March 21, 2013
Sawhoyamaxa indigenous community, Enxet people
We declare today a historic day for our community, because more than 20 years since we were expelled from our ancestral lands, we have decided to return to occupy Sawhoyamaxa, our ancestral lands. During these 20 years we have been living along the side of a road, watching how cows occupy the land where we used to live and where our parents lived. These lands are ours, and we do not want to live any longer along the side of this road, witnessing powerlessly the birth of our children and the death of our parents and grandparents from this road, next to the land which we are separated from by a wire fence installed by the cattle rancher Heribert Roedel, with the complicity of the Paraguayan state. For more than 23 years we have gone peacefully to every national and international administrative and judicial body available to us, to recover our land. We have used all of the legal tools that exist, to recover what is ours.
Nevertheless, despite having obtained a judgment in our favour from the Interamerican Court of Human Rights seven years ago, we continue living alongside the road, without any hope that the State will return our lands. For this reason we have taken this legitimate decision, because we see there is no hope that the State will do what it has to do to return our lands, by evicting the man who usurped them. Recovering our land is fundamental because the future of our community depends upon it: our lives and those of our children, fathers and mothers are inextricably linked to this land. Our culture, language and traditions are inextricably linked to this land. Without this land, we run the risk of disintegrating as a community. At the same time as announcing this re-occupation, we demand that the Paraguayan State refrain from carrying out any action that would threaten the community in its legitimate struggle to recover its lands, and that it guarantee that no third party threaten our lives or our physical integrity.
It is the inaction of the Paraguayan State, arising from its failure to fulfil its constitutional duties to return our lands to us, and its failure to uphold the judgment of the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, that obliges us to occupy our land in this way.
We call to our indigenous brothers and sisters to express solidarity with our struggle; similarly, we call to any person who understands our demands to express their solidarity, demanding that the Paraguayan State return our lands. No more expulsion of indigenous peoples! Land restitution for Sawhoyamaxa!
Background to the case
For the last twenty years, since we were expelled from our land by cattle ranchers who took over the place we lived, our community of over 150 families has been living along the verges of the Rafael Franco road, between kilometres 370 and 390. In 1989 we instigated a request for the restitution of our land before the INDI (National Indigenous Institute) and as a result of the failure of the relevant national institutions to provide any results, in2000 we sought justice before the Interamerican Human Rights System. In 2006, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights issued a judgment supporting our community’s demands, requiring the Paraguayan State to return, within three years, more than 14,000 hectares of our land, known as Santa Elisa and Michi. Today, these lands are in the hands of a cattle rancher of German origin, named Heribert Roedel, whose makes his livelihood from cattle ranching on these lands, and in an area of more than 60,000 hectares. Seven years on from this judgment, the lands remain in the hands of this cattle rancher and we, the community, remain alongside the road.
Sawhoyamaxa community, 21 March 2013.
Carlos Marecos, Community Leader