Paraguay: The decision of the senate opens the door to a new life for the Sawhoyamaxa

The green light for the expropriation of the ancestral lands of the Sawhoyamaxa, given by the Senate, is a decisive step for the indigenous community and its people to begin to rebuild their lives, Amnesty International has said.

“It is a great achievement for the community and recognition of their valiant struggle. The expropriation will put an end to the violation of human rights that the Sawhoyamaxa have suffered over the last 20 years”, said María Jose Eva, Researcher for Paraguay at Amnesty International.

The decision of the Senate allows for progress towards compliance with the judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which in 2006 ordered Paraguay to return the ancestral lands to the Sawhoyamaxa.

This community, consisting of 146 families of Enxet ethnicity, has been fighting for more than 20 years to be able to return to their land in the east of the Chaco region. During this time they have faced harsh conditions of life on a small line of land beside a busy road without access to a regular supply of food, water and other basic services.

In March last year, after failed negotiations between the private land owner and the State, the community occupied part of their ancestral land and continued with their demands.

The government therefore decided to produce the draft law for the expropriation of 14,404 hectares of land in the Sawhoyamaxa territory and to compensate the land owner. This is the draft that the Senate approved today. However, the draft must still be debated and approved by the members of the Chamber of Deputies and promulgated by the President.

“We hope that, like the Senators, the Paraguayan Deputies soon rule in favour of the rights of the Sawhoyamaxa and that the law is immediately promulgated so that it takes effect as soon as possible. The suffering imposed on the community for over 20 years must end once and for all”, said Maria Jose Eva.