On Thursday, September 15th, the Sawhoyamaxa community of the Exnet people signed an agreement with the Paraguayan government and several corporations to begin the process of delivering more than 14,400 hectares (35,500 acres) of traditional land back to the Community. The agreement comes five years after the Sawhoyamaxa community won their case in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (part of the Organization of American States). The Court, in that case, ordered the Paraguayan government to restore the Community’s traditional lands and also ordered monetary compensation for the death of 19 community members. The agreement was made public on September 20th.
The Sawhoyamaxa community of the Exnet people is comprised of approximately 90 families living in northwest Paraguay — specifically in the Boquerón department of the country. In 2006, the Community won a major victory at the international level. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in their favor and ordered Paraguay to return lands to the community, to compensate the community for 19 individuals who died due to lack of medical care, and to establish a US$ 1,000,000 development fund for the community.
On September 15th, five years after the decision, that judgement took a step closer to reality. The signing involved officials from the Paraguayan government, representatives from two corporations – Kansol SA and Roswell & Company SA — as well as leaders from the Community. The signing sets in motion a process to ultimately return a large amount of traditional land to the Exnet people.
Carlos Marecos, a leader from the Community, indicated his hope to “return to their land and watch their children grow…in better conditions.” Marecos went on to urge the Paraguayan government “to comply with the agreement” and to not miss this historic opportunity. The Community’s lawyer, Oscar Ayala Amarilla, added, “Paraguay has a unique opportunity to not only comply with Indigenous rights, but also to reposition themselves favorably in the international arena…”