Aletho News


Tragic Week in Paraguay

Written by Javiera Manuela Rulli and Reto Sonderegger* | Grupo de Reflexión Rural | 24 June 2012

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has just been removed from office by Congress through political impeachment, an express trial that lasted only 24 hours. This manoeuvre must be seen as a coup to the democratic process started in 2008. Social movements are protesting in front of Congress as well as in various parts of the country.This plot by the major Paraguayan political parties has to be interpreted as the last step of a process of political destabilization in the country started with the massacre of Curuguaty last June 15th.

The facts from Curuguaty seem to show a high-level plot and operation by the opposition. The massacre that occurred in a camp of the landless peasants during a police operation left a toll of 17 dead, 11 peasants and 6 police officers, and 80 wounded. There are 54 people arrested facing very serious charges.

We will try to explain now the chain of events that have shaken the country from the Curuguaty deaths to Lugo’s overthrow today.

Background to the Curuguaty events

The Canindeyú department in the northeast part of Paraguay is a border region with Brazil with a high concentration of land in the hands of soy agribusinesses, marijuana cultivation and drugs and weapons smuggling.

Blas N. Riquelme is one of the richest people in the country, former Colorado Senator, large landowner with supermarket chains and many other food companies. Blas N. Riquelme was fraudulently given 50 thousand hectares of land, which were meant for poor peasants of the agrarian reform, during the Stroessner Dictatorship in 1969. This case of ill-gotten land was reported in the Report of the Truth and Justice Commission in 2008.

Since the fall of the Dictatorship in 1989, local peasants have been fighting to get these lands back. Two months ago a group of 60 landless peasants occupied two thousand hectares of the lands in an area called Marina Cue. These people did not belong to any specific peasant organization.

The Curuguaty massacre

On Friday June 15, two groups of law enforcement officers, the GEO Special forces and the police, entered Marina Cue with only a search warrant. The first group went to the camp to talk with the peasants. The police group suspiciously positioned itself behind. Surprisingly, in a confused event, long distance shots were fired. The first persons to fall were the chief and the deputy chief of the GEO forces.

During the ensuing battle, helicopters with reinforcements from the Special Operations Forces arrived and dispersed the peasants with flamethrowers and tear gas. The result of the battle was 11 peasants and 6 policemen dead.

In the first 24 hours after these events, police and soldiers surrounded and closed the area not letting anybody in. A first group of human rights advocates from Asuncion was detained by the police for several hours. In the Capital peasant leaders remained on alert, and in Curuguaty locals complained of law enforcement hunting down all survivors of the gunfight and any peasant activists in the area. Police burned the camp, erasing all evidence. During this period no prosecutors entered the area to observe what happened and collect evidence. It is assumed that during this time the police removed dead bodies and destroyed any proof.

Injured people, who went to health centers, were detained and placed in isolation cells in police stations. Some relatives and local people, who went to the health centers or to the police stations in order to get information on the victims, were also arrested. Lawyers and human rights organizations were not allowed access.

On Saturday, 16 family members, activists and media members crossed the police cordon and entered the peasant camp to search for survivors and wounded who might still be hiding. Indigenous people from the area helped with the search operation. Throughout the weekend there was heavy rain which made the operation almost impossible; regardless, they found 2 peasant bodies. According to information provided by human rights and peasant organizations: “these bodies were moved from where they were killed because there was no blood in the vicinity. They were also dressed as alleged guerilla-snipers and showed signs of recent torture and execution, with fresh blood and bullet wounds in the head and neck, and the weapons that are beside them are shotguns that could not have been used, since they are short distance weapons that shoot pellets, that do not match the long-distance wounds of the dead policemen.”

The search committee found traces of weapons of war, weapons which are not used by peasants. The suspicion is that, besides the landless peasant group, there was another infiltrated group which ambushed and killed the police. Peasant witnesses confirm this information, reporting that another group of men had camped nearby during the previous days, carrying heavy weapons and that these were the shooters. Their actions do not correspond to the methods used by peasants in their struggle for land. Questions arise about who these people might be: Could they be thugs tied to Blas Riquelme, border mafia, paramilitaries, or guerrillas? What seems to be clear is that they are not among those killed, detained or charged. Much of the evidence that could have helped identify them has also been eliminated.

Meanwhile, the prosecution presents charges against 54 people. Most are members of peasant organizations and relatives of the deceased who were not in the peasant camp at the time of the massacre. The charges are every serious, such as aggravated homicide and intentional murder, in addition to charges of invasion of private property, which carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison.

Only 12 people are currently arrested and charged, several of them are in jail. There are several minors, including a 16-year-old wounded girl and her infant child. The detainees have signs of torture, and several were arrested when they went to the police inquiring on friends and relatives. The situation of helplessness and defenselessness makes the locals dare not leave their homes. There is a non-declared state of siege in Curuguaty.

The prisoners are kidnapped by the police

On Sunday June 17th, Presidential Cabinet Secretary Miguel Angel Lopez Perito and Health Minister Esperanza Martinez went to Curuguaty to personally evaluate the matter. Previously, the police moved the detainees out of the police stations to other detention centers, so that the two Ministers could not see them. The detainees were literally kidnapped by the police.

Assembly meetings are held between civil servants (funcionarios?), family and social movements where they present their demands, which are:

1. End to the persecution and release of all prisoners;

2. Compensation for the families of the victims,

3. Recovery of ill-gotten lands of Marina Cue for the creation of a model peasant settlement

At a conference on June 19th, Emilio Camacho, auditor of the Paraguayan Land Institute (INDERT), confirmed that Blas Riquelme did not have the title to the 2,000 hectares; the ongoing ownership trial is still unresolved. This makes evident the irregularity and partiality (to landed interests) of the Paraguayan judiciary system: search warrants and eviction orders are signed without land titles.

Lugo hands over the repressive apparatus to the Colorados

Because of what happened in Curuguaty, Lugo replaced Interior Minister Carlos Filizzola naming as his replacement the former Attorney General, Candia Amarilla. During his tenure as State Prosecutor, Amarilla was characterized by his persecution and criminalization of social sectors.

Amarilla was trained in Colombia and is one of the promoters of the implementation of Plan Colombia in Paraguay. He is also a member of the Colorado Party. To make matters worse, Lugo replaced the National Director of Police and put in his place the chief who was in charge of the police operation in Curuguaty, the Commissioner Moran Arnaldo Sanabria. Both officials are publicly rejected by the social movements and several political sectors. Amarilla announced the end of the “protocol” in eviction operations, implemented by the previous Minister, consisting of dialogue with civil society organizations prior to operations. Amarilla states that his mandate will be the enforcement of the law with a strong arm.

With these two appointments, Lugo hands over the repressive apparatus into the hands of the Colorado Party. It is evident that he negotiated these nominations to avoid political impeachment. However, by doing this, he got the Liberal Party against him, which in turn negotiated with the Colorado Party and the Oviedistas to carry out the political impeachment.

On Thursday June 21st, a popular mobilization was called in front of the lands of Marina Cue. Over a thousand people were present with the objective of re-occupying the property until the detained people are freed and the land of Marine Cue returned to its rightful owners, landless peasants.

That same morning, the Colorado and Liberal parties suddenly agreed with the Oviedistas to impeach Lugo. In a few hours the impeachment process was set in motion by both houses, giving the president two hours on Friday to defend himself.

On Thursday, social movements called for mass mobilization in front of the Congress. Thursday night, 2000 people slept in the square in front of the Congress and people from all over the country started arriving in Asuncion. In several parts of the country, peasant organizations blocked roads.

On Friday afternoon, after an absurd and circus-like session in the Senate, Lugo is impeached. Paraguayan parliamentarians finally destroyed the democratization process that started with the electoral victory of Lugo. Upon hearing the verdict the first wave of repression started in the square outside the Congress. It marks only the beginning of what is being orchestrated against social movements and especially the peasant movement.

International solidarity can play a crucial role in the defense of Human Rights of the popular sectors in Paraguay. We call on all social organizations to be on alert to the situation in this country.

* Translation Lilian Joensen

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Tragic Week in Paraguay

Clashes after Paraguay president ousted

Press TV – June 22, 2012

Paraguayans have clashed with police outside the Congress building in Asuncion, shortly after it was announced that the Senate had voted to remove President Fernando Lugo from office.

The lower house of the Paraguayan Congress impeached Lugo on Thursday, and the Senate opened his trial on Friday and quickly reached a guilty verdict, ousting Lugo.

Lugo was immediately replaced by Vice President Federico Franco, a ferocious opponent of the leftist leader. Franco was sworn in as the new president of Paraguay on Friday evening.

“Although the law’s been twisted like a fragile branch in the wind, I accept Congress’ decision,” Lugo said in a speech on national television after lawmakers found him guilty of performing his duties badly during a land dispute that left 17 people dead.

He added that “the history of Paraguay and its democracy have been deeply wounded.”

“Today I retire as president, but not as a Paraguayan citizen,” he said. “May the blood of the just not be spilled.”

After a five-hour trial, 39 senators voted to oust Lugo, while four senators voted against the motion, and two were absent. He was accused of mishandling an armed clash over a land dispute in which seven police officers and ten landless farmers were killed on June 15.

Earlier, Lugo had said the entire impeachment process was equivalent to a coup.

“It is more than a coup d’etat, it’s a parliamentary coup dressed up as a legal procedure,” an angry Lugo said on Paraguayan radio.

After the Senate announced the decision, several thousand Lugo supporters took to the streets to condemn the move and express support for the man they still view as the president of the country. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used water cannon to disperse the protesters.

The breakneck speed of the impeachment process raised concerns in other South American capitals, and a few dispatched their foreign ministers to Asuncion. Some countries even warned of the possibility of imposing sanctions on Paraguay.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced that his government would not recognize Franco as president.

“The government of Ecuador will not recognize any president of Paraguay other than Fernando Lugo,” said Correa, adding “true democracy is based on legality and legitimacy.”

June 22, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on Clashes after Paraguay president ousted

Lugo: “I will abide but resist”

By Darío Pignotti* – Pagina/12 – June 21, 2012

According to some media sources, the police, and the landowner’s association of Paraguay, a group of agents was attacked when it entered the estate of a millionaire in order to evict landless campesinos. For the campesinos, it was a slaughter.

The death of 18 people, among them 11 campesinos, occurred last Friday when police cleared, without prior dialogue, an estate occupied by landless campesinos in the northeast of Paraguay, in an area near the Brazilian border. It was a “slaughter, and we have information that there are more dead comrades in the woods¨reported the representative of a campesino organization, while the spokeswoman of another group warned of a plan to destabilize the government of President Fernando Lugo.

“What happened was a slaughter of our comrades. Many lies are being told to discredit the campesinos, who are struggling to obtain their own land to work, who are fighting for the rights given to them by land reform. I confirm that up to now, 11 comrades have been murdered,” declared Damasio Quiroga, general secretary of the Paraguayan Campesino Movement, by telephone with the newspaper Página/12.

“I’m speaking to you from where the slaughter took place. We were 300 comrades of several organizations from the department of Canindeyú. We have information that there are more dead comrades, we were told there are injured, and we also knew that some being held captive were executed,” recounted Quiroga.

The version of events from the media and police is that a group of agents was attacked when it entered the estate of millionaire Blas Riquelme – who was linked to, and enriched by, former dictator Alfredo Stroessner – which was being occupied by members of the Carperos Campesino Movement. [Translator’s note: Carperos are landless campesinos struggling to obtain land promised to them by land reform.] The Rural Association of Paraguay adds to this tale the “certain” link between the farmworkers and the guerillas of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP): “This fact, plus the use of automatic weapons and explosive devices, suggests something more than a simple group of landless campesinos. It was a heavily armed and organized group, capable of dealing a fatal blow to regular police forces.”

It is an implausible version of the facts, given that the composition of victims so far indicates that there were more dead among rural farmworkers (11) than police (7); the latter group included two members of the Special Operations Group.

The account by campesino Quiroga differs from that offered by most of the media, the police and the landowner’s association. “There is no truth to the claim that there were automatic weapons in our comrades’ camp. I can tell you, comrade, that we have no connection to any guerrillas; for us, the EPP does not exist. They are inventing the story to discredit campesinos when they organize better, because we do not want to continue hoping that someday the ill-gotten lands will be given to us, we campesinos are fighting for our rights.”

— You say, “They invented the story.” Who do you mean?

— The landowners and the police; they are together in all of this. This new police chief, appointed by Lugo, is very dangerous, very corrupt, with formal complaints against him.

The National Organization of Independent Indigenous Peoples wrote in a communiqué: “The use of violence is a mechanism that state institutions like the police, military and prosecutor’s office always use to protect national and transnational businessmen and big landowners, always to the benefit of the private sector.”

The tension between campesinos and landowners, a sector where Brazilian soy producers predominate, has grown since Fernando Lugo became president in 2008. He had promised to move forward with land reform and resolve the problem of “ill-gotten lands,” large expanses of state lands that former dictator Stroessner distributed among military officials and his followers. One such follower is the wealthy Blas Riquelme, the “Paraguayan Carlos Slim,” according to the definition of Martín Almada, the leading human rights activist in the country.

A former bishop, Lugo once counted on the campesinos as his main social and electoral support. But they no longer support him as they once did.

Quiroga told this newspaper: “We have given up believing in the president; he is not keeping his promises. After this slaughter he appointed people who are corrupt and who have very bad backgrounds. The government that promised to carry out land reform is forgetting its pledge and is appointing corrupt Coloradans.”

The reference is to the appointment of Rubén Candia Amarilla to the Ministry of the Interior. Candia Amarilla, a member of Stroessner’s Colorado Party, promised to use a firm hand against the campesinos and announced that from now on, the evictions from occupied estates will be carried out without the establishment of dialogue with the carperos.

“Lugo had to take a step back and accept people from the Colorado Party. It was an imposition by the more reactionary groups, leaving a sector of the campesinos dissatisfied with the president; this is true. And at the same time there are other campesinos who still have confidence in him and support him, albeit as a lesser evil, because if he falls now without completing his mandate, which ends in 2013, it will be a victory for conservative forces,” said Martín Almada, who believes that a plan to destabilize Lugo is in progress.

The clash provoked a political tsunami in Paraguay, with unforeseen repercussions to come over the fate of the first government without links to the Stroessner regime since the end of the dictatorship. “The situation remains red-hot here; the Right is very involved in all of this,” said Magui Balbuena, of the National Committee for the Recovery of Ill-Gotten Lands.

A communiqué from that committee stated: “The slaughter in the department of Camindeyú was the result of a historic class conflict in Paraguayan society, the product of the support of the three branches of state, of a system of accumulation and hoarding of land in the hands of a few… The violence will continue if we do not initiate, once and for all, the return of lands belonging to the Paraguayan people that today are in the hands of persons not subject to land reform.”

*Translation by Jim Rudolf

June 22, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , | Comments Off on Lugo: “I will abide but resist”

Paraguayan president vows to fight impeachment effort

Press TV – June 22, 2012

Paraguayan leftist President Fernando Lugo has said he would not resign after the opposition-controlled lower house of Congress voted for his impeachment over last week’s land clashes with farmers.

President Lugo pledged on Thursday to stand and fight the impeachment proceedings led by his congressional rivals over a land eviction in which 17 people died.

“This president announces that he is not going to present his resignation and that he will fully respect the constitution and the law to face the impeachment trial and its full consequences,” he said in a televised speech right after the vote.

However, he also said that “this is an ‘express’ coup because (lawmakers) have done this in the wee hours of the night. They have gotten together, and we believe this is even unconstitutional because it doesn’t respect due process.”

After the lower house overwhelmingly approved the move, the Senate, which is also controlled by the opposition, followed suit, announcing the impeachment hearing will begin on Friday.

Seven police officers and nine landless farmers died in a clash on last Friday, when police attempted to forcibly remove peasants from the farm, which is owned by a Colorado Party politician opposed to President Lugo.

Right after the incident Lugo replaced his interior minister and national police chief. He also said on Wednesday that he would set up a committee to investigate the deadly clashes.

Lugo, who took power on pledges to champion the poor, accused his rivals of planning to “rob the people of their supreme decision” when they elected him in 2008 to put an end to six decades of ruling by the right-wing Colorado Party.

Under Paraguay’s constitution, if Lugo is booted from presidency, his vice president Federico Franco will replace him. Franco is the leader of Authentic Radical Liberal Party that formed a coalition with Lugo after the elections.

The next presidential election will be in April 2013. Lugo, who was under cancer treatment, earlier said that he would not seek another term.

June 22, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Paraguayan president vows to fight impeachment effort