Uncontacted Indians in danger

May 31, 2003

This page was created in 2003 and may contain language which is now outdated.

The Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indians of western Paraguay are the last uncontacted Indians south of the Amazon basin. They now face a real crisis, and Survival considers this one of the most urgent cases in the whole of South America.

The land being claimed on the Indians' behalf by their supporters in Paraguay was until recently mostly undisturbed scrub forest and grassland, in the hands of large landowning companies. Recently two landowners have sold their properties to Brazilian companies, which are intent on exploiting the valuable hardwoods in the forest, and clearing the scrub for cattle-ranching. Several of the injunctions preventing any work on the land have recently been lifted by a local court: the Indians' supporters are appealing against the decision.

However, overflights of the area show huge tracks bulldozed into the forest, even in areas still protected by injunctions.

The land surrounding the claim is being illegally and rapidly logged, and there is real concern that unless the government fulfils its constitutional obligations to title the land to the Indians quickly, their land will be invaded and logged, and there will be a violent and disastrous encounter with the loggers.

A new President has just taken office in Paraguay; he should be made aware of the huge international concern for the Totobiegosode's fate, and urged to recognise their land rights immediately.