Annual Report: Paraguay 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Paraguay 2010

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Head of state and government Fernando Lugo
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 6.3 million
Life expectancy 71.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 44/32 per 1,000
Adult literacy 94.6 per cent

The government took some steps to fulfil promises on human rights and strengthen institutions, but failed to deliver on key promises regarding land reform and Indigenous Peoples' rights. There were reports of police ill-treatment in some rural areas. There were some developments in bringing to justice those responsible for past human rights abuses.

Background

Steps were taken to strengthen the institutional framework for human rights protection within the executive, but clear indications of how these would be reflected in the operation of the legislature or judiciary were lacking. Concerns remained about the effectiveness of key bodies such as the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office and the Paraguayan Indigenous Institute.

Violence attributed to the Army of the Paraguayan People armed group, including the kidnapping of landowner Fidel Zavala in October, resulted in security concerns in some areas.

In May the government announced a state of emergency across western departments of Paraguay following a serious drought that led to food security problems among Indigenous and campesino (peasant farmer) communities.

Indigenous Peoples' rights

While the authorities took some steps to ensure the provision of basic services to Indigenous communities, they failed to address Indigenous Peoples' land claims, tackle discrimination or monitor effectively the use of members of Indigenous communities as forced labour in remote areas.

In October, the Senate rejected a bill to expropriate the traditional lands of the Yakye Axa community from their current owners and return them to the community, despite an overdue deadline for the implementation of an Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling ordering the return of the lands. No substantive progress was made in returning land to the Sawhoyamaxa community, in line with a 2006 Inter-American Court ruling. A third case, relating to the Xákmok Kásek community, was pending before the Inter-American Court at the end of 2009.

In November, the Senate Human Rights Commission apparently supported the eviction of around 150 Ava Guaraní families from their traditional lands in the Itakyry district. The eviction order was cancelled later that month after a public outcry. Community members reported being sprayed subsequently with apparently toxic pesticides from a small airplane. This was confirmed by a Health Ministry report. More than 200 people were reportedly affected and several required hospital treatment.

There were reports that pesticides were used near Indigenous communities, in violation of national regulations. The Paraguayan Indigenous Institute linked the death of 12 Mbyá Guaraní Indigenous people between June and August 2009 in the Aba'í District of the Caazapá department to possible contamination from pesticides used on neighbouring wheat and soya crops.

The deteriorating living conditions endured by some landless communities, coupled with inadequate access to essential services, led to serious health problems and preventable deaths. In early 2009, six members of the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous community died after suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting.

Despite government promises, deforestation in the northern Chaco continued, further endangering the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indigenous Peoples living in the area.