Paraguay: former slave becomes indigenous affairs minister

Margarita Mbywangi, a 46-year-old Ache tribal chief who says she was captured in the jungle and sold into forced labor as a child, has been appointed Paraguay’s minister of indigenous affairs by President Fernando Lugo, who was inaugurated Aug. 15. Mbywangi, a mother of three, told Paraguay’s Channel 2 TV: “When I was a girl, four years old, the whites kidnapped me in the jungle and I was sold several times to families of hacienda owners. They sent me to school, so I can read and write.” Upon winning her freedom, she began to seek her origins “until I found my people in the community of Chupapou.” She said she will immediately begin to work on titling indigenous lands. According to government figures, about 90,000 Paraguayans say they belong to one of the country’s 400 indigenous communities. (The Guardian, Aug. 19)

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