CAPTIVE COMMUNITIES: SITUATION OF THE GUARANÍ INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND CONTEMPORARY FORMS OF SLAVERY IN THE BOLIVIAN CHACO
I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. In this report the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "Inter-American Commission" or "IACHR") analyzes the situation of the Guaraní indigenous people in the region known as the Bolivian Chaco, focusing particularly on the situation of Guaraní families subjected to conditions of debt bondage and forced labor. This phenomenon, which affects approximately 600 families, is known by reference to “captive communities,” and it clearly involves contemporary forms of slavery that should be eradicated immediately. In addition, this report analyzes the situation these captive communities face in order to gain access to their ancestral territory.
2. The report was preceded by a working and observation visit conducted June 9-13, 2008, by Commissioner Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero, in her capacity as Rapporteur for Bolivia, and by Commissioner Víctor E. Abramovich, in his capacity as Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
3. The Commission deplores the existence in Bolivia of practices of bondage and forced labor, which are absolutely prohibited by the American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments to which Bolivia is a party. The Commission also observes that the situation of bondage and forced labor in which the captive communities live is an extreme manifestation of the discrimination that indigenous peoples have suffered historically and continue suffering in Bolivia.
4. Despite the efforts made by the Bolivian State (hereinafter "the State," "Bolivia," or "the Bolivian State") to address the situation of bondage and forced labor and to facilitate the reconstitution of the Guaraní territory, there are still captive communities whose members are subject to performing forced labor for debts supposedly contracted and who most of the time do not receive any salary for their work.
5. The report concludes with recommendations aimed at cooperating with the Bolivian State in its efforts to eradicate these contemporary forms of slavery and to guarantee and protect the human rights of the Guaraní indigenous people, especially their collective property, their right of access to justice, and their right to a dignified life. The recommendations include actions to: (1) prevent, investigate, and punish contemporary forms of slavery; (2) reconstitute the territory of the Guaraní indigenous people; and (3) guarantee access to justice for the Guaraní indigenous people and all other indigenous peoples in Bolivia.