
human rights instrument.
See, for example, the constitutions of Brazil (1988), Colombia (1991),
Mexico (1992), Peru (1993), Panama (1994), Argentina (1994), Bolivia (1994),
Nicaragua (1995), Ecuador (1998), and Venezuela (1999).
Article 140 of the Constitution of Paraguay.
Only Guaraní, 31.6%; Guaraní and Spanish, 36.8%; only Spanish,
29.4%; others, 2%.
Rural area: Only Guaraní, 78.6%; Guaraní and Spanish, 11.4%; only
Spanish, 4.5%; others, 5.3%.
Comprehensive household survey 1997/1998, General Bureau for
Statistics, Surveys, and Census, Paraguay.
Former Attorney General of Paraguay Aníbal Cabrera Verón. Diario ABC,
December 1, 1998.
National Indigenous Ministries Coordinating Body, Paraguayan Bishops
Conference, July 1999, Asunción, Paraguay.
Informe Educación para Todos, Ministry of Education of Paraguay, 2000.
Perfil del Sistema de Servicios de Salud del Paraguay. PAHO, 1998.
The national average is 36 per 1,000 live births, PAHO, 1999.
Pan American Health Organization, Basic Country Health Profile for Paraguay,
National Indigenous Ministries Coordinating Body, Paraguayan Bishops
Conference, July 1999, Asunción, Paraguay.
Informe de derechos humanos sobre Paraguay, Tierraviva, 1999.
“It makes us ill, it hurts in our spirit. Our life is leaving us.”
Marcelino López, member of an indigenous community, on referring to
the logging of the Chaco forests.
hora, July 19, 1999.
Causas subyacentes de la desforestación y la degradación
forestal. José Ibarra and Francisco Núñez,
Rodrigo Villagra, Tierra Viva, Pueblos Indígenas, study published in Derechos Humanos en
Paraguay 1999, op. cit., pp.
John Palmer, Evaluación de PRODECHACO, report on the situation of
indigenous claims in the Chaco. Asunción
Tierra Viva, Actualización del Informe de Derechos Humanos en Paraguay.
January-July 2000, CODEHUPY, Asunción, Paraguay.
 Tierra Viva, Letter to IACHR, December 2000.