Silvino Talavera Campaign: Victory at high price

For an introduction and an overview of developments in the Silvino Talavera campaign, please see the article 'Paraguay: Silvino Talavera' on this site.

Asuncion, 29 November 2006: The Paraguayan Supreme Court has declared the extraordinary cassation request submitted by Lic. Fabio Daniel Baez Acosta, the defence lawyer of Alfredo Lautenschlager and Herman Schlender, as inadmissible. This means they will have to fulfil the sentence that was confirmed by the Appellation Tribunal of Encarnación and go to jail for two years for causing general risks and homicide. The sentence was confirmed without suspension.

This decision marks a fundamental precedent, as it is the first case of legal action against intoxication and death caused by agrochemicals. The majority of intoxication cases occur in the silence of peasant communities – who are surrounded by agrochemicals and genetically modified organisms. Many of these communities do not have the possibility to seek justice due to the high costs of legal action. The legal bureaucracy is neither fast nor cheap for poor people.

Two legal decisions were taken in three years and they both declared the accused guilty. The first decision was cancelled in 2003, the second decision was again appealed and subsequently confirmed by the Appeal Court in Encarnación. But the defence had presented a cassation to the Supreme Court, with the purpose of delaying the execution of the decision until after the expiration date of the case, which would be in the first days of December 2006. However, faced with this possibility of impunity, the Judges of the Supreme Court, Sindulfo Blanco, Wildo Rienzi Galeano and Miguel Oscar Bajac, agreed to Sentence no. 1437, resolving the matter on Monday 27 November, and notifying the demanding parties on that very same day.

On October 30 2006, activists from Amsterdam visited the Paraguayan Embassy in Brussel to demand that Silvino's courtcase would be finished in time.

Organizations of Peasant and Indigenous Women took the lead in the legal action

Silvino Talavera Villasboa

Silvino Talavera Villasboa was 11 years old when he was sprayed with pesticides that were used in the soy monocultures around his house, and he died five days later, on 7 January 2003. The ten brothers and sisters of Silvino and his parents were also intoxicated and became ill. The family Talavera is very poor, and it was due to the incomparable efforts of the National Coordination of Organisations of Indigenous and Rural Workers’ Women (CONAMURI), the organisation of Petrona Villasboa – the mother of Silvino – that they could take legal action, organizing a support campaign with help of peasant organisations, environmental organisations, women’s groups and human rights organisations.

The sentence of the Supreme Court was submitted only a few days before the date that the case would have been expired, which was due to the fact that the Appeal Court of Encarnación took 15 months to resolve the Appeal. Under the leadership of CONAMURI, various peasant organisations, women’s groups, and human rights, environmental and activist organisations from all over the world denounced this unjustifiable delay in the legal procedure. These groups included the Latin American Coordinator of Rural Organizations (CLOC), the Coordinator of Human Rights in Paraguay (CODEHUPY), A SEED Europe, Pesticide Action Network – Latin America, (RAP-AL/ALTER VIDA), el Grupo de Reflexión Rural de Argentina, Sobrevivencia/Amigos de la Tierra Paraguay, Kuña Roga, The Women’s Collective "25 de noviembre", Base IS, CECTEC, CEIDRA, INECIP, the Women’s Coordinator of Paraguay, the Latin American Anglican Church and many other organisations.