Unprecedented fine for ranchers in uncontacted tribe 'coverup'

May 6, 2010

Members of the Paraguayan Ayoreo-Totobiegosode group on the day they were contacted for the first time, in 2004. © GAT/Survival

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In an unprecedented move, Paraguayan authorities have fined the Brazilian cattle-ranching firm accused of illegally clearing forest which is home to the last group of uncontacted Indians outside the Amazon basin.

‘The company, Yaguarete Pora SA, concealed key information about the existence of Indigenous people in the area where it had a licence to work,’ said Paraguay’s Environment Ministry (SEAM), which imposed the fine.

Yaguarete failed to acknowledge that the rich forest it is bulldozing in order to graze cattle is the ancestral territory of uncontacted Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indians, some of whom have recently been seen nearby.

SEAM’s response is to fine the company approximately 75 million guaranies ($16,000/ £10,500) and order it to write a new report, an ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’, before considering whether to issue the company with a new licence.

SEAM made it clear that some Totobiegosode, who have already been contacted, have confirmed the existence of uncontacted relatives in the area where Yaguarete has been working.

Yaguarete recently accused Paraguay’s Environment Minister, Oscar Rivas, of working for Survival International after Survival’s exposé of the company’s destruction of thousands of hectares of the Totobiegosode’s forest, and the subsequent cancellation by SEAM of Yaguarete’s licence to work there.

Survival director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘Whilst this fine sends out a welcome message, SEAM shouldn’t only fine Yaguarete: it should ban the company from working there. That forest is the ancestral territory of the Totobiegosode, and the Indians have been trying to gain land title to the area since 1993. Destroying that forest is both immoral and unconstitutional.’