A historical Victory for Indigenous Community in Paraguay
On 24 April the plenary of the Paraguayan Senate voted on a bill to return 14,404 hectares of traditional land to the Sawhoyamaxa indigenous community. The decision of the Senate is a major step forward to ensure compliance with the 2006 judgement of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The passing of the bill will allow the State to expropriate the land and to return it to the Sawhoyamaxa indigenous community by paying the landowner compensation. After the Senate, the bill will have to be discussed and approved by the Lower Chamber (Cámara de Diputados) and subsequently enacted (promulgada) by the President of Paraguay.
The Sawhoyamaxa indigenous community has been fighting for their traditional land for over 20 years and has celebrated this important decision. The positive outcome achieved by the community in the Senate may be crucial to secure final approval of the bill.
"..146 families, have been fighting for more than 20 years to return to their land.."
The Yakye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa belong to the Enxet ethnic group of Indigenous Peoples. For years they have been forced to live in temporary homes because their traditional lands are in the hands of private owners. Both Indigenous communities, consisting of 146 families, have been fighting for more than 20 years to return to their land in the east of the Chaco region. During this time they have endured harsh conditions of life in a small field beside a busy road without access to a regular supply of food, water and other basic services.
In March last year, after the failure of negotiations between the private owner purchase of land and the state, the community took part of their ancestral territory and continued with their claims from within their lands.
The government then decided to draw up a bill to expropriate 14,404 hectares of land in the territory Sawhoyamaxa and compensate the owner. This is the project that the Senate approved today.
The bill still must be debated and approved by the members of the Chamber of Deputies and promulgated by the President of the Republic.
"We hope that, as have Senators, Members Paraguayans soon decide in favor of the rights of Sawhoyamaxa and immediately enacted law is to come into force as soon as possible. The suffering inflicted on the community for over 20 years must end at once, "said Maria Jose Eva.