General strike and political construction in Paraguay

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By Nadia Alderete / Source www.contrahegemoniaweb.com.ar / The Dawn / January 3, 2016.- On the days of 21 and 22 of December, a group of social and political organizations of Paraguay carried out a general strike and a civic national strike in opposition to those policies implemented by the government of Horacio Cartes, who since the moment he came to power in 2013 passed a number of measures of clear neoliberal nature*. This strike was in synchrony with the development of the Mercosur Summit carried out in the capital Asunción.

The claims were defended and supported by unions, student, peasant and urban organizations, which represented different sectors of society. Among them, was present the Democratic Congress of the People**, which is an instance that was reactivated this year and which brings together several organizations that oppose Cartes’ policies, such as the National Peasant Federation, The National Coordination of Female Rural and Indigenous Workers, the National Coordination Roundtable of Peasant Organizations, the Paraguay Pyahura Party and the Guasú Front, among many others.

The strike was also notorious due to the presence of the university students who denounced corruption in state universities and achieved great victories.

The claims included the agrarian reform, attention to the problems of peasant agriculture, taxes on agribusiness, control on the use of agrotoxics, elimination of the Law of Public-Private Alliance and of the Defense and Internal Security Law, a model of inclusive development, ceasing of the criminalization of social protest, union freedom, salary readjustment, investment in education, universitary reform and universal access to public and quality health.

This general strike was the second one that this administration had to endure so far —the first one was in 2014, with an important support and centered mainly around the rejection to the privatizing and repressive policies adopted a few months earlier—, and at the same time there was a protest of bus drivers of a particular company before the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security. The bus drivers have set up a camp and three of them crucified themselves as a form of protest, because they were fired for trying to form a union. They remained crucified for four months, awaiting a response from the government, and finally the union was approved last November.

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Around those days, there were serious floods in many parts of the country, specifically in the South and North Lagoon of Asuncion, where many families live and resist the insidious advance of immobiliary business and suffer day after day the consequences of the capitalist model, their claims being answered only with repression***. The last numbers estimate that around 100 thousand people were evacuated only in Asuncion, where 80 thousand remain in shelters with great uncertainty about the possibility of returning home.

All these events strengthen the unity of the diverse organizations and political spaces that protagonize the struggles, in a context of growing social conflict, that unveils the accumulative, exclusive and inevitably repressive side of the current model that controls the country and that finds in political power, a strong ally.

In 2002, the Democratic Congress of the People showed the great potential to respond that can be achieved by political forces that bet on the transformation of society. Yesterday and today, protagonism is in the hands of peasant organizations, due to the level of organization that they have and the mobilization capacity of their bases. In this sense, the National Peasant Federation has an historic accumulation in matter of resistance and defence of the peasant way of life and production, as opposed to agribusiness.

At the same time, the aforementioned National Coordination of Female Rural and Indigenous Workers bets on creating a specific space for working women in defense of their rights and in struggle against patriarchy, in addition to fighting against the soy-producing model and pioneering the denounce of the poisoning of peasant families because of agrotoxics. These organizations, as well as other similar ones, propose an alternative way of living, a society without exploitation, based on non-repressive social relations and with an egalitarian distribution of wealth. Even if we take into account that the base of power is in the current distribution of life, we can perceive the importance of demands by peasant organizations and the consequent criminalization, persecution and violence they suffer at the hands of the state.

On the other hand, it is indispensable for any type of resistance against the current system of domination to have coordination and long-term projects between peasant, urban and working-class organizations under a same political umbrella. Only the participation of the popular movement as a whole can create ways that are different from the historic inequality and absence of a real democracy that characterize the country.

*Among these is the Law of Public-Private Alliance, that mandates the allocation of goods, services and public resources to the private sector, and the National Defense and Internal Security Law, that mandated the creation of the Joint Task Force with the alleged goal of combating the Paraguay Popular Army, but really militarizes the peasant territories.

 

**This congress originated in 2002, when it successfully stopped a number of policies promoted by the IMF, such as the law of privatizations and the Anti-Terrorist law, and it deactivated shortly thereafter.

 

***On December 18, demonstrators of the Coordination of Social and Communitarian Organizations of the Asuncion Lagoons, while they were demanding urgent solution for problems caused by the floods, before the Secretariat of National Emergency.

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