from Weekly News Update on the Americas

Thousands of Paraguayan campesinos continued to occupy estates and block roads during the week of July 17 to demand that the government of President Nicanor Duarte Frutos address the problems they face. The protests began on July 12 as part of a National Campaign for Integral Agrarian Reform.

On July 19, at least 800 campesinos from the National Coordinating Committee of Campesino Organizations (MCNOC) blocked Route 8 at a crossroads in Numi district, on the border between Guaira and Caazapa departments. Police responded with violent repression: in a communique issued the same day, MCNOC reported that eight people were badly hurt and taken to the hospital in Villarrica, Guaira, including a man with a serious head injury; 51 people were detained at the Villarrica police station, including children, a pregnant woman and two MCNOC leaders; and 200 campesinos, men and women, “were savagely tortured for more than two hours, naked, face down,” by police and possibly soldiers. (MCNOC communique, July 19 via Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales; Adital, Brazil, July 20; La Nacion, Paraguay, July 20)

The Paraguayan daily La Nacion reported that 38 people were arrested–including nine infants and children, detained with their parents–and 12 people were injured in the police crackdown at Numi. Villarrica prosecutor Perla Caceres de Bataglia issued the order to forcibly remove the protesters, and police from Guaira and Caazapa carried it out. Caceres is threatening to bring charges against the campesinos for organizing the blockade of the route, and to charge parents for allegedly using their children as “shields.”

In Itapua department, campesinos said they would blockade Route 6 in the area of Maria Auxiliadora to impede participation in a mayoral primary election for the ruling Colorado Party. Between 300 and 1,000 campesinos have been blocking Route 6 intermittently on a daily basis near the 8 de Diciembre settlement in Tomas Romero Pereira district. There have also been intermittent blockades of Route 7 in Jose Domingo Ocampos district, Caaguazu department. (LN, July 20)

Also on July 19, some 3,000 campesinos from the MCNOC marched along Route 10 in Capiibary, San Pedro department, to protest a police attack on protesters there the previous week which left several people injured. Among those hurt was Fidelina Aquino, who was eight months pregnant and lost her unborn child as a result of the attack. (LN, July 20; Prensa Latina, July 20)

Meanwhile, more than 300 indigenous people from the Mbya Guarani nation have been camped out since July 6 in the main plaza of the city of San Juan Nepomuceno, Caazapa department, demanding “land and freedom” as well as autonomy for indigenous peoples. The protesters are from Karumbey, Kokuere Guazu and other communities in Caazapa. They are also demanding the removal of missionaries from their communities. (Adital, July 21)

From Weekly News Update, July 23

The occupations began on July 12, when some 5,000 landless families invaded 20 estates owned by Paraguayans and foreigners in seven of Paraguay’s 17 departments, in a coordinated action to demand a speedy agrarian reform. “The occupation of private properties is a legitimate action; it may not be legal, but it’s the only way to get the attention of the authorities,” said Luis Aguayo, a leader of the MCNOC. (AP, July 12)

The owners’ claims to the 20 properties occupied by MCNOC members on July 12 are of “spurious origin,” said Aguayo, since the lands were “adjudicated to characters connected with the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989),” and many lack legal titles. The occupied estates are located in the departments of Caaguazu, Caazapa, Itapua, Canindeyu, Misiones, San Pedro and Paraguari. The date of the land invasion was chosen because July 12 marks the 20th anniversary of the murder of two campesinos by soldiers, Aguayo noted. (Notimex, July 12)

Aguayo said that a year ago the MCNOC presented President Duarte Frutos with a plan for expropriating large tracts of idle lands owned by foreigners. “We did the same with the legislators, but we haven’t received a favorable response, so we have no other option than to occupy the lands,” Aguayo explained. There are 300,000 landless families in Paraguay, according to Aguayo. (AP, July 12) Official statistics show that 80% of the land in Paraguay is in the hands of less than 10% of the population. (Adital, July 14)

Duarte reacted to the land occupations on July 12 by holding a meeting with Agriculture Minister Carlos Santacruz; Santacruz then announced that the government would increase a credit line for campesino cotton producers who had suffered drought losses. (Notimex, July 12)

Virgilio Barboza, chief of public order for the National Police, said his agency was implementing “dialogue as a way to avoid frictions or violent actions; through conversations with the campesino leaders we are trying to persuade them to start leaving the private properties peacefully.” Barboza said the police had managed to peacefully end two of the occupations so far.

“We won’t use force because it won’t be the solution, besides which the National Police doesn’t have enough agents to control all the invasions,” said Barboza. (AP, July 12) However, according to press reports, some 100 police agents intervened to remove a group of 3,000 campesinos from the MCNOC who were blocking a highway in Capiibary, San Pedro department. Two people were arrested and nine injured. The campesinos have camped out nearby and say they will invade other estates. (Adital, July 14)


On July 12, Paraguayan campesino groups and social organizations held a press conference to announce that US Marines and special groups acting as paramilitaries “are responsible for more than 30 disappearances and deaths” since April of workers and campesinos in Paraguay. “In less than three months there were more than 30 disappearances and several deaths, all at the hands of the landowners of each place,” Nicolas Barreto of the Paraguayan Campesino Movement (MCP) told the Argentine news agency Telam. (Telam, July 12)

Paraguayan armed forces spokesperson Col. Elvio Antonio Flores Servin told Telam the charges were untrue: “There is not a single US Marine here in Paraguay,” he said. But according to Barreto, “in Paraguay, the army and the paramilitary groups act in the evictions with brutal repression against campesinos, leaving people wounded, dead and disappeared, with the direct control and intervention of [US] marines. (Territorio Digital, Posadas, Misiones [Argentina], July 14)

“Recently the boy Silvino Talavera died in Itapua from toxic agrochemicals, his mother reported it and in vengeance they dismembered her brother and threw him out there so everyone could see what these people are capable of doing,” Barreto explained. That incident apparently took place in Mariscal Estigarribia, where activists charge the US Southern Command has posted a force of 2,800 Marines. In the same area, the Paraguayan government has created a Citizen Security Guard, a special group that acts as a sort of legalized paramilitary group. Barreto said the paramilitary groups recruit their members from among the children of the campesinos. When human rights groups recently called on the government to dismantle the groups, deputy interior minister Commissary General Mario Agustin Saprisa responded: “in the United States and Colombia [similar groups] exist and have had good results.”

Barreto said the violence has emerged in response to stepped-up campesino struggles. “With his announced zero tolerance policy, President Duarte Frutos militarized the struggle and gave it a framework of unusual violence,” said Barreto. “To such a point that the Marines participate in the repression and even occupy agricultural schools. That is, they act like a true occupation army.” (Telam, July 12)

“The Marines are the ones who are instructing the Paraguayan forces for repression, linking campesino organizations with terrorist cells whose existence has never been proven,” agreed Vidal Acevedo of the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ) of Paraguay. Acevedo said the repression consists of “a joint action to stop campesino organizations.” (TD, July 14)

The US Southern Command had permission to stay in Paraguay until the end of 2006, but Vice President Luis Castigilione announced that the permission has been extended for an additional year. In Mariscal Estigarribia, a 3,800-meter-long airstrip has been built to handle large planes. Mariscal Estigarribia is in the Chaco region of northwestern Paraguay, close to lithium mines in Argentina’s Salta province and the largest gasfields in the region, across the border in the Bolivian department of Tarija. (Telam, July 12)

The US embassy in Asuncion responded to the criticisms on July 12 with a communique, insisting that the US soldiers in Paraguay are carrying out “humanitarian and medical assistance to poor communities as well as military training,” and that the US “has no intention whatsoever to establish a military base anywhere in Paraguay.” (Agencia Periodistica del Mercosur, July 13) US Embassy press attache Bruce Clainer told Telam the accusation about the military base “is a complete myth.” (Telam, July 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 16


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also:

“Paraguay: march against US troops,” WW4 REPORT, June 21


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Aug. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution