Racism and ethnic cleansing go unpunished in Paraguay

The circulation of a video of the white Paraguayan television host, Leo Rivas, mocking a young indigenous man in a street situation, and a brief statement from the Paraguayan Indigenous Institute (INDI), in which it limits itself to repudiating the despicable act without taking concrete action, show how naturalized and unpunished racism is in Paraguayan institutions and society. 

Throughout Paraguayan territory, indigenous peoples suffer the usurpation of their lands by agribusiness, real estate speculation, mining, infrastructure works and organized crime. The situation has worsened in the pandemic and with the implementation of the Zavala-Riera Law, which has resulted in the repression of indigenous peoples. What is happening in Paraguay has a name and it is called ethnic cleansing.

Given the violence of armed groups and the judicial persecution promoted by powerful individuals and companies, indigenous groups have no choice but to move to the cities to try to survive on the streets while reclaiming the territories that were taken from them.

After fleeing from their homes, indigenous peoples find in Paraguayan cities the hatred of a white society that discriminates, marginalizes and violates them.

The hate crime of the young indigenous man Lorenzo Silva is an example, as well as the numerous cases of indigenous girls forced into prostitution and then murdered, as reported by the media. Racist crimes and felonies go unpunished.

The indifference and complicity of the Paraguayan state reveal its racist, exclusionary and discriminatory nature

As a result, poverty and misery disproportionately affect indigenous people. On the streets, they must suffer different situations of abuse and insults from the white society, just as the condemnable TV host did and as other white people (who do not make the news) do every day, because it is a situation naturalized by the Paraguayan society, and encouraged by the State with its indifference and impunity.

The native peoples are thus victimized on a daily basis. And unpunished crimes are reflected in this terrible statistic: The life expectancy of indigenous peoples in Paraguay is only 37 years. This is because they are exposed to different forms of racist structural violence that threaten their lives and human rights.

From Iniciativa Amotocodie, we demand from the Paraguayan State the effective implementation of:

-Article 46 of the National Constitution, which guarantees the equality of people.

-The International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination as well as Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization on indigenous and tribal peoples, both signed and ratified by the Paraguayan State.

We demand the disarmament and de-paramilitarization of white armed groups and individuals who usurp indigenous territories. This armed violence obeys powerful economic, political and criminal interests, in many cases foreign, as is the case of Brazilian nationals who seek to illegally occupy border security zones.

We urge the Paraguayan State to comply with the national and international legal instruments that are currently in force, in order to stop the humanitarian catastrophe taking place right now in Paraguay.

We denounce the ethnic cleansing throughout Paraguayan territory, in an alarming situation that can be considered genocide and that threatens the 19 native peoples, whose presence and existence predate the formation of the Paraguayan State and society.

The Paraguayan State and INDI are obliged to implement legal instruments to put an end to impunity for racist violence and discrimination and to achieve effective equality among people, with equal access to human rights and opportunities.

Last but not least, we urge the condemnation of racism, as well as of racist attitudes, behaviors and discourses naturalized by white Paraguayan society.

Paraguayans must assume a firm anti-racist commitment to actively contribute to the eradication of the different forms of violence towards the various indigenous peoples, groups and individuals in Paraguay.

Picture: ONAI