Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes has today signed an historic bill for the expropriation of 14,400 hectares of land on behalf of a group of Enxet Indians of northern Paraguay.
The Enxet community of Sawhoyamaxa has been living in squalid conditions on the side of a highway for two decades after their land was bought by German conman Heribert Roedel, owner of cattle company Liebig.
Roedel made his fortune after conning members of the public in Germany, who believed they were investing in land purchases in Paraguay.
With the funds he defrauded from German investors, Roedel himself bought large areas of land in the Paraguayan Chaco, and evicted the Enxet Indians who had been living there since time immemorial.
The Enxet have been claiming title to their ancestral territory since 1991. At least 19 members of the community died while they waited. Survival International repeatedly lobbied the Paraguayan government for the Enxet to be allowed to return.
With the help of local organization Tierraviva, the Enxet took their case to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights in 2001.
The Court found the Paraguayan government guilty of violating the Enxet’s right to their land in 2006, and ordered that 14,400 hectares of it be returned to the Sawhoyamaxa community within three years.
Eight years later, in June 2014, 150 Enxet Indians arrived in Paraguay’s capital Asunción to demand the government sign a bill that would legally enforce the Inter-American Court’s ruling.
Today their wait is over.
Enxet leader Leonardo González told journalists, “We have recovered our Mother Earth. Without her, we could not exist, we could not be free, we could not walk, we could not be happy.”