Cargill : bio-terrorism in Paraguay! Take action.

Real estate speculation caused soy expansion is leading to ever more evictions of rural families and attacks on peasant communities. The violence against the rural population is both direct and indirect. An estimated of 90,000 people are displaced from their land every year, and about six peasant leaders are being assassinated every year because they support the struggle for land reform.

This year, agribusiness is getting ready for a new mega-crop and has announced plans to cultivate 400,000 more hectares of soybean. Those monocultures are to be established in a zone traditionally dedicated to family agriculture, which implies the displacement of whole communities and the substitution of food crops by monoculture crops for export – animal feed and biodiesel feedstock.

Cargill is a leading agribusiness company in Paraguay. They market 30% of the national production of soybean, corn and wheat and have 41 port and warehousing facilities in the country. Now, the expansion of agribusiness monocultures and the quest for reduced transport costs have knocked the doors of the Paraguayan capital. A mega-port is being built, which is called “Oil-Extraction Industrial Plant and Bulk Commodities Terminal of Port Zeballos, Inc.”. It will have an export capacity of one million tonnes of soybean per year, and will burn 230,000 cubic meters of firewood annually.

This area is inhabited by a large number of shallow-water fishermen whose livelihood depends on the fishstock in those waters. The port is being built just 500 meter upstream from the main water source of the public services company that provides drinking water to 1.1 million people in and around Asunción. The diesel from barges, the disturbance of the sediments on the river bed and the drift of dusts and pesticide toxins from the grains will undoubtedly affect the whole of the drinking water supply. The presence of these elements in urban water will mean an exponential increase in the risk of diseases such as cancer, leukemia, allergies, respiratory and intestinal tract problems, miscarriage and congenial malformation.

Paraguayan organisations have described this development as an act of bio-terrorism, because it will involve large-scale use of chemicals that – no doubt – will affect the population of the region.

Cargill are known worldwide for their disrespect of environmental laws. Just recently, a Brazilian court ordered the immediate closure of the Santarem port in the Amazonia, until an environmental impact assessment is submitted and approved, since it was built illegally. Likewise, and for similar reasons, Cargill was denounced for the construction of a river port in the area of Rosario, Argentina.

Licenses for the port in Asunción were awarded during the vacation months, without any type of public consultation. Furthermore, the Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out using the standard format, without giving serious consideration to the particular characteristics of the site or the population.

Several organizations have demonstrated their outright rejection of this project and have submitted complaints to different agencies. Public hearings have been convened at the Congress and the Municipality of Asuncion. However, the authorities have denied their responsibilities and are not offering answers or solutions. They argue that the port will generate jobs and that Paraguay cannot turn its back on such an important investment.

The high risks posed by a facility of this size cannot be ignored by national, departmental or municipal authorities. In order to stop this mega-project which threatens both the population and the environment, the Citizens’ Assembly for Life and Health has been formed by several social and civil organizations. Please support the Assembly and protest against Paraguayan authorities, in order to hold them responsible and force them to stop such a harmful project!

Send emails of protest: easy format on:

Arq. Carlos Antonio López Dose
Minister of Environment
Madame Lynch 3500

Ing. Alfredo Molinas
Ministry of Agriculture and Cattle
Presidente Franco e/ Alberdi

Mrs Evanhy Gallegos
Major of Asunción, Paraguay

Ing. Agr. Edgar Esteche
President of SENAVE (National Service for Quality and Vegetal Sanitation and Seeds)

Lic. Isabel Gamarra de Fox
Environmental Management Agency

Ing. Elena Benítez
Agency for the Protection and Conservation of Water Resources

Dr. Ricardo Merlo
Environmental Prosecutor

Ministry of Public Health and Social Wellbeing
Dr. Oscar Martínez Doldán

Newsmedia Department

Mr. Agustín Perdomo
National Senator, Honourable Chamber of Representatives
President of the Commission for Ecology, Natural Resources and Environment
Tel: +595 21 414 4842

Comisión de DDHH del Senado.
Presidenta: Ana María Juanita Mendoza de Acha
Fax : 595 21 447 967
Teléf: (595 21) 414-5025; 414-5065

Defensoría del Pueblo.
Defensor del Pueblo, Manuel María Páez Monges
Teléf.: (595 21) 452 602/5

Protest letter: Spanish version below.
The Authorities

We wish to declare our deep concern about the initiation of the construction of the “Oil-Extraction Industrial Plant and Bulk Commodities Terminal of Port Zeballos, Inc.”, also known as Puerto Union. This will a very polluting facility located just a few meters from the drinking water intake for the whole of the capital and surrounding areas, located in a area where thousands of people live in an extremely vulnerable situation.

One of the basic recommendations given by the World Health Organization in order to insure the right to drinking water is to protect the sources from possible pollutants, to avoid the use of complicated and not always safe technologies and to ensure decontamination. With the industrial facility and the port planned just a few meters upstream from the drinking water intake, the threat of a sanitary and contamination emergency is increased exponentially and will be even greater over time given the inevitable accumulation of silt and sediment.

The activities at this development will affect not just the water. Another direct impact will be suffered by the population of nearby communities, due to air, noise, vibration contamination, as well as an increase in the population of rodents and insects, amongst others. However, most concerning undoubtedly, will be air pollution from the oil plant and from the trucks. It should be mentioned that, although it will be food grains that will be processed and transported, those contain uncontrolled doses of powerful agro-chemicals that, in many cases, will be toxic to humans. The whole population, not only in the surrounding community but also along the route of trucks, will be exposed to either acute or chronic contamination. Several known cases in Argentina demonstrate the unhealthy and even lethal direct and indirect influence of a dry bulk port on the population. We hope that these ill-fated experiences will not be repeated in Paraguay.

Indirect impacts from this facility will not be less concerning. Needless to say that this will give a strong boost to the expansion of the agro-export frontier, that for years has been devastating forests, land and waters in the territory, and decimating peasant and indigenous communities in the country. Recent history demonstrates that frenzied adoption of such models of development have only generated more poverty, more exclusion, more inequality and more emigration, plus the deterioration of social linkages that these situations produce.

Cargill, the company behind the project, are internationally known for their disrespect for environmental laws. Just recently, a Brazilian court order the immediate closure of the Santarem port in Amazonia, until an environmental impact assessment is submitted and approved, since the plant was built illegally. Likewise, and for similar reasons, Cargill was denounced for the construction of a river port in the area of Rosario, Argentina.

For the aforementioned reasons, we demand that:

1. The construction of the port and the industrial plant is immediately stopped, and full environmental monitoring is carried out in order to assess in detail the impacts of those ports already in operation.

2. The Municipal Ordinance 15/02 is observed, which stipulates that the construction and the activity of polluting activities should not be permitted due to the housing and high landscaping and environmental value characteristics of the area.

3. To apply the country’s legal planning which regulate the sitting of new ports and industrial plants.

4. Diversification of production is promoted, addressing the domestic needs for food, controlling the expansion of the agro-export business and, following the UN guidance, an urgent moratorium is declared in regard to the production of agro-fuels.


In spanish
Sres Autoridades

Ante el inicio de las obras de construcción de la “Planta Industrial Aceitera y Terminal Granelero de Puerto Zeballos S.A.” conocida como Puerto Unión, queremos manifestar nuestra profunda preocupación. Se trata de unas instalaciones sumamente contaminantes que estarán ubicadas a pocos metros de las tomas de agua potable de toda la Capital y alrededores, además, en un barrio habitacional con miles de pobladores en situación extremadamente vulnerable.

Una de las recomendaciones básicas de la Organización Mundial de la Salud para garantizar el derecho al agua es que se protejan las fuentes de abastecimiento de posibles contaminantes, evitando usar tecnologías complicadas y no siempre seguras para descontaminarlas. Con una planta industrial y puerto de la magnitud de aquel que se proyecta, pocos metros aguas arriba de las tomas, aumentará exponencialmente la amenaza de una emergencia sanitaria y, con el tiempo y la acumulación de desechos, los niveles de contaminación se harán mucho más densos.

No solo el agua se verá afectada por las actividades de esta industria. Otro impacto directo lo sufrirán las poblaciones que viven en los barrios aledaños por la contaminación del aire, los ruidos, vibraciones, el aumento de roedores e insectos, entre otras cosas. Lo más grave entre esto es sin duda la contaminación del aire que producirá tanto la aceitera como el tráfico de camiones. Cabe mencionar que, por más que se transportarán y procesarán alimentos, los mismos tienen dosis no controladas de potentes agroquímicos que resultan tóxicos para el ser humano. Se estará pues exponiendo a toda la población no solo de los alrededores sino también a aquella cercana a la ruta de los camiones a intoxicaciones, agudas o crónicas. Varios casos en Argentina muestran lo insalubre y hasta letal de vivir en áreas de influencia directa e indirecta de un puerto granelero. Ojalá en Paraguay no se dé pie a que se repitan estas funestas experiencias.

Los impactos indirectos de esta obra no son menos preocupantes. Indefectiblemente esto dará un fuerte impulso a la expansión de la frontera agroexportadora que viene arrasando desde hace años los bosques, las tierras y las aguas del territorio, y diezmando a las comunidades campesinas e indígenas del país. La historia reciente muestra que la adopción frenética de este modelo de desarrollo solo ha generado más pobreza, más marginación, más desigualdad y más emigración, y la corrosión de los vínculos sociales que todo ello implica.

La empresa Cargill involucrada es famosa internacionalmente por no respetar las leyes ambientales. Recientemente, un tribunal brasileño ordenó el cierre inmediato del puerto de Santarem en la amazonía, hasta que sea presentada y aprobada la evaluación de impacto ambiental, ya que fue construido ilegalmente. Así también, y por similares motivos Cargill fue denunciado por la construcción de un puerto en la zona de Rosario, Argentina.

Por todas estas razones exigimos que:

1. Se frene inmediatamente la construcción del puerto y planta industrial, y se desarrolle un monitoreo ambiental de la zona para evaluar detalladamente los impactos que generan los puertos ya operantes

2. Se respete la ordenanza municipal 15/02 que estipula que no se permite la instalación de actividades poluyentes por ser una área característica de tipo habitacional con alto valor paisajístico y ambiental

3. Se trabaje en instrumentos legales para el ordenamiento territorial del país que regulen la instalación de nuevos puertos y plantas industriales de acuerdo con la planificación de la producción.

4. Se promueva una diversificación productiva atendiendo las necesidades internas de soberanía alimentaria, controlando la expansión de la frontera agroexportadora y, siguiendo las recomendaciones de la ONU, se establezca una moratoria urgente a la producción de los agrocombustibles.

A la espera de una respuesta de su parte acerca de cómo se van a tratar los reclamos que se plantean,

Muy atentamente,