EU betrays Indigenous people

July 22, 1998

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A controversial EU development project in Paraguay has been approved even though it violates the EU's own policy on Indigenous peoples.

The EU policy states, 'The overall objective [of EU development projects] should be to…enhance Indigenous peoples' territorial rights…' Yet the European Commission is so determined to push ahead with its pet project that it has connived with the Paraguayan government to deny land to the very people the project is supposed to help.

The 18m ECU 'Sustainable Development in the Paraguayan Chaco' project was intended to benefit the region's landless Indian communities, but has ended up condemning most of them to a landless future. The only people who have benefited are the cattle ranchers in the area – the Indians' principal oppressors – and the British consultancy firms being paid to carry out the project.

The project was not supposed to be approved until 'the Indian land claims in the region have been settled.' However, a recent report from St Andrew's University revealed that only 5 out of the 20 Indian land claims had been resolved. The St Andrew's report proposed the project be delayed for a year, and that if the Paraguayan government had not resolved the land claims in that time, the project should be scrapped.

The report also showed that corrupt Paraguayan ministers had spent millions of pounds buying land supposedly for the benefit of the Indians, which the Indians had never asked for and which was uninhabitable. The cattle ranchers who owned these areas were paid vastly more than the market price, and the former head of Indian Affairs was jailed for corruption. However, the consultants running the project claim that these activities show the Indian land claims have mostly been settled.

Survival spokesman Jonathan Mazower said today, 'The Indians are unlikely to get any land now. It is sickening that the people this project is supposed to be in aid of will get nothing out of it, whilst the consultants, corrupt ministers and cattle ranchers will get very rich. The EU is conniving with the Paraguayan government to break international law, and Paraguay's own Constitution.'