Curuguaty Massacre: A Trial at the Service of the Land Owners

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“The bourgeois state equals consent plus coercion. Consent is built through different methods, such as education, family, religion, fashion, culture, etc. Thus, in a subtle way, the governed cooperate voluntarily and actively with the power. When something goes wrong, dominant sectors resort to strength, coercion, and violence through the repressive apparatus of the State. That’s how hegemony is built”

— Antonio Gramsci

By: Jorge Zárate / Source: E’a / The Dawn News / July 11, 2016


Judge Trinidad Zelaya has trouble understanding Spanish, he has trouble reading it and he has trouble writing it, like many peasants and urban workers in Paraguay.

That’s not an issue because Paraguay is a bilingual country (the official languages being Spanish and Guaraní, the main native tongue), but it’s important to understand that this sets a particular scenario of action.

To fully comprehend this, we must analyze the 27-minute press round that the President of the Court gave after reading the resolutive part of the sentence that condemned 11 of the peasants that were being accused in this bizarre, at the very least, and spurious trial that is far from coming to an end.

We may understand the depths of his behavior when we observe that the judge needs to speak in Guaraní to give the most difficult explanations for the decisions the court made —difficult because of the lack of fairness and justice that support them.

But the form of Guaraní he uses is what’s noteworthy: he uses the Guaraní spoken by the foremen, the role most servile to the master there is in the Paraguayan society.

These are deep patterns.

“Oré la autoridá” (in Guaraní, “we, the authorities”), he said during the reading of the sentence, after defender Amelio Sisco pointed out a violation of the due forms.

It was unbelievable —the faces of those waiting outside, on the street, expressed disappointment, incredulity, sadness. It was unbelievable but true: the court considered that there was enough evidence to prove all of the charges and sentenced Rubén Villalba to 30 years in prison plus 5 in probation, Luis Olmedo to 20 years in prison, 18 years for Arnaldo Quintana and Néstor Castro, 6 for Lucía Agüero, Fany Olmedo and Dolores López, and 4 for Felipe Benítez Balmori, Adalberto Castro, Alcides Ramírez and Juan Tillería.

Back to the press round, where everything is explained a bit further.

Zelaya affirms that everything they did, was based on evidence: “As we said, we won’t go into detail, next Monday 11:00 am everything will be explained. Those who have been condemned to four years are already heading towards their homes… Rubén Villalba is imprisoned in Tacumbú and remains there… Quintana, Castro, and Olmedo will remain in Emboscada since Tacumbú [the main prison of the country] is not accepting any more inmates”.

Journalists questioned him about the situation of Villalba and Olmedo, who are accused of killing.

“We’re no longer living in the Inquisition times; back then, death was proven by the death certificate… Now we can prove it through any means of evidence, by testimonies, videotaped or photographic images… and we analyzed the declarations of 290 witnesses. Over 200 of them are police officers that were present at the scene”.

He was then questioned on the lack of relation between the facts that the prosecutors exposed and what in fact happened.


“Everything is in the enacting part of our sentence. The court believed, sought and proved that those punishable offences were committed because the objective and subjective elements and the causal link were demonstrated in the trial”, Zelaya replied.

And now we arrive to the central issue, the question of the property of the estate on which the massacre was committed, which, according to all investigations and testimonies from public entities, was owned by the state of Paraguay.

“Before April 13th, the property was being peacefully occupied, administered for use and enjoyment by Morombí Farms…”, says Zelaya, raising the tone of his voice, playing his role.

This is when it becomes clear as day that this is a role that is permanent in the judicial power: the role of the foreman judge, the judge of the masters.

He then goes on to describe: “There are multiple evidences of the criminal association… Objects were stolen, there was rustling, the place was invaded by means of force and clandestinity… those are three objects, three punishable acts, that were evidently committed”, he exposed.

“Will it be described who killed whom?”, they insist.

“Generic issues are declared invalid, obviously. It was unequivocally proven that these two people killed because otherwise it would be void”.

And here we see another topic that is historical in Latin American justice: the taming of rebel leaders. It’s classic throughout the continent, but in Paraguay there’s a special folklore.

“The law contemplates 11 attenuating or aggravating circumstances… None of the attenuating circumstances were present in the conduct of Rubén Villalba… There’s no attenuating circumstance, and he’s proven to be the leader. Evidence says that his cellphone says he was at that place, that he was hurt, and other things we have…”.

And thus they carry out their plan smoothly, undisturbed.

“The sentence is firm… That property belongs to Morombí Farms… We’re going to analyze the behavior of Amelio Sisco, [Luis] Lezcano Claude and Azuaga… If we want to live under the rule of law we have to respect judicial decisions… Otherwise we’d be in absolute anarchy and that can’t be allowed and it’s forbidden. [The ruling] is subject to appeal in the Appeal Chamber or the Supreme Court of Justice… They have the faculty to resort to the corresponding entity”.

Only then is he questioned about the murder of peasants at the Massacre of Curuguaty.

“What was presented to us, death of [peasants], death of police officers, and an accusation… The evidence brought to us were linked to that fact; at the time of the incident, officer [Jalil] Rachid had expressed that the investigation of the 11 peasants is in the Human Rights Prosecutor’s Office… We can’t research…”.

In his explanation, Zelaya said that he had been sent notes that denounced the torture and extrajudicial executions that were testified in the trial and, for the third time, as in the Bible’s famous denying of the facts, he lied: “to us, that land is owned by Morombí Farms…”.

In a world of true justice, this sort of judges should go to jail for prevarication. It’s worth remembering that “prevarication is a crime that consists in an authority, judge or other public servant dictating an arbitrary resolution in an administrative or judicial matter, knowing that said resolution is unfair. It’s comparable to the breach of duty by a public servant…”.

They, however, are confident about their impunity, they have served their master in the worst possible way, they have held up their double standards —they are the only ones they know, the ones that allow them to pursue a career in the judicial power: to submit the dispossessed, the ones that struggle for their rights.

The importance of the act lies in all the things it reveals. The curtain is still far from going down.


The justice system of Paraguay “revictimized the peasant men and women of the Curuguaty case with its verdict”, said Rosa María Ortiz, former UN Rapporteur. She demanded a punishment for those responsible at the Public Ministry and considered that the groups that demand justice could, in time, bring change to the country.

For the Undersecretary of International Relations of the Unitary Central of Workers of Brazil, Ariovaldo de Camargo, “it’s unacceptable for a court to be transformed into a resonance box for the big capital, putting working-class men and women behind the bars to benefit half a dozen landowners and transnationals. Now, more than ever, it’s time to get involved in the fight for truth and justice, and raise our voices for the immediate acquittal of the innocent ones”, she said.

In turn, Aitor Martínez, Spanish lawyer, said that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will annul this ruling: “The Court will set these people free and demand an indemnization that the Paraguayan taxpayers will have to pay. This sort of arbitrariness isn’t going to hold up in international instances”, the expert affirmed.

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