By Federico Larsen
Chokokue is a word in Guaraní that means peasant, or farmer, and it is the name of the report published a few days ago by the Paraguayan Human Rights Coordinator (Codehupy) about the murders of peasants committed in that country in the last 24 years. The work takes as the starting date of the investigation on February 3, 1989, the day that General Andrés Rodríguez led a coup that removed the dictator Alfredo Stroessner after 35 years of government. It is from there that the so-called Democratic Transition begins, a period that, according to several analysts, is still under development. The Codehupy pointed out in its report that since the fall of the dictator until August 2013, 115 peasants were killed by security forces or hitmen commanded by large landowners in order to intimidate the struggle for land. A fact that researchers directly link to the advance of agribusiness and the concentration of land produced during the Democratic Transition.
Paraguay has a very high land concentration index. According to official data, 2.6% of the owners have 85% of the arable land in the country. A process that in the last two decades has been accentuated. Between 1991 and 2008, farms smaller than 100 hectares in extension decreased by 15%, while the largest ones increased by 43%, occupying 30,107,408 cultivable hectares in the country. Added to this is the phenomenon of uninhabited lands, fields that had to be used for agrarian reform and ended up in the hands of supporters of the Stroenist dictatorship or friends of high authorities of the Paraguayan state. Between 1954 and 2003, 7,800,000 hectares of land were fraudulently adjudicated.
“In this context of high concentration of land, of a large amount of ill-habited lands, of a pending debt of the democratic transition that is the agrarian reform, the various acts of abuse and violence against the peasants occur in response to the claims that the movements have been doing for a long time ”, explained Enrique Gauto, executive secretary of Codehupy. “They are demands that go through an agrarian reform that includes the recovery of ill-occupied lands and the improvement of the living conditions of peasant communities. It is important to point out that the agrarian reform in our country has constitutional status. " In her work, the coordinator compiled each of the 115 cases detected, including reconstructions of the murders, and documents that prove their connection with historical sectors of power. "There is clearly a plan promoted by landowners, sectors of political and economic power to progressively displace the peasant population from their lands and increasingly take over the peasant territory," explained Gauto. “These sectors see the land as a highly profitable capital and they have no qualms about advancing in this execution plan. The Judicial Power and the Public Ministry do not adequately investigate these facts, much less a conviction of the moral authors. There is a tacit pact of complicity between the Public Ministry, the Judiciary and sectors of high economic and political power ”. The objective is then to behead the peasant movements, eliminate their leaders or main references to demobilize and generate fear. "We have been able to verify the fear that remains installed in the communities where these murders took place and the difficulty in finding people who can assume the role of the leaders who were executed," said the head of the Coordinator.
In none of the 115 cases have the political leaders been convicted. Of the 91 murders that have come to court, only in eight have the material perpetrators suffered a sentence, although none is firm. Another 47 are in process, 14 cases were declared lost and cannot be located, 16 were judicially closed, and six were not investigated. Most of the perpetrators, 67%, are para-police hitmen. In some cases, they are even civil organizations promoted by the State, such as the “neighborhood security commissions” implemented by President Nicanor Duarte (2003-2008), responsible for various attacks on peasant movements. The security forces, on the other hand, were responsible for the remaining third of the executions, in increasing numbers after the approval of the 1997 penal reform, its successive extensions in 2008 and the Anti-Terrorism Law enacted in 2010, which allows repress several of the actions that peasant organizations carry out, such as roadblocks. More recently, the current president Horacio Cartes approved the questioned Internal Security Law, which allows the Executive, without the approval of Parliament, the militarization and declaration of a State of Siege in entire regions of the country with the excuse of fighting against the Army insurgency. of the Paraguayan People. "There have been reports of abuses in the homes of peasants and leaders, and systematic persecution of organizations within the framework of this law," explained Alberto Britez, of the June 15 Movement. “This has to do directly with the advance of the capitalist mode of production in the countryside, agribusiness. This period of murders is directly related to the expansion of the soybean and livestock territory. In many cases, the suspected moral authors are owners of ranches, large agribusiness companies that hire hitmen, or capangas as we call them. This soy expansion puts pressure on the settlements of peasants in the countryside and the indigenous population. According to Britez, this pressure has grown exponentially under the government of Federico Franco since 2012, and Cartes, who completed his first year in office on August 15, maintained the same policy. “It is the policy of signing agreements with large companies, enabling more and more transgenic seeds from Monsanto that even want to plant soybeans in the Paraguayan Chaco, a very arid territory. Then there is the purchase of peasant and indigenous lands, expulsion via fumigation of the populations, which not only increases the cases of disease, but also drives the peasants away ”. A great shock recently caused the death of Adela and Adelaida Álvarez, aged six months and three years respectively, due to the fumigations in Huber Duré, department of Canindeyú. “Many residents resist in their settlements and this caused that under the Cartes government a modality that was used before but was not common has been rehabilitated, which is police protection for the fumigation of soy fields. This generates a natural reaction from the population and there have been cases of confrontations, including with firearms, where peasant leaders were shot, ”explained Britez.
The National Peasant Federation of Paraguay (FNC) is one of the organizations most affected by the murders. Since 1989, 14 of its members have been executed. Marcial Gómez, deputy general secretary of the FNC, explained that “the vast majority of peasant struggles that take place in our country are violently repressed by the State. It is the struggle for a model of national development. Today we have a business agro-export mode of production based on soybean monoculture. This expels the peasant from the field and the large estate grows in few hands. We have been organizing roadblocks and occupations of large estates because it is the only way to conquer a piece of land, defend our communities, or obtain small sector achievements. But what really matters is placing a new development model in the national debate. Based on the reactivation of agricultural production, agrarian reform, industrial development, which are fundamental needs for our development ”.
- Year 7. Edition number 328. Sunday, August 31, 2014 - http://sur.infonews.com/notas/la-soja-y-el-latifundio-contra-el-campesinado-paraguayo