Curuguaty: the price of the land struggle in Paraguay

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By Vanessa Pérez and Raúl García / Source diagonalperiodico.net / The Dawn / Decemeber 26, 2015.  The result of the land eviction left 17 dead, 11 peasant farmers, many of them executed once wounded, and six policemen.

Everytime the court enters the room and exclaims “Stand up”, we remain seated, unable to give up that act of freedom.  Today, freedom of nine men and four women depend on them. Thirteen innocent peasants, who in an act of civil disobedience exercised their freedom and right to a piece of land in which to live and grow in Paraguay. In our eyes, that fills them with right and dignity. Erich Fromm already said: “The act of disobedience as an act of freedom is the beginning of reason”.

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“What happened in Curuguaty?”


What happened in Curuguaty?

 

On June 15, 2012, police illegally evicted 326 public lands of Marina Kué, in the community of Yvypytã, department of Canindeyú, where dozens of landless families camped. The invasion left 17 dead, 11 of them peasant farmers —many of them executed when they were already wounded— and six policemen. Those peasants who managed to escape were imputed of the  six policemen’s deaths. No matter what was unveiled in the autopsy. These tests were silenced. The peasants were killed on the road and their death has not been investigated until today. This massacre marked the beginning of the biggest political crisis in the country in the XXI century and the continuation of the new model for coups d’Etat that began in Latin America with the 2009 coup in Honduras.

Fernando Lugo, the beaten democracy

 

On April 20, 2008, Paraguay went to the polls for the fifth time after the end of Alfredo Stroessner’s dictatorship, in 1989. That same day, after six uninterrupted decades in power, the Colorado Party lost the elections. The daring winner was a former bishop called Fernando Lugo.

It was said that he would raise a flag similar to the Theology of Liberation, but his party, the Guasú Front, allied with the traditionalist Authentic Radical Liberal Party. Under those circumstances, the promised  recovery of the rule of law would be complicated. It would take three years to investigate the ill-gotten lands, meaning, public land that had been illegally distributed among friends of the regime.

The watchful right took advantage of two circumstances:  Strong union protests against the government and the organized ambush in the lands of Marina Kué: Lugo was accused of “bringing chaos and class struggle between compatriots”. His Vice President, the liberal Federico Franco, took power until August 15, 2013, when once again a President of the Colorado Party, Horacio Cartes, took office.

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The interests behind the slaughter

The slaughter of Marina Kué had a specific but invisible intent: taking over power. An eviction order accompanied by an army?

This coup installed again a government of fascist ideology, which dismissed opposition officials, criminalized social struggle, co-opted or persecuted leaders, bought media, legalized the “improved” transgenic seeds, gave carte blanche to transnationals and pesticides, expropriated commons and restored alliances with the Yankee empire.

Marina Kué: State land in the hands of a company, Campos Morombí

 

According to official figures from the Census of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture in 2008, 85% of arable land belongs to a 3% of the people.

Peasants in the city add to the poverty belt. As Néstor Castro said to us, “in Paraguay, without land people don’t eat, and with land people live”. That is the reason why lands continue to get occupied, as a claim for a ‘dignified life’, promised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Due to that complaint,  families decided to occupy Marina Kué, ill-gotten lands of the now-deceased friend of Stroessner’s regime and former Senator from the Colorado Party, Blas N. Riquelme, from the Riquelme family, owners of Morombí Fields.

 

What is Morombí Fields?

 

Morombí Fields (Campos Morombí in Spanish) is a company of the Riquelme group. In 2012, Blas N. Riquelme was president, Licy Yanes Riquelme assumed the Vice Presidency, Jorge A. Riquelme was the director and the secretary was Marta Riquelme. A whole lineage that managed to acquire the Marina Kué land fraudulently.

The 2000 hectares that constitute Marina Kué were given to the State in 1967 by The Paraguayan Industrial SA (Lipsa, La Industrial Paraguaya S.A.). From 1967 to 1999, uninterruptedly, the “35 KmCuruguaty” Naval Agricultural Detachment occupied lands. Five years after, the Movement for the Peasant Recovery of Canindeyú (Movimiento por la Recuperación Campesina de Canindeyú, MRCC) requested the land for the expansion of the Yvypytã colony. The INDERT (National Institute of Rural Development and Land) reactivated the negotiations for the legal transfer. As this occurs, the company Campos Morombí starts a trial of adverse possession (law that allows to acquire land by occupation) and wins.

When these lands are occupied, the company Campos Morombí files a complaint due to ‘invasion of property’ and asked for it to be considered for “judicial assistance and evacuation”. The result of this request was the slaughter of Curuguaty.

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A piece of land, nature reserve?

Currently, the case is still in legal dispute. However, since the ownership of the property has not been clarified, the company Campos Morombí, in early September, had another irregularity. On this occasion, the cunning plan was to donate the Marina Kué land to the State and declare it a nature reserve. Last November 24 incumbent President Horacio Cartes decides to validate the last trick of the Riquelme’s by accepting the donation. The Colorado Party Leader declared that he accepted in order to “put an end to the matter”. It is important noting that the Armed Forces of the Nation will be the ones in charge of protecting and guarding the integrity of the reserve and the conservation of its resources.

 

From our prudent distance we ask: Might this have something to do with the fact that relatives of the accused and the murder reoccupied the lands in late August? Would an eviction order awake the Paraguayan and international action this time? Is it possible that the cunning minds of the right have even studied the characteristics of the new generations and have observed that all they demand is nothing more than the protection of the environment? Could be possible that they have managed to legitimize transgenic soybean crops from Brazil in front of the road and that, protected by the “nature reserve” in conjunction with the armed forces, they marijuana cultivation inside the territory? It would be very naive to think that this donation is made and accepted for the preservation of the environment.

Rubén, Néstor, Felipe, Dolores, Adalberto, Arnaldo, Lucia, Juan Carlos, Alcides, Fani, Felipe, Luis and Raquel, are the faces that the State has chosen to purge the maneuver. They live incarcerated, first in prisons and then, after several hunger strikes, under house arrest. Except for Rubén Villalba, who is prisoner in Tacumbú. They are currently being judged.  Meanwhile, the President wants “to end this matter” by accepting the donation of Morombí Fields.

Poverty debates against accumulated wealth of the oligarchs. The prosecutor, Jalil Rachid, whose father —a supporter of Stroessner— had political relations with Blas Riquelme, of the Riquelme family, wants them behind bars. He watches them behind his mask of “good family man”,  knowing he has the court on his side.

rodolfo_castro_campesino_en_recuperacion_de_las_tierras_de_marina_kue“Justice for all. Freedom for the political prisoners”.

From this position, he knows he can go in and out of the room by the back door. “There are some Spaniards who want to know your opinion”, says his partner. “I do not want to speak to anybody”. The prosecutor refused to talk to us and the Ministry of Justice denied our request to enter with our video cameras in the Tacumbú jail to interview Ruben Villalva.
What are they hiding?

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