On Wednesday, August 10th, Survival International reported to the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) that the only remaining uncontacted people in Paraguay — the Totobiegosode people (a sub-group of the Ayoreo people) — are in imminent danger. Specifically, the Totobiegosode are being systematically removed from the Chaco forest where they live so that the land can be used for cattle grazing. The destruction of their land, however, is occurring illegally. Specifically, Survival International reports that two Brazilian companies — BBC S.A and River Plate S.A. — are responsible not only for the deforestation, but for bringing diseases into the area that represent a serious threat to the indigenous inhabitants.
The two companies responsible for this damage used to own the land in question. However, Paraguay purchased approximately 18,000 hectares (~45,000 acres) from these corporations on the condition that they return the land to the Ayoreo people. The corporations have refused to comply with the land transfer until the Paraguayan government grants them permission to chop down forests on lands adjacent to the area.
This isn’t the first time the Ayoreo people have had to deal with incidents like this one. A series of expulsions of the Ayoreo people have occurred over the past 50 years, resulting in contact with individuals outside their tribe for the majority of Ayoreo people who live today. Despite multiple encroachments on their territory, however, the Totobiegosode represent a dwindling (and currently unknown) number of individuals who have remained free from outside contact. The Ayoreo people who no longer live in isolation have been fighting for their traditional land for more than 20 years now.
Survival International called on CERD to pressure the Paraguayan government to take action in order to stop the destruction of the Totobiegosode’s land, and to move forward on addressing the Ayoreo people’s long-standing land claim.