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Agro-multinationals profit from deadly evacuation

 

The land occupation had started three weeks before to try to force a breakthrough in the longlasting conflict about the rights to this piece of land. There is a trial about this. In 1975, the land was awarded to the politician and business man Blas N. Riquelme by dictator Stroessner. The award was not undisputed, because the Truth and Justice Committee, that researched Stroesner’s land awards after his reign, has brought to light irregularities in the award to Riquelme. (2)

 

Despite the unclarities about who the land belongs to, a large police force arrived at the site in the morning of the 15th of June, to end the occupation. The head of the special police ad his deputy were shot from a large distance. During the battle that followed, 6 policemen and 11 occupiers were killed. Many others got injured. The area was sealed of for 24 hours after the event, after which evidence for unbiased researchers was hard to find. Injured people were put in prison without adequate medical care. There are 54 people charged arbitrarily with a couple of serious crimes that could give them 30 years in prison.

 

The incident in Curuguaty led eventually to the deposition of president Lugo. Vice-president Franco took his place on the 22nd of June. Soon after the Franco-government took office, Monsanto was permitted to sell genetically modified (GM) cotton and corn seeds in Paraguay. Previous president Lugo had stalled the cultivation of these crops, because there was no permission of the ministeries of Health and Environment yet. Some thing that this has contributed to the downfall of Lugo and that the Curuguaty murders were provoked to create a cause to deposition him. (3)

 

In Paraguay agricultural land is distributed very unevenly, 2.5% of landowners ownes 85% of the land. This is because the government had given priority to large-scale soy cultivation (and cattle ranching), through which she prefers large landowners above small farmers and inhabitants. Soy was introduced to Paraguay for the first time at the end of the sixties of the previous century. At the beginning of the new millennium there was a second wave whereby GM-soy was illegally smuggled into the country from neighbouring countries Argentina and Brazil. In 2004 the GM-soy was eventually officially approved. About 90% of all soy that is cultivated in Paraguay is now GM-soy, mainly from seed and pesticide giant Monsanto.

 

The large-scale cultivation of GM-soy has led to deforestation, poverty, forced relocation, migration to the cities and the falling apart of rural communities. The GM-soy that is used is normally made resistant to pesticide Roundup. This is sprayed a lot, with the result that weeds have become resistant, with the result that even more toxic pesticides are used. The intensive use of pesticides is causing health problems with the local people and their cattle.

 

The local communities have largely lost the control over their agricultural land because of the large-scale soy cultivation. This means that small farmers have lost the possibility to grow their own food and through that the control over how they want to grow food, or their food sovereignty (4). Farmers who do have access to land lose a part of their control with the introduction of new GM-crops. These seeds are protected with patents and the cultivation method is based on using lots of external inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, with the result that farmers on the one side cannot replant their own seeds and on the other side have to sell their harvest to be able to buy inputs instead of maintaining their families.

 

Resistance against the unequal distribution of agricultural land, by occupying land to grow crops, is not new. In 2004 there was a national coordinated resistance in the form of land occupations and protection against pesticides. This resistance was brutally knocked down by the military. A few people were killed and hundreds of people were wounded hereby. 3000 people were arrested of which 2000 got charged. Since then the resistance is less because people are more afraid. (5, 6, 7)

 

The violence that was used in Curuguaty is also not ‘new’. To make sure that the ones who are in prison and/or are sued and the other victims are helped and get a fair process, it is necessary to keep international pressure on Paraguay. In the report it is recommended to send special UN rapporteurs to the area to check it out. (8) The same kind of pressure is used in neighbouring soy-cultivating country Argentina. (9)

 

In addition it is important to improve the unequal distribution of land and the possibilities of people to grow food, so that people also have access to sufficient fertile land without the need to occupy it.

 

  1. PRELIMINARY REPORT- Marina Cué Investigation Mission.

  2. COMISIÓN DE VERDAD Y JUSTICIA Informe Final Anive haguã oiko Tierras Mal Habidas TOMO IV en http://www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/2012-06/paraguay-polizeieinsatz-landbesetzer

  3. http://upsidedownworld.org/main/paraguay-archives-44/3898-paraguay-and-monsanto-the-seeds-of-discord, http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/21/world/americas/paraguay-president/index.html

  4. Voedselsoevereiniteit is het recht van mensen op gezond en cultureel passend voedsel, geproduceerd op ecologisch verantwoorde en duurzame wijze in een voedsel- en landbouwsysteem dat door henzelf wordt vormgegeven.

  5. Dutch Soy Coalition Factsheet 4 Soy in Paraguay, 2009

  6. “De vluchtelingen van het Agro-exportmodel. Impacten van sojamonocultuur in de Paraguayaanse campesino-gemeenschappen.” (Palau,T. ea. : 2007). http://www.lasojamata.net/en/node/93

  7. Who benefits from GM Crops, 2006 edition, (Friends of the Earth International)

  8. PRELIMINARY REPORT- Marina Cué Investigation Mission

  9. Frontiers of Life, 2011, documentary by Chaya. https://www.aseed.net/new/nl/soja-a-greenwashing/materialen/1101-docu-frontiers-of-life