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Stop the deforestation of Yshir people's lands

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We, the undersigned, academics, Indigenous leaders, civil associations' personnel, artists and citizens concerned about the respect of Indigenous rights nationally and internationally request your swift intervention in a serious case that violate the rights of the Yshir people of Alto Paraguay. The case involves permits to deforest that have been granted by the Environment's Secretariat (SEAM) under irregular procedures for lands that are being claimed by the Yshir people. Through their lawyers, Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Nación Yshir (UCINY) - the Yshir federation - requested SEAM to  stop this process without response. Having credible information that clear-cutting is imminent, UCINY has apealed to the international community and by this means to you, given your responsibilities, in order to request a quick intervention. Lic. Afara, as President of the Comisión Interinstitucional para el Cumplimiento de las Sentencias Internacionales (CICSI) you have the mandate to take the necessary actions in pursuit of the enforcement of obligations associated to the various UN human rights treaties ratified by Paraguay. In this sense, last month, the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination took note of the irregular granting of  permits to deforest by SEAM. In relation to this, you can command and coordinate with SEAM to suspend the permits.

It is important to highlight what makes this a serious case. The Yshir people livelihood depends on a mixed economy that combines hunting, gathering, and fishing with small scale livestock farming and agriculture as well as salaried jobs. This way of life ensures the well being of both the Yshir people and the environment. This is evident upon seeing satellite imagery where the lands titled to the Yshir communities appear as an oasis of green amid a growing dessert of deforestation. As it is publicly known, the department of Alto Paraguay is nowadays under a fast process of deforestation lead by soy and cattle ranching corporations. To safeguard some of the existing forest the Paraguayan state as well as civil society and private organizations have established diverse conservation schemes. As a result the Yshir people has on the one hand seen the steady decline of the resources upon which it depends in economic and cultural terms and, on the other hand, find itself prevented from accessing the areas that have yet not been destroyed. In this context, and since 2005, the Yshir people has sought the way to re-establish a unified territory where they can sustain their way of life. A first step UCINY re-initiated a long-standing claim on 8,500 hectares known to the Yshir as eshma and as Puerto Ramos in cadastral records. In a similar vein they reactivated a claim for 918 hectares in a place called Puerto Pollo. As it can be appreciated in the  attached map, the recovery of these lands adjacent to the ones already titled to the Yshir communities would make it posible the constitution of a contagious territory of largely untouched forest, which would constitute a unique example in Paraguay.

These demands were initiated through the usual channels but soon after they took off it became evident some challenges to the project. In the case of Puerto Pollo, the land ended up in the hands of a Brazilian citizen who obtained it through fraudulent maneuvers triggered when the Yshir people made the National Institute of Rural Development and Lands (INDERT) aware that the tract under question was public land. Given how he obtained them, the Brazilian citizen's property titles are spurious . However, the Environment's Secretariat gave him a permit to deforest. In the case of Eshema (Puerto Ramos), the previous owner was willing to sell the property to the state so that it could be transferred to the Yshir people, yet the state did not responded to the offer promptly and the land was sold to Paraverde Corp (a corporations of Turkish capitals). UCINY continued the claim process but in the meantime the corporation also obtained from the Environment's Secretariat a permit to deforest. UCINY asked the judiciary for an injunction to stop deforestation, the court has just decreed the injunction.  It is important to highlight that in both cases the permit were granted without following the proper procedures as SEAM was aware that the lands were being claimed by the Yshir as part of their ancestral territory and key for their future.

In the last few days the Yshir people has seen movement of trucks and heavy equipment that indicates the clear-cutting of the forest will begin soon. The land in question represent the future of the Yshir people. This land is absolutely needed for them to continue with their cultural traditions at the same time that they enjoy the benefits of living in the 21st Century according to their own values, and all this without destroying the environment. It will help the Yshir in nothing to eventually reconstitute a unified territory with deforested lands. For all of the above we exhort you to intervene quickly so that the permits to deforest are revoked until these lands are returned to their legitimate and original owners.

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