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Ranchers seek license to destroy uncontacted tribe’s land in Paraguay

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A Brazilian cattle-ranching company is seeking permission from Paraguay’s government to destroy forest inhabited by one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes.

The company, Yaguarete Pora S.A., has applied to Paraguay’s Environment Ministry for a license to work in an area where uncontacted Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indians live. Yaguarete own the land, but its license to work there was withdrawn last year after the publication of satellite photos showing its destruction of the forest, and pressure from local organizations. Yaguarete also prevented an investigative team from the Environment Ministry from entering the area.

“The Environment Ministry must not grant a new license to Yaguarete,” urged local Totobiegosode support organization GAT. “If it does, the last of the uncontacted Totobiegosode could be wiped out.”

Yaguarete recently announced its intention to maintain an “eco-reserve” in a small part of the forest it has been destroying – a move denounced by Survival International as “greenwashing of the most outrageous kind.”

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Some Totobiegosode have already been contacted and are claiming legal title to their land. Only a small part of it has been protected so far, and vast areas of the region are being rapidly deforested for cattle ranching.

“We urge Paraguay’s government not to allow Yaguarete to work on the Totobiegosode’s land,” said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International. “To do so would violate their rights under international law and the UN’s Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and may well destroy them as a people.”