43 wounded and several disappeared in a racist attack aimed at perpetuating slavery practices against Bolivian guarani communities


Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, April 17 2008


The Inter-Institutional Coordinator for the Defence of Human Rights of Santa Cruz, Bolivia (La Coordinadora Interinstitucional de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Santa Cruz – BOLIVIA)and the Bolivian Chapter for Human Rights, Democracy and Development (el Capítulo Boliviano de Derechos Humanos Democracia y Desarrollo), denounce the acts of violence against delegations of the indigenous Guaraní people, the Governmental commission and civil organizations responsible for the process of liberating enslaved indigenous families and for processing and obtaining the regularisation of their ancestral lands in the farming area of Chaco in Santa Cruz.


1. On 27th February this year a commission of the Bolivian Government, led by the Deputy Minister for Land, the National Directors and the Directors for Santa Cruz Department of the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria - INRA) together with a delegation of the Guaraní people, accompanied by their president, Wilson Changaray, tried to start the process of regularising the indigenous Guarani lands of ALTO PARAPETÍ, located in the province of Cordillera in the Department of Santa Cruz,and were intercepted and attacked by landowners and armed groups as they passed over the estate of "Caraparicito" owned by United States citizen Ronald Larsen. The government delegation was held at the said farm and later taken to the community of Lagunillas, a distance of 50 KM away, where an attempt was made to compel them, by means of the signing of official minutes, to suspend the process of regularisation of the agrarian lands pending a consultation by the Departmental Autonomy of Santa Cruz - scheduled for 4th May by the Prefecture of that Department and outside the National Laws and Constitution.

2. On 4th April, a new commission led by the same Government authorities, and accompanied peacefully by police and members of the Guaraní community, were heading to the indigenous community of Itacuatía, to initiate the regularisation of the lands and were attacked there by farmers and persons contracted by Mr. Larsen with stones and sticks. All the attackers were heavily armed and the police were unable to repel them. The violent actions were particularly directed against the indigenous Guaranis and the police, which resulted in serious injury being inflicted on the Police Captain who accompanied the commission.

3. On 11th April there was a meeting of the Provincial Council of Popular Participation (Consejo Provincial de Participación Popular), a legally established entity of social control, which was used by farm-owners and local authorities in order to force the cessation of the land regularisation process and the process of liberation of the enslaved indigenous communities on the farms. In the course of the meeting, the Minister of Rural, Agricultural, Livestock and Environmental Development, Susana Rivero, and the Vice Minister of Lands, Alejandro Almaraz as well as all the employees of INRA were ordered to be expelled from Cordillera Province, and an indefinite blockade of the roads was also ordered. During the night a group of armed men went to the hotel where the employees were staying and tried to take them by force. Minister Rivero had come to this area to initiate a dialogue in order to enable the process of agrarian regularisation.

4. On 13th April, in the area of Cuevo, several kilometres from Camiri, a delegation of indigenous Guaraní people was intercepted and savagely attacked by a mob at the behest of the farmers of the region, as a result of which 43 were injured and 8 disappeared - three of these were journalists and others were advisers to the Guaranis. It is known that some were taken as hostages and were tied to posts in the public square where they were tortured and subjected to other forms of humiliation. There is also information that the drivers of two vehicles are still there, continue to be victims of ill treatment and fear for their lives.

The Prefecture of the Department of Santa Cruz, which is constitutionally responsible for the life and security of all citizens and communities resident in that region has provided vehicles to transport the aggressors and offers public support for these actions and blockades. This is all in the context of the campaign for a referendum for Departmental Autonomy which is being driven by the Prefecture, notwithstanding the public and mass rejection of a referendum by the local population.

The media deny the existence of families in slavery or semi-enslavement in Alto Parapetí or generally in the Bolivian Chaco, thereby manipulating national and regional public opinion.


More than 167 families of indigenous Guaranís live in captivity under regimes of debt peonage, forced labour or similar forms of slavery, in 13 farms in the area of ALTO PARAPETÍ, a fact which was confirmed by international human rights organizations such as the International Labour Organization - the ILO, the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS - the IACHR.

The Assembly of the Guarani People -APG - the leading representative of that indigenous group, have been demanding the State of Bolivia for over 20 years that its ancestral lands be returned and the enslaved families be freed.

In January 2005, the ILO issued a report entitled "Enganche y servidumbre por deudas en Bolivia" in which it recommended the ratification of its own Convention No. 29, the review of existing legislation and the approval of a Plan of Action for the eradication of forced labour, in particular in the Guarani area. In November 2006 the IACHR visited the area and in its report it recommended the immediate adoption of measures to eradicate all forms of servitude or slavery by the application of the process of regularising and returning land ownership as envisaged by Law No. 3545. In the month of December 2007 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, visited the area and interviewed individuals who have been victims of slavery, and he expressed his particular concern over the situation of servitude experienced by the Guarani communities as a result of their being stripped of their ancestral lands.

In compliance with the recommendations of these senior international human rights institutions in November 2006 the Bolivian Congress passed Law No. 3545 on Communal Reorganisation of Agrarian Reform (Reconducción Comunitaria de la Reforma Agraria) and in August 2007 Supreme Decree 29215 was issued which established the new regularisation and ownership procedures for Native Communal Lands (TCO), a constitutional concept of indigenous territories.


On 28 November 2007 Supreme Decree No. 29292 was passed which included the “Transitional Inter-Ministerial Plan for the Guarani People 2007-2008", which sought to eradicate servitude, forced labour and similar forms of bondage. In application of these provisions, the Government commission and indigenous delegations which were the targets of the above-mentioned aggressive acts, were seeking to initiate the process of freeing families in a state of slavery and the restitution of their lands via a process of regularisation of agricultural property.

The Prefecture of the Department of Santa Cruz, under the protection of the Civic Committee which draws together the principal sectors of regional power, convoked a referendum for 4th May in order to declare autonomy for the Department and to validate an autonomous statute, the content of which is evidently contrary to the recognised human rights of the indigenous peoples and is aimed at maintaining and protecting the lands which have been usurped by farm owners from the indigenous communities of the Department and the relationship of servitude which they have with the families held in captivity. This referendum is also contrary to the Political Constitution of the State, and therefore is not authorised by the National electoral authorities.


Given the violations of the right to freedom and to land and the serious threat to their physical well-being faced by the indigenous Guarani people, and in particular by the families in servitude on the farms of Alto Parapetí, and further, given the imminent threat against the Government officials and other persons related to the process of regularisation of lands, we ask the national and international communities to write to the national authorities and the departmental authorities of Santa Cruz and demand the following:

  • 1. To effect the immediate release of those persons who are currently being held hostage, Mr Mario Rivero and Mr. Hilarión Castillo, as well as other persons who disappeared on 13th April and whose lives and well-being are at grave risk.

  • 2. To evacuate the injured from the area where the said events took place and to afford them immediate medical and humanitarian attention to ensure their lives and well-being.

  • 3. To adopt as a matter of urgency all measures of necessary and appropriate protection to ensure the lives and well-being of the families, persons and organizations affected by the acts of violence, including the public officials of INRA and the Vice Minister of Lands who are present in the region of Chaco.

  • 4. To adopt necessary measures to effect the immediate release of those indigenous Guarani communities who live in a state of slavery or bondage and to safeguard their lives and physical, social, economic and cultural well-being.

  • 5. To offer all necessary guarantees to ensure a peaceful process of liberation and of regularisation and ownership of the Guarani territory of Alto Parapetí and other indigenous Guarani territories.

  • 6. To commence criminal proceedings against Mr.Sr. Andrew Larsen, currently in possession of 15,777 hectares in 5 farms in Alto Parapetí for acts denounced herein and for maintaining 12 indigenous families in servitude and against other persons responsible for or accomplices in the crime of “ subjecting to slavery or other similar state" and related acts as established in art. 291 of the Criminal Code of Bolivia.

  • 7. To investigate the violent acts of aggression the victims of which have been government officials, indigenous delegations and other citizens who support the process of freeing the communities and the regularisation and restitution of their lands; and to commence criminal proceedings against all those involved as intellectual and material authors of these acts, in particular the public authorities involved and the representatives and members of the union organisations such as the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Youth Union (la Unión Juvenil Cruceñista), the Santa Cruz Farmers Federation (la Federación de Ganaderos de Santa Cruz) and the Farmers´Association of Camiri (la Asociación de Ganaderos de Camiri).

  • 8. To demand that the Departmental and Municipal Authorities of Santa Cruz and in the entire country, conduct themselves in a manner consistent with international instruments of Human Rights and the rights of indigenous peoples ratified by Bolivia.

Please address your correspondence to:

Sr. Evo Morales Ayma
Presidente de la República de Bolivia
Dirección: Palacio de Gobierno Casa Militar Gral. Brig. Elías Eduardo Pérez
Teléfono:(+591-2) 2202321
Fax:(+591-2) 2153878
La Paz, Bolivia

Lic. Alfredo Rada Vélez
Ministro de Gobierno
Dirección:Av. Arce 2409
Teléfono:(591-2) 2440466
Fax: (591-2)2401014 Ce. 72040820
La Paz – Bolivia

Lic. Juan Carlos Rojas
Director Nacional del Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria (INRA)
Dirección: Calle Junín 745
Teléfono:(+591-2)2408618 2407292
La Paz- Bolivia

Ing. Rubén Costas Aguilera
Prefecto del Departamento de Santa Cruz
Dirección: Av. Omar Chávez Edif. Ex Cordecruz 6to. Piso
Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia

Coronel Dest Enrique Urquiri Paez
Comandante Departamental de la Policía – Santa Cruz
Dirección: Av 26 de Febrero s/n Frente al Hotel Córtez
Teléfono:(+591-)334556 - 77
Fax: (+591-) 334556 – 77 Int. 109
Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia

Sr. Marcelino Apurani
Subprefecto de la Provincia Cordillera – Santa Cruz
Dirección: Av. Suárez Roca (Frente al Centro Urucupiña)
Teléfono:(+591-)3952 2350
Camiri – Santa Cruz

Dr. Waldo Albarracín Sánchez
Defensor del Pueblo de Bolivia
Dirección: Calle Colombia Nº 440
La Paz, Bolivia.

Enviar copias a:

Dr. Guido Náyar Parada
Presidente de la Federación de Ganaderos de Santa Cruz
Dirección: Av. Ejército Nacional Esq. Soliz de Holguín
Teléfono:(+591-3) 351144
Fax:(+591-3) 352117
Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia

Sr. Javier Antunéz Sambrana
Presidente de la Asociación de Ganaderos de Camiri
Dirección: Av. Busch Nº 244
Teléfono:(+591-3)3952 2002
Fax:(+591-3) 3952 2916
Ccamiri – Bolivia

Lic. Tufí Aré
Jefe de Redacción Diario "EL DEBER"
Dirección: 2do. anillo
Teléfono:(+591-3)3538373 Cel. 77385004
Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, April 17 of 2008

Coordinadora interinstitucional de Derechos Humanos de Santa Cruz.
(ALAS, Casa de la Mujer, CEJIS, CIPCA, Colectivo Rebeldía, DESAFIO, FORMASOL, Fundación Tierra)

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