Paraguay: campesinos disappeared, killed

The Agrarian and Popular Movement (MAP) of Paraguay reported in a June 26 statement that base-level MAP leader Perfecto Irala was abducted and disappeared by police on June 25 from Pariri, in Vaqueria district, Caaguazu department. Since last Feb. 26, Irala and other MAP members had been occupying lands in Pariri designated for agrarian reform which were sold by the National Institute of Rural Development and Land (INDERT) to foreign companies for the production of transgenic soy. “According to the information of several witnesses, Perfecto Irala was kidnapped by an officer of the National Police with the last name Vazquez, of the deputy police station of the Colonia Santa Clara in the Vaqueria district. Several fellow leaders have gone to the police stations of Santa Clara and Vaqueria in search of information, but they have not received any response concerning the whereabouts of the companero Perfecto Irala,” said the MAP statement.

MAP is demanding that the national government immediately free Irala and punish those responsible for his abduction. The group is also demanding the immediate distribution of land to landless MAP members. (Adital, June 27; MAP statement, June 26 via Upside Down World)

International organizations participating in the Summit of the Peoples of the South, taking place June 28-29 in the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, are to carry out a fact-finding mission in Caaguazu June 30 and July 1 to look into Irala’s disappearance and learn about other rights violations, including the recent eviction of the 11-year-old Arsenio Baez settlement in the community of El Golfo, displaced to make way for a tourism project. (Observatorio Rural, June 29 from BASE Investigaciones Sociales)

The abduction of Irala follows the May 26 torture and murder of rural leader Antonio Almada of the Menno Cue settlement in Yasy Kany district, Canindeyu department. Almada’s body was found along Route 10, which crosses the settlement; family members believe he was tortured by members of a local mafia that operates in the settlement, and his body was thrown on the road and run over to make it appear he had been killed in a traffic accident.

Pelagio Almada, the victim’s father, said an abandoned home was found with traces of blood where it appeared his son had been tortured; he demanded that the police stop insisting the death was an accident and start investigating the case. Pelagio Almada said his son had received death threats for his work in the National Coordinating Board of Campesino Organizations (MCNOC).

Prosecutor Fanny Villamayor appears now to be considering the case as a possible torture and murder and has charged two people who were with Antonio Almada the night of his death. One of the two suspects has been arrested; the other is a fugitive. Menno Cue is home to 170 families; the settlement has not been legalized and there have been several evictions. (Red Rural, June 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 1

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