Paraguayan village sprayed with toxic chemicals
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Paraguayan village sprayed with toxic chemicals

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November 12, 2009

Following an overturned eviction last week, an Ava Guarani community in Paraguay’s Itakyry district was sprayed with toxic chemicals, most likely pesticide, resulting in nearly the entire village needing medical treatment.

On November 6, at least 50 men connected to a group of Brazilian soya farmers tried to expel the community from their land. The community resisted, with several members firing arrows in self defense.

Several hours later, “an airplane arrived and sprayed directly above their homes with what are believed to be pesticides normally used on soya crops”, reports Amnesty International.

Some 250 people were effected, suffering from headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and loss of consciousness. At least 7 people were taken to hospital.

Prior to the attacks, the Ava Guarani communities of Loma Tajy, Ka’aguy Poty, Ka’aty Min, Ka’agauy Roky and Formosa were all facing eviction from their lands. The soya farmers had approached the courts some time earlier, alleging the land was their property.

The courts initially sided with the farmers and ordered the eviction to take place on the day of the attacks, November 6. However, “the eviction order was cancelled by a district prosecutor just before it was due to be carried out,” says Amnesty. “It is believed that the threats against the community were carried out in retaliation.”

“Indigenous Peoples’ lives are being put in jeopardy by those who should protect them,” said Louise Finer, a Paraguay Researcher for Amnesty International. “The risk faced by the Itakyry communities was predictable. Insufficient action was taken to protect them from the threats they faced from this renewed attempt to evict them from their ancestral lands.”

“The Paraguayan authorities – the Executive, Congress and the Judiciary – must work together to address the immediate needs of the communities after this attack, but also to ensure that it does not happen again,” Finer adds.

These attacks are representative of a much wider problem in Paraguay that goes back to “the legacy of widespread land misappropriation from the dictatorship-period” which “remains unaddressed” says Amnesty.

“Promoting large agricultural development is often put before safeguarding the land titles of Indigenous Peoples.” It flies in the the face of President Fernando Lugo’s pledge to right the historical wrongs by respecting Indigenous rights rather than archaic, racist beliefs.

Photo Credit: Fermin Jara

What You Can Do

Amnesty Canada is asking people to call on the authorities to ensure the safety of the Ava Guarani Indigenous communities in Itakyry and request a formal investigation into the events leading up to and taking place on November 6.

Please send your APPEAL TO:

Prosecutor General/Fiscal General:
Dr. Rubén Candia Amarilla
Ministerio Público
Chile entre Rodriguez de Francia y Ygatymi
Fax: 011 595 21 454 6003
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor/Estimado Fiscal General

Please send a COPY TO:

His Excellency Juan Esteban O. Aguirre Martínez
Ambassador for the Republic of Paraguay
151 Slater Street, Suite 501
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H3
Fax: (613) 567-1679

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