9 March 2001
Original:  Spanish







          A.          INTRODUCTION


          1.          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,[1] 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.


          2.          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.[2] Thirteen of these peoples live in the western region, or Chaco, and four in the eastern region.


          3.          While only 1.2% of the Paraguayan population presently identifies itself as a clearly differentiated and organized indigenous population,[3] 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.


          4.          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.


          5.          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,[4] non-governmental organizations, churches, and official authorities, in order to hear their opinions and learn about the programs and plans each is carrying out.


          6.          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 the IACHR.


          7.          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.


          8.          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.


          9.          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.


          10.          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.


          B.          LEGAL FRAMEWORK


          1.          International legal framework


          11.          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.


          12.          On February 2, 1994, Paraguay ratified the international human rights instrument most relevant to the protection of indigenous rights,[5] Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries.[6] 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.


          2.          Domestic legal framework


          a.          National Constitution of the Republic of Paraguay, 1992


          14.          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,[7] as it contains provisions to recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples.


          15.          Paraguay is defined, in its Constitution, as a multicultural and bilingual country.[8]


          16.          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 indigenous peoples.


          17.          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 charge.


          18.          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:


Article 62 Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Groups


This Constitution recognizes the existence of Indigenous peoples, defined as ethnic groups whose culture existed before the formation and constitution of the State of Paraguay.


Article 63 Ethnic Identity


The 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.


Article 64 Property Owned by the Community


Indigenous 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.


The removal or transfer of Indigenous groups from their habitat, without their express consent, is hereby prohibited.


Article 65 the Right to Participate


The 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.


Article 66 About Education and Assistance


The 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.


Article 67 Exemptions


Members 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.


          19.          The official languages of Paraguay are Spanish and Guaraní.  Approximately 90% of the total population of Paraguay speaks Guaraní.[9]


          20.          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.


          21.          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 affiliations.


          22.          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.


          23.          Article 12 of the Constitution provides that the rights of detained persons include access to an interpreter when necessary.


          b.          Law 904/81, which establishes the statute of indigenous communities


          24.          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:


The 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.[10]


          25.          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 Law 43/89


          26.          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 cultural tradition.


          27.          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.




          28.          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,


I 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.




The 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.[11]


          29.          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.


          1.          Right to education


          30.          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:


The 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 National Constitution....[12]


          31.          According to the Education for All report, issued by the World Education Forum, illiteracy is 64% among the indigenous groups of Paraguay.[13] 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.


          32.          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%).[14] 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 their studies.


          33.          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.


          2.          Right to health


          34.          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 maintenance.[15] 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.


          35.          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’ disease.

          36.          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:


The 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[16] — 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.[17]


          3.          Labor rights


          37.          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.[18]  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.


Where 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 peoples.[19]


          4.          Habitat


          A Paraguayan indigenous man said, in Guaraní:


Ore mbo hasy eterei, ñande py’aite. Oho la ñande vida.[20]


          38.          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 economic activity.


          39.          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.[21] 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).


          40.          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.


          41.          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 claim.[22]


          42.          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.


          43.          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.


          5.          Right to their lands


          44.          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.


          45.          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.[23] These cases are as follows:






Karcha Balhut


La Esperanza (Exnet)

Yamasamakxaxapen (x 3)

Pitiantuta (x 2)

Tapieté (x 2)

Santa Rosa



Pykasú (x 2)

Cayin’ ô Clim

Campo Ampú

Manjui-Nivaclé (unnamed)




Fischat San Leonardo

Xakmok Kasek

El Estribo

Nakte Amyep


Kayaweatog Kelasma

Yayke Axa



La Abundancia



Cacique Sapo


Familias Unidas


Yalve Sanga

Rinconada Flavio

Karanday pukú

Santa Teresita

La Esperanza (Sanapaná)



Yalve Sanga





          46.          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:


In 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.[24]


          47.          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.


          48.          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.


          49.          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:


The 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.


Taken 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.[25]


          D.          RECOMMENDATIONS


          50.          In view of the foregoing analysis, the Commission makes the following recommendations to the Paraguayan State:


1.       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 of life.


2.       Ensure the funds are allocated for carrying out the preceding recommendation.


3.       Respect, monitor, and promote labor rights, as provided for in Paraguayan labor legislation, in keeping with the provision of Article 20 of ILO Convention 169.


4.       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.


5.       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.


6.       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.


[ Table of ContentsPrevious  | Next ]


[1] 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.

[2] Tupí-Guaraní linguistic family: Paï-tavyterä; Mbyá-guaraní; Ava chiripa; Ache guayaki; Ñandeva; Guarayo.  Lengua Enxet-Maskoy linguistic family: Angaité; Sanapaná; Toba-Maskoy; Guaná/Kaskhihá.  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 Súsnik.

[3] Census, 1992.

[4] The term “particularidades” is a traditional Paraguayan expression used to refer to indigenous communities and peoples.

[5] The ILO expressly declared that this Convention 169 is an international human rights instrument.

[6] Law 234/93.

[7] 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).

[8] Article 140 of the Constitution of Paraguay.

[9] Urban area:  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.

[10] Article 16.

[11] Former Attorney General of Paraguay Aníbal Cabrera Verón. Diario ABC, December 1, 1998.

[12] National Indigenous Ministries Coordinating Body, Paraguayan Bishops Conference, July 1999, Asunción, Paraguay.

[13] Informe Educación para Todos, Ministry of Education of Paraguay, 2000.

[14] Id.

[15] Perfil del Sistema de Servicios de Salud del Paraguay. PAHO, 1998.

[16] The national average is 36 per 1,000 live births, PAHO, 1999.

[17] Pan American Health Organization, Basic Country Health Profile for Paraguay, 1999.

[18] National Indigenous Ministries Coordinating Body, Paraguayan Bishops Conference, July 1999, Asunción, Paraguay.

[19] Informe de derechos humanos sobre Paraguay, Tierraviva, 1999.

[20] “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.  Ultima hora, July 19, 1999.

[21] Causas subyacentes de la desforestación y la degradación forestal. José Ibarra and Francisco Núñez, Asunción, 1998.

[22] Rodrigo Villagra, Tierra Viva, Pueblos Indígenas, study published in Derechos Humanos en Paraguay 1999, op. cit., pp. 227-239.

[23] John Palmer, Evaluación de PRODECHACO, report on the situation of indigenous claims in the Chaco. Asunción 1999.

[24] Tierra Viva, Actualización del Informe de Derechos Humanos en Paraguay. January-July 2000, CODEHUPY, Asunción, Paraguay.

[25] Tierra Viva, Letter to IACHR, December 2000.