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More Than 200 Paraguay Villagers Thought Sprayed with Pesticide

More than 200 indigenous people who refused to vacate their land in eastern Paraguay were sprayed late last week with what some believe was pesticide, sending seven to the hospital, a government cabinet member said this week.

The 217 members of the Ava Guarani community in the Itakyry district suffered vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and nausea, said Esperanza Martinez, Paraguay's minister of health. Although one person was in serious condition, she said Monday, the rest are improving.

"For us, it's very clear that this is an acute community-wide intoxication caused in a premeditated manner by an unknown substance," Martinez said on her ministry's Web site. "But it is very clear because all of the similar symptoms occurred after this incident."

The Amnesty International human rights organization said Tuesday it "condemned the use of apparently toxic pesticides to intimidate an indigenous community after they resisted being forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands."

The tension in Paraguay is identical to that found in other parts of Latin America, where the rights of indigenous communities collide with the business interests upon which nations' economies depend. The traditional ancestral homes of indigenous communities are sought for use by mining, oil, logging, agricultural and ranching businesses.

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