On Sunday, October 23, 2022, Paĩ Tavyterã Guaraní Indigenous leaders Alcides Romero Morilla and Rodrigo Gómez González were assassinated during a confrontation between security forces from the Paraguayan state and the EPP (Paraguayan People's Army), a non-state armed group. Other people from the community were also injured, including Leonardo Gómez Riquelme, who is still being hospitalized.
The Guaraní Paî Tavyterâ Peoples are made up of around 70 communities including 15,097 people. Seventy-seven percent of the population is located in the department of Amambay and the rest in Concepción, San Pedro, and Canindeyú. This region, including the sacred Jasuka Venda territory of the Guarani Paî Tavyterâ Peoples, has been negatively impacted by militarization by the Paraguayan state, a process which started in 2013 with the creation of the Internal Defense Operations Command (Comando de Operaciones de Defensa Interna, CODI) within the Joint Task Force (Fuerza de Tarea Conjunta, FTC), a state armed unit formed by members of the police, the armed forces and the National Anti-drug Secretariat (SENAD), and which has the objective of confronting the EPP in the region, where also drug traffickers operate. In the context of this militarization, the right of the Paî Tavyterâ Peoples to self-determination is systematically being violated by diverse methods such as hindering free movement within their territories, intimidation, and even the use of violence, leading to the tragic recent murders of the two Indigenous leaders. So far the state’s armed forces have not developed any protocol on how to duly protect the rights of the Paĩ Tavyterã Peoples.
Every day the lives and territories of the Indigenous Peoples in Abya Yala are in danger. Cultural Survival fundamentally believes in the self-determination and sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples and supports Indigenous communities in their processes of decolonization and self-determining their futures. We condemn the recent murders of these two Indigenous leaders and the attack on other community members. Paraguay ratified the ILO 169 Convention in 1993 and in 2018 a regulation on Prior Consultation was passed. Paraguay also voted in favor of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. However, in practice, it is not implementing these mechanisms in a responsible way. From Cultural Survival, we denounce the violation of these international laws and Indigenous Peoples’ rights by the state of Paraguay.
Cultural Survival demands that the Paraguayan government:
- Respect the self-determination of the Guaraní Paĩ Tavyterã Peoples and comply with international standards on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Respect the territories of the Guaraní Paî Tavyterâ Indigenous Peoples and prevent third parties from trying to take ownership of these territories, including drug traffickers, taking any necessary measures to avoid risking the lives of the people who live there.
- Respect the sacred ancestral territory of Jasuka Venda and prevent drug trafficking groups and the EPP from trying to get hold of the territories by not carrying out military operations that can put the lives of Indigenous Peoples who safeguard the land at risk.
- Avoid carrying out any armed military operation in the lands that are inhabited by the Paĩ Tavyterã Peoples.
- Take immediate measures to investigate the murders of Alcides Romero Morilla and Rodrigo Gómez González and offer justice and damage restitution to both the families and the Paĩ Tavyterã Peoples.
Photo by Juan Carlos Mesa.