Source: Radios Sur / The Dawn News / September 29, 2017
For weeks, the Paraguayan high school student movement has been struggling for numerous changes related to the quality of education and infrastructure of education institutions.
Marches, sit-downs and high school occupations have marked the political agenda and has been met with retaliation by the Education Ministry of Horacio Cartes’ government. Radio show Mandioca Radioactiva spoke with Ernesto Ojeda, leader of the National Federation of High School Students of Paraguay.
The high schooler, who has been charged with the crimes of coercion, aggravated coercion, resistance and deprivation of liberty, has denounced a systematic plan of persecution of the student movement that has been going on since 2014 and includes judicial charges, wiretaps by the Armed Forces and threats against student leaders.
“I was charged after the occupation of the ‘Fernando de la Mora’ High School, which was disrupted by armed civilians who had been hired by the school director’s board and sectional leaders of the Colorado Party who broke into the school to intimidate our peers. Instead of being treated like victims, we were treated like criminals”, Ojeda explained.
The student leader, who was forbidden by the Childhood and Adolescence Court from going out in the public from 9 pm to 6 am and to leave the country, explained: “the Prosecutor demanded I was put in custody. After a mobilization was made outside the court, they gave me minor punishments, but the process still continues. This criminalization seeks to dissolve the struggle and intimidate other students. Those who participated in occupations are being threatened, their parents are called to meetings to get them to stop us from participating. But this is not exclusive to the high-school students’ movement, it also happens in the college students’ movement and in the Catholic University, where armed civilians broke in to physically attack students”.
Mobilizations will continue
“Despite all this”, Ojeda says, “we achieved a victory: an increase in budget which will pay for all four of our demands in 2018. We believe this was a hard blow for the government because it goes against their plan to defund education, and that’s why they retaliated”.
“Our demands are very basic. We don’t want the roofs of our schools to fall on our heads due to deterioration. We want school lunch and stationery for everybody. We won’t allow the expulsion of any of our peers. We will continue to resist”, the high school leader said.