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Paraguay: Struggles and Threats Over Aché Indigenous Lands

For the past nine years, sixty families from the Aché indigenous community of Kuetuvy have been fighting to reclaim their ancestral lands located in northeastern Paraguay. Some 4600 hectares of this territory called “Finca 470″ were finally transferred back to this community by the Paraguayan government on July 26, 2012.

These lands are especially important because they are located within a protected area of the Mbaracayú Biosphere Reserve, as declared by UNESCO. These lands contain rich biodiversity including many species of medicinal plants, which is something that the Aché people pledged to preserve as part of their agreement with the Ministry of the Environment.

The Aché celebrating the granting of land titles. Photo courtesy Aché djawu.

This month was supposed to be one of prolonged celebration with the land titles now in the hands of the Aché. Margarita Mbywangi, a blogger from the Rising Voices grantee project Aché djawu, wrote about this sense of pride of finally accomplishing their goal [es]:

Fue una lucha muy sufrida, hemos recibido mucha discriminación institucional, pero el pueblo Aché pudo sostener esta lucha hasta el final.

It was a very difficult struggle, and even though we received a lot of institutional discrimination, the Aché people were able to sustain this fight until the very end.

However, an ongoing conflict with peasant groups that claim that this land should be ruled in excess has put a damper on this joyous occasion. Many of the peasant groups have begun to construct settlements in hope of being awarded this land, as well as taking part in illegal logging activities. For those Aché that have attempted to stop these activities, as well as journalists that have entered to cover the story, the peasant groups have issued death threats [es].

Ricardo Mbekrorongi, who is also a part of the Aché djawu project, has been updating the community's Twitter account (@AcheKuetuvy) [es] via SMS with occasional updates about this turn of events. On August 5, 2012, he tweeted:

@AcheKuetuvy: Los Ache de kuetuvy preocupado por la invacion de los campesinos, donde ya fue transferido a los ache

@AcheKuetuvy: The Aché from (the community of) Kuetuvy are concerned about the peasant invasion of land that has already been transferred to the Aché.

In the group blog, Mbekrorongi also uploaded photos from a visit by journalists [es] that went to investigate this illegal logging.

Journalists visiting illegal logging activities. Photo by Ricardo Mbekrorongi.

And most recently, community leader Mbywangi received a threatening phone call saying that if young Aché hunters would venture out into these lands that they would be killed. Her son, Mbekrorongi was the first to publicly denounce this threat on the group blog [es]:

Ayer a la 19:30 hora de la tarde en un descanso en su casa nuestra lider Margarita Mbywangi recibe amenaza de muerte en su celular, donde el sujeto se identifica que es campesino, en su llamado dice a nuestra lider Margarita que si los jovenes van de caceria cerca de ellos lo van matar. Margarita se lamenta ante esta llamado, y mientras tanto nuestras autoridades no hacen nada.

Yesterday (August 15) at 19:30 hours, while our leader Margarita Mbywangi was resting at her house, she received a death threat on her mobile phone from a man, who identified himself as a peasant. He told our leader Margarita that if the young men would come close to them while hunting, that they would be killed. Margarita is saddened by this call while our authorities do nothing.

Members of the six Aché communities across Paraguay are coming together in solidarity asking government officials to enforce the removal of these peasant groups from the lands that now rightly belong to the Aché people. They hope that they can resume the celebrations that were scheduled to take place in commemoration of the historical awarding of the land titles.

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