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2-Plants: Paraguay - soy spreads and the peasant to Jail

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TITLE:  Paraguay. Soy Spreads and the Peasant to Jail
        The Expansion of Soy in Paraguay
SOURCE: Grupo de Reflexion Rural, Argentina, by Javiera Rulli
DATE:   Feb 2006

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Paraguay. Soy Spreads and the Peasant to Jail
The Expansion of Soy in Paraguay

Paraguay is an extreme case in the MERCOSUR of soy in terms of the most
violent and cruel face of the agricultural industry.  Each hectare of
soy spreads in Paraguay with the price of blood from the rural
communities.  For the agricultural industry, rural agriculture is an
obstacle which should be destroyed in order to expand.  Paraguay is a
country that to this day maintains a living rural and indigenous
culture, with the majority of the population living in rural areas and
attempting to be self-sufficient.  However, the distribution of land has
historically been extremely unequal.  In Paraguay less than 2% of the
population owns 70% of the land.  The advance of the agricultural export
model of soy and the expansion of producers of genetically modified soy
monocultures has created a frontal threat to the rural and indigenous
communities in the past few years.  The government under Duarte Frutos,
involved in a chain of corruption and supported by agribusiness
corporations like Monsanto, Cargill,  Dreyfuss, Syngenta, assaults
peasant organizations every time with greater impunity.  The genetically
modified soy enters the country through US troups, as well as through
the WWF´s debt for forests swaps and the debt for health swaps of
USAID.  With this, glimpses of Paraguay's future are seen with the
corporations controlling the agricultural lands, the genetically
modified seeds and remnants of the forest.  American soldiers in the
future will be those who train the military detachments and in their
free time will control the education and health of the rural communities.

While the corporations expand in large estates of thousands of hectares
and those with long-standing alliances to Stroessner are the owners of
approximately 12 million hectares, the peasants gather together in the
colonies en lots that are hardly 1 to 3 hectares.  In Paraguay, a family
with less than five hectares is considered to be landless because with
such a small amount of land they cannot be self-sufficient.  Belarmino
Balbuena, leader of the Movimiento Campesino Paraguayo (Paraguayan
Peasant Movement), has said that soy dominates the entire Eastern part
of the country and is now devastating the center of the country and
departments free of the soy crop do not exist anymore.  Balbuena
estimates that almost half of the conflicts related to land involve soy
producers, and they are also characterized as the most violent
conflicts.  The range of the soy producers is varied, amongst them are
Brazilians, Germans, Italians, and large corporations like Cargill,
Dreyfuss and ADM.

The consequences of the monoculture model of GM soy that is spreading to
all parts of Paraguay are innumerable: deaths due to poisoning, massive
intoxications, expulsion from the land, alienation from national
territory and a loss of sovereignty.  In the Eastern part of the country
the Paraguayan population has become the minority and is pushed aside by
colonies of foreign soy producers.  GM soy is principally promoted by
groups of Brazilians, who manage with paramilitary groups and the
techniques of death squadrons (a common practice in Brasil).

Soy Spreads and the Peasants Head to Jail

Since the year 2000, soy monocultures have spread from 1.1 to 2.05
million hectares.  The expansion of monocultures has provoked the
eviction of rural workers and indigenous peoples, evictions strongly
increasing in the middle of a wave of criminalization against such
movements;  between the years 1994-1998 there were 100 evictions, while
between the years 2000-2003 there were 69 and only in the year 2004 the
number of registered evictions jumped to 66.  In the last 15 years, 6122
rural workers were arrested.  In the last few months, 46 people have
been sentenced to 2, 3 and 4 years in prison for their participation in
conflicts over land and more than 600 rural workers have passed through
the various prisons in the country.  In reality, there are 2800 imputed
in the whole country.  The imputations are selective, generally for the
leaders, and can be just for having spoken on the radio.

Since President Duarte Frutos signed an agreement with the soy producers
and the military in 2004, the violence in the evictions has become a
continuous practice.  The evictions occur without any kind of previous
warning.  The police act together with the military and paramilitary of
the large estate owners and supervised by the district attorney,
surprise the peasants at 2-3 a.m., breaking into their houses and
arresting all of the family members.  There are cases of detentions,
beatings and shootings with firearms.  The women, children and even
wounded are detained and there are many cases of lost pregnancies due to
beatings during the evictions.  The soldiers rob all of the people's
belongings, destroy their houses, their harvest, killing their animals.
The evictions not only affect the newly settled, but also sometimes
affect the older established communities, including those with legal
ties to the land. These actions are used as a scare tactic on the
communities so that the people do not help them.

INDERT is more like a Real Estate Agency

In Paraguay there has been prevailing a program of Land Reform regulated
by INDERT (The National Institute of Rural and Land Development) since
the 60s.  The biggest obstacle in achieving land reform is that all of
the land in Paraguay is separated into private lots and hardly any
public land remains.  The function of INDERT's departmental agents is to
coordinate the expropriation of large unproductive estates, irregular
land transfers and localization of the remnants of public lands.  But
these agents act more like real estate agents inserted in the
speculation of the land attractive to the soy producers.  And they
increase their salaries with the commissions received from the soy producers.

The same corruption extends to the state district attorneys and for them
each eviction and detention of a peasant is supported by the local
district attorney.  It is the agents of INDERT that turn the lands over
to Brazilian citizens.  These do not fulfill the characteristics of the
legitimate subjects of INDERT's land reform program, but they can pay in
cash and increase the commission of the departmental agents.

INDERT's departmental agents take advantage of the peasants' precarious
situation and offer them money for abandoning their lots, and arranging
for them a sale of derecheras, implying the sale of the right of use on
behalf of the settled peasant.  The families are compensated with money
and migrate towards the poorer areas on the outskirts of the cities
believing that better opportunities await them.   After a few years
these families have lost everything and return to increase the long list
of landless people that go around the country, and in other cases these
displaced people migrate to other countries to look for work.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to point out that the sale of land use
rights are completely illegal operations because they do not obey
INDERT's statute that establishes that the lands are inalienable for a
period of 10 years.

Through the sales of the use rights, derechera,  the communities
fragment.  The majority of those that buy the land, utilize it to plant
soy.  They enter with armed guards and agrochemicals.  The violence
against the neighbors worsens, the people become ill and lose their
crops due to fumigations, and in addition are constantly scared by
armored groups and the police.  Resistance on behalf of the peasant
organizations to the sale of the land use rights is one of the principal
causes of violence in the communities.  Direct conflict with the soy
producers happens when militants from the organizations of rural workers
oppose the loss of the lots, denounce the irregularity and reoccupy the
lots along with other landless families. It is because of this that the
organizations of rural workers oppose any type of intrusion of soy in
their communities.

International Solidarity with Paraguay

The plans of the government to stimulate the expansion of GM soy
monocultures to cover 4 million hectares supposes a frontal attack not
only on the rural and indigenous communities but also on the entire
future of Paraguay.  The wave of criminalization of the peasant
organizations deepens the agrarian crisis. The negation of INDERT to
negotiate with the peasants that are imputed or with the settlements
that occupy large unproductive estates implies an absolute negation to
resolve the situation of the landless.  The indifference of the
government to the contamination of people by agrotoxics, with
innumerable instances of death, abortions, malformations at birth is
evidence of the assassinating complicity of the Duarte's mafia. It is
urgent that the international community reacts in the face of this grave
human rights violations, sending human rights observers and questioning
and pressuring the actions of the government of Nicanor Duarte Frutos.

Vía Campesina and Movimiento Agrario Popular of Paraguay together with
the Rural Reflection Group (GRR) and the Group of Legal Support for the
Access to the Land (GAJAT)- both from Argentina- with the support of the
NGO BASE-IS are working on an international campaign of denunciation of
the human rights violations that are taking place in Paraguay, due to
the expansion of single-crops of soy.  A denunciation of the case of the
assassination and eviction of the Tekojoja community has been initiated
together with FIAN and COHRE towards international human rights
institutions, in which we have solicited an investigation of the actions
of the Paraguayan government in relation to human rights and the rights
of the rural communities.  We have asked that they undertake the
opportunity to visit "in loco" the places where there have been
incidents and interview the victims, the families and friends and other
witnesses of the occurred violations.

The Last Cases in 2005

October 9. Esteban Hermosilla disappeared the 9th of October and was
found the 17th of October, 2005 in the district of Curuguaty department
of Canindeyú.  Esteban was kidnapped, tortured, assassinated and half-
burried by the bullies Waldir Presen Da Silva and Wilmar Presen Da Silva
from the Joaquín Fernández Martin Ranch.  As a signal of exchange, they
cut off his ear to later hand over to his patrons.  Furthermore, the
disappearances of various other rural workers have been denounced but
these have never been cleared up.

October 20.  Eviction, the burning of 20 ranches and the stealing of 2
motorbikes, in the Third of June settlement in the district of Tavai
department of Caazapá,  where 250 families have been settled for more
than 3 years.  The eviction was headed by the district attorney Vidal
Francia from the district of Caazapá, and accompanied by approximately
50 police and armed bullies.

October 18.  Adriano Medina, 15 years old, disappeared the 29th of
September, 2005 and was found dead the 18th of October, 2005, on the
property of Ivo José and Douglas Muller. The event happened in the
district of Iruña, department of Alto Paraná.

September 19. 2 police paid by the owner of a large estate tried to
assassinate Benito Gavilán, leader of his community, "María Antonia," in
the district of Mbuyapey, department of Paraguari.  Afterwards, they
initiated a wave of break ins against the community in a search for the
wounded.  Benito could escape after 3 days and arrived at the hospital
where they noticed a bullet had shattered his entire eye.

June 24.  The rural community of Tekojoja in the department of Caaguazú
was brutally removed by police forces.  270 people were removed, 54
houses and harvests were burned, 2 people were assassinated and many
more hurt, 130 people- including women and children- were arrested.  The
eviction happened with the collaboration of the owner of the large soy
estate Opperman and his paramilitary troops, assassinating Ánel
Cristaldo, 20 years old and Leopoldo Torres, 49 years old, and hurting 5
people.  To this day, the 54 families are still staying in a precarious
encampment without any type of support.

More info:


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