MARCHES, demands, hunger strikes and new land occupations are taking place in Paraguay amid announcements of the possible granting of a military base to the United States in the heart of the sub-continent.
A teachers’ strike and condemnations of the decision to allow the Monsanto transnational to freely sell transgenic seeds are some aspects of the internal situation created by the parliamentary coup resulting in the removal of President Fernando Lugo.
The oligarchical regime in Asunción headed by Federico Franco faces almost total isolation. Various governments in the region have announced that they will not attend the Ibero-American Summit in Cadiz, Spain if Franco is present, prompting Madrid to ask the Paraguayan not to come to the meeting.
Internally, thousands of campesinos are mobilized in a different context. Hundreds marched on the capital, once again taking up the struggle for agrarian reform, indefinitely postponed by the rich and landowning classes and to demand the continuation of social programs and projects initiated by the Lugo government.
Luis Aguayo, leader of the Coordinating Committee of Paraguayan Campesino and Indigenous Organizations (COCIP), comprising five campesino groups and an indigenous one, stated, “The march has been like a warming up exercise to once again strengthen the historic struggles and recover the essence of the campesino battle for agrarian reform.”
Another group of farm workers demanding land to work for their survival have been on hunger strike for a week in Misiones department, south of Asunción, outside the regional office of the Rural and Land Development Institute. They also belong to the Paraguayan Campesino Movement, one of the groups fighting to obtain parcels of land to sustain their families.
At the same time, Maggie Balbuena, national coordinator of the Organization of Working and Indigenous Women, called for a return to democracy in Paraguay (clearly violated) and the implementation of comprehensive agrarian reforms.
Balbuena hit the nail on the head by affirming that united demands by the country’s rural inhabitants include the recovery of land ill-gotten by large landowners and foreign enterprises, as well as these lands being handed over for alternative forms of production. She also described the current imposed presidential executive as a dictatorial model of government.
Groups of landless campesino families have once again occupied land at three points of Alto Paraná department in the east of the country, given the lack of any solution to their tragic situation, thus fanning the flames of the conflict.
Another land occupation is underway in the Maraca Mua colony in Hernadarias district.
Completing the panorama, the National Coordinating Committee of Campesino Organizations revealed that Paraguayan agriculture is to become dependent on the U.S. Monsanto multinational given the “magnanimous” liberalization of the use of transgenic seeds produced by Monsanto.
The Committee blamed the government for the serious consequences this has for agriculturalists defending national seeds, considered a heritage of the Guaraní people, historically responsible for agrarian improvements over thousands of years.
Various Latin America media commented on a report by a non-government organization commission stating that the still non-clarified massacre of campesinos in Curuguaty on June 15 was a premeditated provocation by members of the district attorney’s office, the National Police and the Ministry of the Interior. Although the commission does not say so, the Parliament dominated by the right wing could have been prepared in advance to impeach President Lugo in the space of 24 hours, without giving him time for a legal defense.
Campesino anger is compounded by another exponent In Paraguay’s social and political conflict, campesino anger is shared by 16,000 striking teachers and educational workers demanding the current minimum salary and payment of a salary increase due since 2009.
This explosive situation is completed by the revelation, still unofficial, that Franco’s government has decided to concede land to the United States for a military base in the country. Defense Minister María García, a graduate from the National Defense University’s Center for Hemispheric Studies, said more than enough, “Paraguay is free to choose its strategic allies,” according to the ABC Color newspaper.
Assessing the possibility, James Petras commented to Telesur, that Paraguay’s geography is an important factor given that neighboring governments are asserting a degree of independence in foreign policy. “American exercises within Paraguay are simply a preparatory exercise to see if, in the future, they can enter Bolivia or other bordering countries; given that as a military power it is obviously very insignificant. But U.S. intelligence operations in Paraguay could cover the whole continent and I don’t know if many people know that. It’s the same with the espionage they are engaged in, using the latest electronic advances, since Paraguay is the nerve center for these operations.”