Massacre in the department of Caaguazu – Paraguay

56 peasants families live in Tekojoja peasant community, a land
settlement of 500 hectares, located 70 km from the city of Caaguazu
in Paraguay. The peasant community of Tekojoja is part of the
Organización Agraria y Popular and MCNOC (National coordination
platform of peasant organisatiosn) Via Campesina Paraguay. They are
also involved in the Frente por la Soberanía y la Vida (Front
for Food Sovereignity and Life).

Caauguazu and San Pedro are the regions in Paraguay where the greatest
expansion in GM soy monocultures has taken place over the last 5
years. There are 2 million hectares of GM soy monoculture in Paraguay
and the government is planning 2 million hectares more. In Paraguay
less than 2% of the population owns 70% of the land and these big land owners are responsible
for expelling peasants from their historical territories. GM soy grown
for export is a principal cause of this severe situation: during the
last few years, the rate of land conflicts have multiplied. In 2004
alone there were 162 land conflicts and 118 land occupations.

Tekojoja is one of the peasant settlements recovered during the period
of land reform. However, many of these estates are once more in the
possession of   private big land owners due to corruption,
manoeuvres and dishonest ploys that tricked the peasants out of their
land. Since its beginning, the Tekojoja community has been threatened by
the increase in monocultural GM soy cultivation. Adelin Osperman
is a Brazilian
GM soy producer who wants to control this territory. He began legal
proceedings against the peasants even though the settlement was
legally recognised 3 years ago by the current government of Nicanor
Duarte Frutos. Carlos González, a member of the
Coordinación de la Organización Agraria y Popular states
that " the judge in charge of the juridical process has never taken
into account that these land belonged to the state and were donated to
the peasant organisations with the land reform program". In August
2004, an attempt to evict the the community resulted in several arrests
and injuries.


On Friday 25 June, at 5.30 in the morning, attorneys Pedro Torrales and
Nelly Varela appeared with 150 policemen with the intention of evicting
the whole community. Throughout the eviction and in the presence of the
attorneys, people were brutally harassed and beaten. The police evicted
and arrested people  and afterwards paramilitary groups burned the
houses and demolished them with caterpillar tractors. In total 130
people including 40 children were arrested and taken to the local jail
in Caaguazu. Galeano, a community spokes person informed us that after
the incident 29 men, 19 women and 40 children have been released.
Several peasants have been missing since Friday. During the eviction,
the legal land owner Adelin Osperman (Brazilian soy producer) and his
hired gunmen drove onto the land in trucks and shot at the peasants,
killing Angel Cristaldo (20 years old) and Leopoldo Torres (49 years
old) and severely injuring 5 more people in full view of the policemen
present at the settlement. The Comisión Nacional de Derechos
Humanos, the National Comission of Human Rights of Paragauy is covering
the health care costs, as  since the health and social services have been
privatised, poor people no longer have access to health care.

Ademir Oppermann and several of his gunmen have been arrested for the
murders. During their arrest, whole arsenal of weapons were found,
including 4 shotguns, 2 of calibre 12 and 2 of calibre 20, one revolver
calibre 38, and bullets packages for shotguns, all of which were found
in the trucks that had driven into the peasant community to destroy
houses and crops. The actions of these paramilitary groups have been
widely denounced during recent years. The majority of the evictions
take place  with the help or collaboration of paramilitary and
police groups. In January this year Jorge Galeano, a peasant
leader of the community, publicly denounced Opperman for hiring armed
groups to terrorise peasant communities.

The main priority now is to help the 270 people that have lost all
their belongings and had to return to their land which has been
stripped bare. The landowner took away 3 trucks with items belonging to
the peasants but only one has been recovered and it is in the hands of
the police. The whole community is now facing the winter without
clothes, food and shelter.
According to Galeano, one of them, Nelly Varela ordered the police to
take children out of school and put them in jail as they were
criminals. The peasant organisation will try to meet the
president of INDERT (Rural Development and and Issue Institution) and
demand the protection of their lands by this institute. "Ko yvyko
oremba’e, ha roî roproba haguãicha upéva;
roguerekopa la documento ome’eva’ekue oréve Indert ha
upévare ndorosê mo’ai ko’águi (this land belongs to
us and we can show it, we have the documents from the government
institution INDERT and we will not leave) stated Jorge Galeano.

We ask international organisations to spread this situation, network
for solidarity actions and send human right observers to Paraguay. Many
land conflicts occur during the soy crop season (dec – march) when the
peasants’ attempts to stop pesticide fumigation in their surroundings
often lead to confrontations with the police and military guarding the
soy fields.

The peasant communities need help in the form of support for legal
advocacy and health care. They need to cover the costs of lawyers for
the legal proceedings to defend their lands and denounce the violation
of their rights. Health care has been privatized in Paraguay and the
peasants do not have access to it. They are intensively poisoned by
pesticides and are suffering from severe health problems and so need to
do tests and buy medicines. The coordination peasant and indigenous
women – CONAMURI- is currently pressing a court case against two
Brazilian soy producers accused of murdering a 11 years old boy,
Silvino Talavera by their reckless fumigation of Round Ready herbicide.