by Dario Pignotti
“This killing of campesinos occurred as a result of a process of police violence instigated by landowners who are unhappy with President Lugo; he is not wanted by the Right or by the Brazilian farmers. Brazilian landowners like Tranquilo Favero, the richest soy producer in Paraguay, are interested in destabilizing the government, they want Lugo to fall,” declared Martín Almada, the most important representative of the Paraguayan human rights movement.
Eleven landless campesinos were killed last Friday on a farm near the border with Brazil, where tension is mounting along with demands and direct actions for agrarian reform. The confrontation between the police and the workers left seven officers dead, among them the chiefs of the Special Operations Group, a kind of Paraguayan BOPE [Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais], except that its job is not to repress favela dwellers, as in Rio de Janeiro, but the rural peasants who, since Lugo came to office in 2008, have increased their level of organization and determination to struggle, after decades of submission to the yoke of the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner.
“We know from our long experience with how state violence against the population is unleashed, that these events are never isolated from a greater political intent. What factors are now at play here? What is most clear is the co-optation of the landless so they will stop challenging established power in the countryside and, beyond that, we see a maneuver to destabilize President Lugo. The Brazilian landowners and large soy producers are very interested in having Lugo not last until 2013, when his term is to end,” Almada told Carta Maior by telephone from Asunción.
Almada, winner of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize [the Right Livelihood Award] is a key figure in the struggle for human rights. It was he who in the ‘90s disclosed the Archives of Terror by which the terrorist networks of the Stroessner dictatorship and the South American de facto regimes formed in the ‘70s, when Operation Condor came into being, could be reconstructed.
“Because we have a justice system that is complicit with the established powers, it will never be known who inspired this massacre; what we do know is that people have benefited from this climate of political instability and violence. The agricultural businessman Tanquilo Favero, a Brasiguayo [a wealthy Brazilian who acquired land in Paraguay and became nationalized] who made a fortune thanks to favors from Stroessner, is a person everyone suspects plays hard for destabilization,” Amada comments.
What is clear is that this barbarism serves the interests of the Right, justifies the iron fist of the police and makes more feasible a bloodless coup d’état that might possibly be a political trial of Lugo, so he would be seen as obliged to resign and, in his place, Vice President Federico Franco, a very reactionary politician, would assume the office.”
In Paraguayan history, dictatorship and land ownership are two sides of the same coin.
According to a report by the Truth and Justice Commission of Paraguay, hundreds of thousands of hectares of government land were distributed by the Stroessner regime to members of the military and the haute bourgeoisie, an anomaly that has been the object of review by authorities since 2008 and that led to demands by organizations of the landless, like those who occupied the farm where the massacre occurred last week.
The Coordinadora Nacional de Tierras Irregulares has documentation on farmers whose properties are irregular for having come from government land being given away.
One of those accused of having appropriated thousands of hectares that were public is precisely the Brazilian and nationalized Paraguayan Tranquilo Favero, who does not hide his sympathy for repression of the “ignorant” campesinos, as was shown in statements he made this year, which caused a scandal.
“You can use diplomacy with educated people… it’s just that… you know the popular saying: the wife of a scoundrel is obedient only to a whip… we are dealing with people of such ignorance that you will get nowhere with diplomacy,” says the largest producer of soy in Paraguay, born in Santa Catarina.
When Favero recommends leaving “diplomacy” aside, what he is really taking about is putting aside the so-called “police protocol,” which consists of a series of negotiations the officers are to carry out with the landless before evicting them from occupied land.
It is precisely the new minister of the interior, Rubén Candia Amarilla, a politician belonging to the Partido Colorado appointed by Lugo after the killings, who is so identified with this inclination that shortly after assuming office he announced the end of the “protocol” that obliged the police to hold dialogues with the campesinos in order to avoid violence.
The climate of hostility with the landless has intensified in the past few days since the justice system ordered the detention of dozens of the landless and arrested a female rural worker, campesina Magui Balbuena told Carta Maior today.
“We have reports from our representatives at the location of the massacre saying that several campesinos were taken yesterday to the Colonel Oviedo prison, where there is an injured woman with a three-month-old child she is still breast feeding and the police took the baby, meaning she was taken to prison without her breast-feeding baby,” Magui, of the Coordinadora Nacional de Tierras Irregulares, charged.
Magui, like the Liga Campesina del Paraguay, charged irregularities in the investigations into the events that left 11 workers dead.
“We are far from beginning a real investigation to clarify the occurrences; there are strong indications that the Right is involved in all this in order to generate a political crisis and to halt the development of the process we are carrying forward in Paraguay,” the activist declares.
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Tags: agrarian reform, Alfredo Stroessner, Brasiguayos, Brazil, campesinos, evictions, Fernando Lugo, Liga Campesina del Paraguay, Magui Balbuena, Martin Almada, occupations, Paraguay, Ruben Candia Amarilla, Tranquilo Favero