Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Paraguay: Indigenous Peoples - Company boss named in forgery probe linked to Spanish construction giant

Paraguay's Ayoreo were the victims of a forgery scandal earlier this year. © Survival
Source: Survival International

The boss of a company controlled by one of Spain’s biggest corporations has been linked to a scandal involving forged signatures in Paraguay.

Diego Eduardo León is the vice-President and acting Chairman of South American ranching company Carlos Casado, which is majority-owned by Spanish construction giant Grupo San José.

Carlos Casado ‘owns’ a large area of land inside the territory of Paraguay’s Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indians. The company is already under investigation by local authorities for clearing land without the necessary permits.

In June Survival International revealed how the Indians’ leaders had complained to the government that their signatures had been forged on a supposed ‘agreement’ between them and ranchers. The ‘agreement’ allowed ranchers to bulldoze an access road through the Indians’ forest, which lies between them and the nearest road. In fact, the Indians had refused to sign the deal.

Now Survival has seen government documents naming Diego Eduardo León as a beneficiary of the access road. It appears that, besides his involvement with Carlos Casado, Mr Eduardo León is also connected to two other ranching companies that ‘own’ land inside the Ayoreo’s territory – Sinha Pora SA and Panambi Pora SA – and these companies’ land would have been opened up by the access road.

Carlos Casado and Grupo San José have written identical letters to Survival, denying any illegal activity on Ayoreo land and asserting that their business ‘has created important sources of work for the [local] population’. They have also demanded that Survival remove from its website any mention of Grupo San José, Carlos Casado, or Spanish tycoon Jacinto Rey González (the President of both companies), or face legal action.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘It’s a shame that Carlos Casado and Grupo San José are spending their time threatening Survival, rather than addressing the fact that their land should have been transferred back into Ayoreo hands years ago.’