Paraguayans Protest Rumsfeld

Dozens of protesters shouted, “Rumsfeld, you fascist, you are the terrorist,” on Aug. 17 as US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld presented a floral offering at the Tomb of the Heroes in downtown Asuncion during a brief visit to Paraguay. The protest was organized by the Peace and Justice Service-Paraguay (SERPAJ-PY), which called Rumsfeld’s visit “an extension of the process of war” by the US against the region. Rumsfeld arrived in Paraguay on Aug. 16 to start a three-day visit to the region.

The US currently has two groups of soldiers in Paraguay: one is said to be training officers of the presidential guard in urban “antiterrorist” operations; the other is reportedly providing medical, dental and veterinarian care in poor rural areas. The US military presence is scheduled to continue until December 2006, with 406 soldiers participating in 13 contingents. The US soldiers have been granted diplomatic immunity by Paraguay’s Congress. Rumsfeld denied reports that the US was planning to install a military base in Paraguay. The Bolivian daily El Deber has reported that the US is building a base in Mariscal Estigarribia, Boqueron department, in the Chaco region of northwestern Paraguay, some 250 km from Bolivia; the US built an airport there in the past. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Aug. 18; La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 19; Adital, Aug. 16)

From Paraguay, Rumsfeld flew to Peru, meeting with President Alejandro Toledo in Lima on Aug. 18. The visit to the two countries was Rumsfeld’s third Latin American tour in less than a year. As in his last tour, in March, Rumsfeld seemed intent on isolating the leftist government of Cuba and the left-populist government of Venezuela. “There is certainly evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways,” Rumsfeld told reporters in Lima. (AP, Aug. 19)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 21

See our last post on Paraguay.