Days after a deadly eviction of peasants by paramilitaries, anti-privatization protests are shaking Paraguay. Neither have made any significant international media coverage. Cuba’s Prensa Latina reports June 27 that a national mobilization has coverged on Asuncion, the capital, demanding the government halt the pending Law 1615 that calls for further privatization of state services. The protesters have blocked roads and filled streets with massive marches, paralyzing the capital. Led by the National Front in Defense of National Heritage and Public Property, the National Small Farmers Federation, the Front in Defense of Life and Sovereignty, and the Coordination of Small Farmers Organizations, protesters pledge the campaign will escalate if the government goes through with further privatizations.
Similar developments in Uruguay
From the July 3 Weekly News Update on the Americas:
URUGUAY: MARCH FOR WATER RIGHTS
A five-day, 140-kilometer march to demand state control of water and sewer services in Uruguay ended on June 27 with a rally in front of the offices of socialist president Tabare Vazquez in Montevideo. Last Oct. 31, in the same elections that swept Vazquez into office, 64% of Uruguayans approved a “Constitutional Reform in Defense of Water,” which defines water as a human right in the Constitution and requires its continued public, participatory and sustainable management.
The march began on June 22 in the coastal city of Punta del Este. Dozens of people marched for the full five days, holding various actions along the route. The National Commission in Defense of Water and Life (CNDAV), which organized the march and the referendum, is demanding that Vazquez respect the constitutional reform. Vazquez supported the measure during his election campaign, but he changed his stance after taking office on March 1.
On May 20 Vazquez and his Council of Ministers signed a decree allowing the companies already supplying water and sewer services in Uruguay to continue operating, on the argument that the constitutional reform cannot be applied retroactively to break existing contracts–some of which won’t expire for 30 years–with private water companies. The government only rescinded the contract of the Spanish company Aguas de Bilbao for alleged failure to fulfill infrastructure and payment commitments. The constitutional reform mandates that the state does not have to pay compensation to companies whose contracts are rescinded.
On May 27, famed Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano joined some 2,000 people at a demonstration in Montevideo against the decree upholding the existing water contracts. The demonstration was also protesting a government decision to allow the lumber companies ENCE (Spain) and Botnia (Finland) to build cellulose plants on the Uruguay river in the city of Fray Bentos, Rio Negro department. [La Jornada (Mexico) 6/28/05 from AFP; Radio Mundo Real 5/30/05]