A company from Brazil, which according to Survival International – an organization that defends the human rights of tribal peoples – is illegally destroying the land of Paraguay's last uncontacted Indians, has barred government investigators from entering the area they are occupying.
The government team was barred by employees of the company Yaguarete Pora SA after satellite photos revealed that Yaguarete and another Brazilian company, River Plate, are destroying the Indians' land at a rapidly accelerating rate. The amount of forest illegally cleared by the companies has doubled since May.
"The person responsible for access to the area said he was not authorized to allow the entry of a public team and spoke by telephone to the company's local administrator," says a statement from GAT, an organization supporting the Indians.
Yaguarete owns the land but a legal claim has been made for it on behalf of the Indians, from the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe. Injunctions ban any clearing of the forest until this land claim has been resolved. The area is the traditional territory of South America's last uncontacted Indians outside the Amazon basin.
The companies' activities have been met with outrage in Paraguay. One relative of the uncontacted Totobiegosode, contacted for the first time only four years ago, pleaded, "I'm appealing to the authorities to stop the destruction of our forest. My family is there now. That's where our houses are. More and more notices are appearing on our land prohibiting us from entering. We're losing our forest."
The number of uncontacted Totobiegosode is unknown, but all of them are exceedingly vulnerable to any form of contact with outsiders, says Survival.
Survival International's director, Stephen Corry, said, "First Yaguarete have bought up the Totobiegosode's land illegally, then they start destroying it in flagrant violation of court orders, and now they are refusing access to government officials.
"We sincerely hope President Lugo will take swift action to re-assert his government's authority. Yaguarete clearly wants to continue clearing the land in secret, but they should know by now that satellite photos will soon reveal what they're up to."