Paraguay: Senate approves expropriation bill in favour of Sawhoyamaxa community
On April 24 the Paraguayan Senate finally approved the expropriation of 14,400 hectares of land to be returned to the Sawhoyamaxa indigenous community. With nearly five years delay, this approval will lead the way for the implementation of a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, obliging the Paraguayan government to return the ancestral land of the Enxet Sawhoyamaxa community, unlawfully appropriated by private companies twenty years ago.
In 2009 however, on the basis of four different advisory committees, the Senate rejected to expropriate the land and instead initiated negotiations with the private land owner, which later failed. In March last year, tired of waiting for the government to restore justice, the community took the case into their own hands and occupied part of their ancestral territory and continued with their claims from within their lands. Now, years after the Inter-American Court’s sentencing, the Senate's approval finally allows the expropriation project to be debated and approved by the House of Representatives, before it can be signed by President Cartes. A huge step In the Chaco region, indigenous peoples face increasing violation of their right to land while the State has blatantly failed to adopt the necessary measures to restitute ancestral lands to the communities as required by binding court rulings. The decision sets an important precedent for Paraguay, which has received two similar convictions related to the Yakye Axa and Xákmok Kásek indigenous communities, which have also not been implemented. The struggle of the Sawhoyamaxa Composed by 146 Enxet families, the community of Sawhoyamaxa has fought for over 20 years to return to their land in the east of the Chaco region. They have been living along a highway in precarious conditions and without access to basic social services since 1990. During the years, the community has never given up its struggle for justice, and has, among other things filed complaints and made road’s blockades in the Chaco region to stop the clearing of their ancestral land and raise awareness of the injustice. In October 2013, these protests were instrumental in the resumption of dialogue between the government and the owner of the claimed lands.
Tags: Land rights