UN officials have been warned of the imminent threat to the lives of Paraguay’s last remaining uncontacted tribe ahead of a meeting today (10 August 2011) that will assess the country’s racial discrimination record.
In a report submitted to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Survival International, the NGO which campaigns for the rights of tribal people, has exposed companies involved in the persecution of the extremely vulnerable uncontacted Ayoreo.
The Indians are being systematically forced from their homes in the Chaco forest of northern Paraguay to make way for cattle farming, says Survival.
Ranchers are destroying the Ayoreo’s forests and exposing them to deadly diseases to which they have no immunity.
As bulldozers and cattle ranchers encroach further into their territory, the Ayoreo are worried for the safety of their uncontacted relatives.
Brazilian-owned firms BBC S.A and River Plate S.A. have recently been caught red-handed in illegally clearing land inhabited by uncontacted Ayoreo.
Both companies received state payment for 18,000 hectares of land on condition that it is returned to the Ayoreo. However, they have refused to complete the transfer unless they are granted permission to deforest land lying adjacent to the area.
Contacted members of the tribe have been pursuing land entitlement for themselves and their uncontacted relatives for almost 20 years, but the government has so far failed to remove the cattle ranchers from their ancestral territories.
Survival’s report urges the CERD to take up the pressing issue with Paraguay’s government and encourages it to push forward the Ayoreo’s long-awaited land claim so that their uncontacted relatives can live on their traditional lands in peace.