Paraguay has caused outrage by quietly granting cattle ranchers a license to bulldoze a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which is also the last refuge of uncontacted Ayoreo Indians.
Survival International, the organisation which campaigns for the rights of tribal people, says Paraguay’s Environment Ministry (SEAM) has violated national and international law by issuing an environmental license to ranching company Yaguarete Pora S.A. which puts the lives of the uncontacted Indians in extreme danger.
Contacted members of the tribe have been working tirelessly to gain legal title to the land inhabited by their uncontacted relatives. Many Ayoreo who were in the past forcibly brought out of the forest now suffer from respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, and many have died as a result.
The Ayoreo expressed their outrage at the revelations and said, "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 images reveal that Brazilian beef company Yaguarete – owned by Marcelo Bastos Ferraz – has already started destroying vast stretches of forest inhabited by the uncontacted Ayoreo. The rancher’s beef is destined for the European market – prompting Survival International to write to the European Commission over Yaguarete’s activities.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today (18 December), "Government officials risk sacrificing Ayoreo lives in their greedy scrabble for foreign profits. Cattle ranching is steadily destroying the last refuge of Paraguay’s only uncontacted tribespeople. Sooner or later, beef produced illegally on the tribe’s land will be on supermarket shelves in the EU."
Read the Ayoreo statement here; http://assets.survivalinternational.org/documents/1122/opit-statement.pdf