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Chronology for Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay, 2004, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Feb 3, 1989 General Alfredo Stoessner's 34 year reign ends with a military coup headed by General Andrez Rodriguez.
May 1, 1989 Presidential, congressional, and municipal elections are held. The Colorado Party candidate, Gen. Rodriguez wins the presidential elections (as he is the only candidate running). Rodriguez promises to hold open elections for local offices in two years and presidential elections in which he will not run shortly afterward. (The election was later set for 1993.)
Dec 27, 1990 Phillips Petroleum has signed a contract for the exploration and eventual production of oil in a area of 22,000 kilometer square of the Chaco region of Paraguay. Thirty percent of the inhabitants of the Chaco are indigenous peoples.
1991 Parliament passes a law granting land which the Enxet group claims as its traditional lands to campesinos (peasants). For years peasant squatters have been trying to grab land in the Chaco.
Jun 3, 1991 The World Bank's International Finance Corporation has sold the 225 mile Mbaracayu tract of tropical forest, on Paraguay's border with Brazil, to the Nature Conservancy for 2 million dollars. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the AES Corporation (an energy firm) agreed to finance the 2 million dollars the Nature Conservancy needed to purchase the land. This tract of land is home to Ache and many endangered species. In local mayoral elections in Villa Hayes, the candidates directly sought the support of local indigenous groups in the elections. The most active parties to seek indigenous support were the Colorado party (the party of former dictator, Stroessner and President Rodriguez) and an independent association of Stroessnerite "militantes."
Aug 22, 1991 Indigenous workers protest exploitation by a tannin farm. The protesters are conducting a hunger strike in order to improve their working conditions. The company, Carlos Casado of Argentina, is being accused by the workers of "genocide, exploitation, and ethnocide." Many of the workers claim they were forcibly removed from their environment and put to work on the company's tannin farms.
Dec 21, 1991 Paraguay's Constituent Assembly unanimously approved a new constitution replacing the 1967 constitution written under the direction of Stroessner. The new constitution provides for a division of powers, an appointed cabinet, and restricts the President to a five year elected term. Senators are elected through a proportional representation system and the senators, along with the president, choose the members of the Supreme Court. The Constitution also formally recognizes the existence of indigenous peoples in Paraguay. It stipulates certain rights and privileges for indigenous people, including the right to "preserve and develop" their ethnic identity; indigenous people are exempt from taxes and military service; they officially are given the right of participation as well as the right to education and assistance; and finally the constitution guarantees the protection of their cultural heritage.
1992 The main pro-landowner lobby in Paraguay, the Asociacion Rural, with very influential ties to the government has begun a campaign against the claims of indigenous groups. The association includes members of parliament and presents its campaign in terms of protecting the advances made in the Chaco against the "programme of anti-progress."
Jun 1, 1992 Thousands have been forced to evacuate as floods have swollen rivers in Paraguay and Argentina. In Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, 30,000 people have been force to evacuate while thousands of others elsewhere in Argentina and Paraguay have also been forced to relocate because of the floods. The Treasury has refused to provide the Indigenous Institute (INDI, the official organ protecting indigenous rights) the proportion of its budget designated for the purchase of land for indigenous reserves. In the operation of INDI, there is mixed success over the next year. Most of the Guarani, the largest group, who live in the east, have gained title to their lands, but few of those in the Chaco have been able to do likewise.
Dec 7, 1992 First regional meeting of the Indian peoples, which began on Nov. 20, concludes. Over 70 members of the Guarani tribe along with people from the Mapuche, Aymara and Kolla tribes met to discuss strategies for resolving their problems. The meeting has been held under the guise of the Indian Foundation of Uruguay. The majority of the Guarani people live in Paraguay.
May 9, 1993 The Colorado Presidential Candidate Juan Carlos Wasmosy was elected President in what international observers said was Paraguay's most free and fair election yet. In departmental elections (essentially equivalent to state elections in the United States), all three parties actively courted the Enxet tribe (of the Mascoi language group) as well as many others by holding rallies where gifts were handed out and promising certain public works projects. In the aftermath of the elections -- which Colorado won -- the other contending parties accused the Colorado Party of eagerly manipulating the "simple Indians." However, it appears more likely that many indigenous groups have become quite adept at pressuring politicians for public works projects just prior to and after elections (e.g., see Kidd 1995, pp. 64-66). Interestingly, the tribes do not address their land claims to the politicians at election time, they make such claims primarily through bureaucratic channels.
Jun 1993 The Bertoni Conservation Foundation in Paraguay are buying up land of the country's remaining rainforest to save it from loggers and slash and burn subsistence farmers. The conservation has raised enough money to purchase 160,000 acres of virgin forest. This land has established a safe area for the Aisha tribe.
1994 The Asociacion Rural has pushed for the creation of a new indigenous land organization and law which would protect the rights of the nonindigenous landowners. The proposal is facing stiff opposition from indigenous groups and international organizations.
Mar 1995 The World Bank, alongside several other Latin American governments (Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru) assisted in designing programs for the identification, demarcation and registration of indigenous lands.
Apr 9, 1995 Guarani Indians in neighboring Brazil are threatening to commit mass suicide. This is in response to constant transgression onto their ancestral lands.

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