Land Reform in Nueva Germania (San Pedro) - Struggle for land takes steps forward

[img_assist|nid=305|desc=March in Nueva Germania 11-12-08|link=node|align=left|width=150|height=113]Landless and small farmers, united in the ‘Coordinadora Distrital Sin Tierra de Nueva Germania’ struggle to obtain a stretch of land in the community of Oñondivepá, and prevent it to be deforested and turned into a soy desert. Eight years of struggle now seem to become successful. See the video (part one and two) on this event below.

In 1887 Nueva Germania, a settlement in the province San Pedro, Paraguay, was founded by Elizabeth Nietzsche, sister of the famous philosopher. The idea was to start a new and pure arian community in a very quiet corner of the world. The experiment failed and the immigrants mingled with the indigenous people. Today, a totally different type of struggle takes place. Landless and small farmers, united in the ‘Coordinadora Distrital Sin Tierra de Nueva Germania’ struggle to obtain a stretch of land in the community of Oñondivepá, and prevent it to be deforested and turned into a soy desert. Eight years of struggle now seem to become successful.

part 1:

part 2:

The struggle concerns 788 hectares of still mainly forested land. The soy farmers bought it last year from other landowners. In this sense, it is a different case from many others, where communities reclaim illegally
procured land, land that should have redistributed under the land reform program.

Local people from the colony Oñondivepá have been claiming this land for over eight years now. Their goal is to start small scale organic mate production, which requires shade of trees, with respect for nature. This
in great contrast to the plans of the soy farmers, who have already started to deforestation the land and want to turn the land partly into a soyfield. The regular spraying of agrotoxics that the soy requires would lead to great environmental damage, including poisoning of the river and the drinking water of the local people.

The struggle culminated in the first weeks of December 2008. As happened in many parts of Paraguay, the people threatened to occupy the land to prevent deforestation and planting of soy, and to put pressure on the
land owners to offer their land for sale. The people were determined tot walk all possible legal ways till the end to prevent escalation. An ultimatum was issued to the three Brasilian owners and the land reform
institute INDERT. Start negotiations on the sale of the land and its redistribution on the 10th of December, or occupation will follow, so they stated.

The authorities did turn up that day in the roadside camp facing the disputed land. But, no response of the owners. Tension rose and the people decided to visit the farm of the owners, first with a delegation of representatives, but followed by a demonstration by the campesinos.
The delegation was accompanied by the coordinator of INDERT, the mayor of Nueva Germania, the police and the press.

The strong social pressure and the visit proved to be successful. Two of the owners present declared that they are willing to sell the land to INDERT. They mentioned a price of 8 million Guaranies a hectare, sky high compared to the 2,5 that they themselves paid a year ago. But the offer to negotiate is indeed an important breakthrough.

The delegation returned to meet the demonstration halfway between the camp and the ranch. The breakthrough was cheered by the people and the sound of jubilant slogans and fireworks filled the air. In a massive
‘yes’ vote everyone agreed to return to camp and await further negotiations the following week.

The following Monday, soy farmers staged a protest all over Paraguay in what they call a ‘tractorazo’, a display of machinery along some of the mayor highways. ‘They have the machines, we are the people’, said Pedro
Caballero, president of the Coordinadora Sin Tierra de Nueva Germania. This was shown in the province capital of San Pedro de Ycumandyyu, where thousands marched for social justice, health care and land reform.

On the following day, initiating talks with the lawyer of the owners showed that progress was made indeed, and two days later, on Thursday the 18th, a document was signed to start negotiations. This might take
several months, since the land reform institute will have to investigate the real value of the land in order to come to a price that is both payable and acceptable to all participants. If this process works out
well, the case could be the first major procuration and redistribution of legally obtained land since the inauguration of the new Lugo government in august 2008.

Repression and intimidation
Exactly one week after the three new owners bought the land on September 25th 2007, they issued an indictement against ten leaders of the colonia of Onondivepa. The Brazilians had not been in the area before and there
was no way they could have found out who the principal spokespersons of the campesinos could be. The indictement was based on completely false accusations of invading the land, threatening workers and damaging
private property. Even more absurd: three family members of the accused were mentioned as witnesses without even being informed themselves.
These kinds of indictements and accusations aimed at campesino leaders are a very common form of repression.

This very clear attempt to break resistance and create division within the local community caused these ten people to loose part of their civil rights for half a year. They were not allowed to speak in public nor to act as representatives of the community. Violating these preconditions would lead to immediate arrest without trial. Attempts of the accused to put the case before a judge failed. The case would have been dropped
straight away because of complete lack of evidence. The prosecutor Oswaldo Caballero Bricho was very well aware that he did not have a solid case, and therefore refused to bring it before a judge, but
neither did he drop the case. This clearly shows his involvement in the repression.

The attempt to silence the voices of the community backfired however, since the mainly elder spokespersons encouraged the younger generation to step on the foreground. This proved to be an excellent move that
actually strengthened the movement.

This case shows the frequently observed direct link between landowners and the corrupt juridical system. To achieve real change in Paraguay, land reform is clearly not the only issue.