Soy expansion triggers more violence in Paraguay
From Asuncion, Paraguay: An Maeyens, A SEED Europe, 20th of August, 2006: In Paraguay, the expansion of monocultures like soy leads to an agricultural model in which peasants have no stand. The soy production model is an export-orientated agro-industrial model that generates wealth for a few and poverty for many.
Almost half of the population in Paraguay consists of farmers, peasants and indigenous, while land concentration in terms of the percentage of land that is in the hands of large landholders, is one of the highest of the world. The lack of access to land causes poverty, malnutrition, social marginalisation, rural unemployment and the migration of hundreds of families. For this reason, land reform is one of the most important challenges that the country faces. Since July 2006 the MCNOC (National coordination platform of peasant organizations) reintensified their campaign for integral land reform. In response, communities have been violently repressed by militaries and police forces. Thousands of families are currently living under threat.
Since the 10th of July, 12.327 families of the MCNOC mobilised and organised occupations in 8 of the 17 departments of the country. In this campaign more than 2000 landless families
Violence is the real face of the hypocrite Paraguayan government
In Paraguay the economy depends on the export of 3 products: meat, wood and soy;
Cynically, current president Nicanor Duarte Frutos has stated publicly that 'the capitalist soy producers' are confiding in a production project that is "selfish and excluding, and are not even capable of giving 2 hectares of land to the farmers to sow it", assuring that "Latin America doesn't need this style of economic model".
The events of the last weeks show that repression against the peasant movements is intensifying. On the 19th of July during a road block in Caazapá, in which more than 1000 peasants of the MCNOC participated, 51 persons got arrested, including several children and one pregnant woman. 8 persons got seriously injured and had to be taken to the hospital. During the repression two children disappeared. More than 200 demonstrators were brutally tortured for more than 2 hours.
Land evictions for soy deserts
On Wednesday, the 9th of August, land evictions took place in areas that either recently or since years have been converted into soy monoculture deserts. Alto Paraná, an eastern department of Paraguay has undergone an invasion of the countryside since the 70s. San Pedro and Caazapá, departments situated more towards the center of Paraguay are being opened up for the expansion of soy in the last years as the soy frontier is opening up towards the west of the country.
In a community in San Pedro, 90 families struggle already for 5 years for 1001 ha of arable land. Various times they got evicted, imprisoned, wounded and persecuted. On the 2nd of August police and gunmen, under the supervision of district attorney Lilian Ruiz, flattened down the houses of two settlers. They got arrested and one of them, Antonio Escalante, got shot in the thigh. Both of them are imprisoned and Antonio didn't receive any medical attention. One week later, on the 9th at 5 o clock in the morning hundreds of riot cops and gunmen of Paraguayan landowner Calixto Saguier, repressed and seized settlers and burned their houses. They destroyed 600 hectares of self-subsistence crops, again under the watchful eye of district attorney Lilian Ruiz. Calixto Saguier owns approximately 1500 to 2000 hectares of land in that region, renting it out to Brazilian soy producers.
On the same day, in the 5 years old settlement Limoy II (Alto Parana) Brazilian soy producers and gunmen, accompanied by the military and police force (but without the presence of a district attorney!) tried to evict the settlers from land that was allocated to them by the INDERT (the official institution for land distribution) but that got illegally
In another soy dominated department in the southeast of Paraguay, Itapúa, a peasant occupation got evicted on the 31st of July for the 5th time in 6 years time. When 6 years ago the 140 families of the community obtained 140 hectares through the INDERT (ex-IBR). After some months they occupied an -at that time- unexploited bordering area of 800 hectares. In December 2005, bordering soy producers with the help of the GOE of the National Police violated and tortured the peasants. They threatened the children and one pregnant woman got shot. With the help of 5 bulldozers 700 ha of crops for self-subsistence were destroyed.
In the frame of the campaign launched in July, they reoccupied 1000 ha. The end of July they got evicted by the GOE (a special force that protects soy fields) and members of the police force of María Auxiliadora. Five peasants were detained. The five of them (one of them being 68 years old) were imprisoned for days in a prison cell of merely 1 by 2 meter closed of with a metal door with a window not bigger than 10 by 10 cm. They were charged with privately-owned real estate invasion, serious coercion and criminal association. During their detention the public prosecutor Nelson Ramos that ordered the eviction was seen lunching with the land owner.
According to Ramon Medina (MCNOC) this is the continuation of the policy of judicialisation and criminalization of social poverty. According to the MCNOC the government has "a deliberate policy to liquidate all the social movements, especially those rural organizations that resist the neoliberal capitalist policy or the government of Nicanor Duarte Frutos. Reactivation of production levels, even less economical reactivation is non-existent. The agrarian reform is not on the agenda. That's why by organization, formation and mobilization bringing forth genuine claims of our people, is the way to answer these violent deeds".
Land rights, self sovereignty and rural development
Peasant movements demand land rights, self sovereignty and rural development, but the government keeps playing the cards of the big land owners. The governments' answer to the demands of the peasants is eviction, the burning of their homes, the destruction of their crops, arrests, murder and intimidation. A public discourse is being held up that the campesinos are delinquents and provoke social unrest, while they are merely demanding and reclaiming their right to land and a living. This is the critical situation lived in Paraguay, while at the same time representatives from big international NGOs like the WWF are giving a green face to the production model that is causing this violence. In the second Round Table Meeting on 'Responsible Soy' at the end of this month, a so called multi-stakeholders process will be held in Asuncion, Paraguay's capital. On the agenda is the elaboration of a ´brand´ of 'responsible' soy. This in order to try to 'soften' the effects of soy expansion that would reach up to 300 million tons in 2020 (a growth of 60%). NGOs like WWF, Solidaridad and Guyra Paraguay (Birdlife International) will be sharing their table with agribusiness like Unilever, Grupo Andre Maggi, investors like ABN-AMRO and the soy lobby. Civil society organisations and NGOs involved in this process, promoting sustainability seem to forget that talking about sustainability and responsibility doesn't fit with a market model that has profit and expansion as its only goal.
Guiding a devastating production model with voluntary certifications and consultancies doesn't mean anything in a country like Paraguay where impunity and corruption reign, laws are not followed and monitoring is almost nihil. For what use is a scheme like this to indigenous and peasants who don't even have access to land or land titles, investment opportunities and a healthy environment?
Read more on the violent face of the soy expansion model in the report Paraguay sojero
Article about Recent cases of intoxication by agrotoxins in Paraguay: Peasant family in Paraguay condemned by agrotoxins.
Last Updated (Thursday, 31 August 2006)