Paraguay: Facing Hunger, Poor People Help Themselves

Los Ultimos Hijos del Monte. Foto: FAPI
Paraguay is mostly a mestizo country: 97% of the population speak and understand Guaraní and Spanish, their two official languages. The strong linguistic presence of the Guaraní indigenous language (it is the only country on the continent that is bilingual in a native language) is not enough for it to consider itself an indigenous country. Only 2% of indigenous peoples are recognized as indigenous, belonging to the nations Mbayás, Chiripás, Chulupíes, Paí Tavyterás, Enlhet Norte, Angaités, Enxet Sur, Sanapanás, Toba Mascoy, Ayoreos, Guaraníes Ñendevas, Guaraníes Occidental, Qom, Achés, Makás, Ybytosos, Manjuis, Tomárahos, and Guanás.
Paraguay’s Native people are now facing an adverse situation and require our help and solidarity in the dissemination of the issues they are facing during this health crisis, although we barely see it covered in the media.
Paraguay ayuda. Foto: FAPI
Paraguay solidarity help. Photo: FAPI
As most countries, indigenous communities are the most affected by COVID-19, as a result of social and economic inequalities. Indigenous populations are obeying stay home orders, but have no means of subsistence and unable to go hunting or fishing. Indigenous territories are plundered by developmentalism, extractivism ,and the western idea of ​​progress, which destroys their natural resources. We spoke with community radio journalist Carlos Goncalvez, who told us of recent events in indigenous communities, as well as an overview of the situation in Asunción, the country’s capital. In the state’s absence, communities in urban areas are also facing hunger, and people have organized to prepare “communal meals” cooked by collectives, with community donations, to feed the impoverished population. “There is a significant experience from the indigenous communities in the western region, the Angaités, who live with Mennonite communities, in Neuland. There, the indigenous populations organized themselves and carried out a campaign to collect food, and they themselves went to deliver indigenous populations far from the urban area, 130 kilometers from them, on the side of the Pilcomayo River, on the border with Argentina.
There are indigenous populations that due to their remoteness do not receive the state’s help, as it should be. These indigenous communities work in solidarity with each other. They are poor working in solidarity among the poor
The government offered to send food aid, and it has arrived in very precarious and insufficient conditions, so that Amnesty International has joined local organizations like Tierra Viva and the Federation for the Self-determination of Indigenous Peoples (FAPI) to demand the Paraguayan state immediate action to protect indigenous communities in this emergency.
Los Ultimos Hijos del Monte. Foto: FAPI
Los Últimos Hijos del Monte. Foto: FAPI
“The historical lack of realization of Indigenous Peoples rights, as well as the territorial dispossession of which they have never been fully received reparations, through the restitution of their lands and the implementation of development projects that allow them to subsist on their own, lead to a favorable scenario for COVID 19 to spread in some of the communities, wreaking havoc that is difficult to fully predict. Indigenous people are torn between the hunger of today and the disease of tomorrow. ” They said in the joint manifesto.
As organizations that work for the protection of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we will not back down in our efforts to demand the maximum protection for Indigenous Peoples. The realization of the right to health, food and water, come together in an urgent need that we can’t continue to postpone “
  • Hipólito Acevei / María José Centurión (FAPI)
  • Adriana Agüero (Tierraviva)
  • Maria José Garcete (AIPy) / Rosalía Vega (AIPy)