Paraguay: Government Ordered to Protect Uncontacted Tribe

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has ordered Paraguay’s government to protect an uncontacted tribe from being wiped out.

In a highly unusual decision, the Commission, part of the OAS, has demanded that the authorities intervene to stop cattle ranchers illegally destroying the Paraguayan Chaco, a uniquely biodiverse area that is home to the last uncontacted Indigenous people outside the Amazon.

The area suffers the highest rate of deforestation in the world. It is estimated that over 14 million trees are being cut down there every month.

The tribe, known as the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, are under severe threat from ranchers, who have rapidly destroyed their land and forced many of them out of their forest, where they are dying from a mysterious TB-like illness.

One Ayoreo told Survival: “Our relatives came out of the forest in 2004 because they were under pressure from the ranchers, because they had no peace. If the bulldozers start to make a lot of noise, our uncontacted relatives will be forced to hide where there isn’t any food and they will suffer. We want to continue using the forest, and for the ranchers to stop harassing our relatives who remain there.”

Satellite photos show that the uncontacted Chaco now live in a rapidly-shrinking island of forest surrounded by cattle ranches.

Deforestation in Paraguayan Chaco, 1990 - 2013
Deforestation in Paraguayan Chaco, 1990 – 2013 © Survival International

Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, will continue to pressure the Paraguayan government to protect the land which is rightfully theirs. Only then will they have the chance to determine their own futures.

Survival International, founded in 1969 after an article by Norman Lewis in the UK's Sunday Times highlighted the massacres, land thefts and genocide taking place in Brazilian Amazonia, is the only international organization supporting tribal peoples worldwide. Contact Survival International at: Read other articles by Survival International, or visit Survival International's website.