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Paraguay: Peasants & Corporations Clash Over the Spread of Soy Monoculture

Paraguay. Soy Spreads and the Peasant to Jail
The Expansion of Soy in Paraguay
Javiera Rulli- Grupo de Reflexion Rural <javierarulli@yahoo.com>
http://www.grr.org.ar
 

Paraguay is an extreme case in the MERCOSUR of soy in terms of the most violent and cruel face of the agricultural industry. Each hectare of soy spreads in Paraguay with the price of blood from the rural communities. For the agricultural industry, rural agriculture is an obstacle which should be destroyed in order to expand. Paraguay is a country that to this day maintains a living rural and indigenous culture, with the majority of the population living in rural areas and attempting to be self-sufficient. However, the distribution of land has historically been extremely unequal. In Paraguay less than 2% of the population owns 70% of the land. The advance of the agricultural export model of soy and the expansion of producers of genetically modified soy monocultures has created a frontal threat to the rural and indigenous communities in the past few years. The government under Duarte Frutos, involved in a chain of corruption and supported by agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, Cargill, Dreyfuss, Syngenta, assaults peasant organizations every time with greater impunity. The genetically modified soy enters the country through US troups, as well as through the WWF´s debt for forests swaps and the debt for health swaps of USAID. With this, glimpses of Paraguay's future are seen with the corporations controlling the agricultural lands, the genetically modified seeds and remnants of the forest. American soldiers in the future will be those who train the military detachments and in their free time will control the education and health of the rural communities.
 
While the corporations expand in large estates of thousands of hectares and those with long-standing alliances to Stroessner are the owners of approximately 12 million hectares, the peasants gather together in the colonies en lots that are hardly 1 to 3 hectares. In Paraguay, a family with less than five hectares is considered to be landless because with such a small amount of land they cannot be self-sufficient. Belarmino Balbuena, leader of the Movimiento Campesino Paraguayo (Paraguayan Peasant Movement), has said that soy dominates the entire Eastern part of the country and is now devastating the center of the country and departments free of the soy crop do not exist anymore. Balbuena estimates that almost half of the conflicts related to land involve soy producers, and they are also characterized as the most violent conflicts. The range of the soy producers is varied, amongst them are Brazilians, Germans, Italians, and large corporations like Cargill, Dreyfuss and ADM. 
 
The consequences of the monoculture model of GM soy that is spreading to all parts of Paraguay are innumerable: deaths due to poisoning, massive intoxications, expulsion from the land, alienation from national territory and a loss of sovereignty. In the Eastern part of the country the Paraguayan population has become the minority and is pushed aside by colonies of foreign soy producers. GM soy is principally promoted by groups of Brazilians, who manage with paramilitary groups and the techniques of death squadrons (a common practice in Brasil).
 

Soy Spreads and the Peasants Head to Jail

 
Since the year 2000, soy monocultures have spread from 1.1 to 2.05 million hectares. The expansion of monocultures has provoked the eviction of rural workers and indigenous peoples, evictions strongly increasing in the middle of a wave of criminalization against such movements; between the years 1994-1998 there were 100 evictions, while between the years 2000-2003 there were 69 and only in the year 2004 the number of registered evictions jumped to 66. In the last 15 years, 6122 rural workers were arrested. In the last few months, 46 people have been sentenced to 2, 3 and 4 years in prison for their participation in conflicts over land and more than 600 rural workers have passed through the various prisons in the country. In reality, there are 2800 imputed in the whole country. The imputations are selective, generally for the leaders, and can be just for having spoken on the radio. 
 
Since President Duarte Frutos signed an agreement with the soy producers and the military in 2004, the violence in the evictions has become a continuous practice. The evictions occur without any kind of previous warning. The police act together with the military and paramilitary of the large estate owners and supervised by the district attorney, surprise the peasants at 2-3 a.m., breaking into their houses and arresting all of the family members. There are cases of detentions, beatings and shootings with firearms. The women, children and even wounded are detained and there are many cases of lost pregnancies due to beatings during the evictions. The soldiers rob all of the people's belongings, destroy their houses, their harvest, killing their animals. The evictions not only affect the newly settled, but also sometimes affect the older established communities, including those with legal ties to the land. These actions are used as a scare tactic on the communities so that the people do not help them. 
 

INDERT is more like a Real Estate Agency

 
In Paraguay there has been prevailing a program of Land Reform regulated by INDERT (The National Institute of Rural and Land
Development) since the 60s. The biggest obstacle in achieving land reform is that all of the land in Paraguay is separated into private lots and hardly any public land remains. The function of INDERT's departmental agents is to coordinate the expropriation of large unproductive estates, irregular land transfers and localization of the remnants of public lands. But these agents act more like real estate agents inserted in the speculation of the land attractive to the soy producers. And they increase their salaries with the commissions received from the soy producers.
           
The same corruption extends to the state district attorneys and for them each eviction and detention of a peasant is supported by the local district attorney. It is the agents of INDERT that turn the lands over to Brazilian citizens. These do not fulfill the characteristics of the legitimate subjects of INDERT's land reform program, but they can pay in cash and increase the commission of the departmental agents. 
 
INDERT's departmental agents take advantage of the peasants' precarious situation and offer them money for abandoning their lots, and arranging for them a sale of derecheras, implying the sale of the right of use on behalf of the settled peasant. The families are compensated with money and migrate towards the poorer areas on the outskirts of the cities believing that better opportunities await them.  After a few years these families have lost everything and return to increase the long list of landless people that go around the country, and in other cases these displaced people migrate to other countries to look for work. Nevertheless, it is necessary to point out that the sale of land use rights are completely illegal operations because they do not obey INDERT's statute that establishes that the lands are inalienable for a period of 10 years.
 
Through the sales of the use rights, derechera,  the communities fragment. The majority of those that buy the land, utilize it to plant soy. They enter with armed guards and agrochemicals. The violence against the neighbors worsens, the people become ill and lose their crops due to fumigations, and in addition are constantly scared by armored groups and the police. Resistance on behalf of the peasant organizations to the sale of the land use rights is one of the principal causes of violence in the communities. Direct conflict with the soy producers happens when militants from the organizations of rural workers oppose the loss of the lots, denounce the irregularity and reoccupy the lots along with other landless families. It is because of this that the organizations of rural workers oppose any type of intrusion of soy in their communities.
 
 

International Solidarity with Paraguay

 
The plans of the government to stimulate the expansion of GM soy monocultures to cover 4 million hectares supposes a frontal attack not only on the rural and indigenous communities but also on the entire future of Paraguay. The wave of criminalization of the peasant organizations deepens the agrarian crisis. The negation of INDERT to negotiate with the peasants that are imputed or with the settlements that occupy large unproductive estates implies an absolute negation to resolve the situation of the landless. The indifference of the government to the contamination of people by agrotoxics, with innumerable instances of death, abortions, malformations at birth is evidence of the assassinating complicity of the Duarte's mafia. It is urgent that the international community reacts in the face of this grave human rights violations, sending human rights observers and questioning and pressuring the actions of the government of Nicanor Duarte Frutos.
 
Vía Campesina and Movimiento Agrario Popular of Paraguay together with the Rural Reflection Group (GRR) and the Group of Legal Support for the Access to the Land (GAJAT)- both from Argentina- with the support of the NGO BASE-IS are working on an international campaign of denunciation of the human rights violations that are taking place in Paraguay, due to the expansion of single-crops of soy. A denunciation of the case of the assassination and eviction of the Tekojoja community has been initiated together with FIAN and COHRE towards international human rights institutions, in which we have solicited an investigation of the actions of the Paraguayan government in relation to human rights and the rights of the rural communities. We have asked that they undertake the opportunity to visit 'in loco' the places where there have been incidents and interview the victims, the families and friends and other witnesses of the occurred violations.
 

The Last Cases in 2005

 
October 9.Esteban Hermosilla disappeared the 9th of October and was found the 17th of October, 2005 in the district of Curuguaty department of Canindeyú. Esteban was kidnapped, tortured, assassinated and half-burried by the bullies Waldir Presen Da Silva and Wilmar Presen Da Silva from the Joaquín Fernández Martin Ranch. As a signal of exchange, they cut off his ear to later hand over to his patrons. Furthermore, the disappearances of various other rural workers have been denounced but these have never been cleared up. 
 
October 20. Eviction, the burning of 20 ranches and the stealing of 2 motorbikes, in the Third of June settlement in the district of Tavai department of Caazapá, where 250 families have been settled for more than 3 years. The eviction was headed by the district attorney Vidal Francia from the district of Caazapá, and accompanied by approximately 50 police and armed bullies. 
 
October 18. Adriano Medina, 15 years old, disappeared the 29th of September, 2005 and was found dead the 18th of October, 2005, on the property of Ivo José and Douglas Muller. The event happened in the district of Iruña, department of Alto Paraná.

September 19.2 police paid by the owner of a large estate tried to assassinate Benito Gavilán, leader of his community, 'María Antonia,' in the district of Mbuyapey, department of Paraguari. Afterwards, they initiated a wave of break ins against the community in a search for the wounded. Benito could escape after 3 days and arrived at the hospital where they noticed a bullet had shattered his entire eye.

June 24. The rural community of Tekojoja in the department of Caaguazú was brutally removed by police forces. 270 people were removed, 54 houses and harvests were burned, 2 people were assassinated and many more hurt, 130 people- including women and children- were arrested. The eviction happened with the collaboration of the owner of the large soy estate Opperman and his paramilitary troops, assassinating Ánel Cristaldo, 20 years old and Leopoldo Torres, 49 years old, and hurting 5 people. To this day, the 54 families are still staying in a precarious encampment without any type of support. 
 
More info: javierarulli@yahoo.com
www.grr.org.ar

Forwarded By:

The Edmonds Institute
20319-92nd Avenue West
Edmonds, Washington 98020 USA
phone:(001) 425-775-5383
email: beb@igc.org
website: http://www.edmonds-institute.org