Paraguan resistance to GM soya plantings - evictions & violence

28 October 2008
Peasant organisations are resisting against the beginning of the GM soya season all over the country of Paraguay. They demand access to land, land reform and the stop of the pesticide spraying which impacts on their communities. Despite the new government, many camps have been evicted and violence has taken place: 2 leaders have been murdered and hundreds of peasants have been arrested. Please sign the letter below to put pressure on the government and put a stop to violence!

San Marco eviction & videoclip showing what happened when a large group of campesinos halted fumigation tractors of Brazilian soy producers. Paraguay, community of Yvypé all at http://www.lasojamata.org/en/node/230

In Paraguay, GM soya monocultures are today the main cause of deforestation, the destruction and pollution of other ecosystems, of violence and the eviction of small farmers and indigenous peoples. Paraguay has nearly 2,6 million hectares of soy plantations for animal feed exports and, more recently, for agrofuel. A journalist who visited the country in 2007 described the impact of soya monocultures as follows:
"Rural eastern Paraguay used to be full of jungle, small farms, schools and wildlife. Now it is a green sea of soybeans. The families, trees and birds are gone. The schools are empty. The air is filled with the toxic stench of the pesticides like paraquat and 2,4-D used to protect the soy crops" [http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3093].

The remnants of Paraguay's Atlantic Forest and of the Alto Parana forest, as well as wetlands, grasslands and rivers are being destroyed and polluted by the expansion of immense RR soya fields. Deforestation is worsening global warming and also causing severe regional warming and droughts. It has contributed to the worst fire season ever recorded in Paraguay last year, and probably to the severe drought which is currently affecting the south of the country. More than 100,000 small peasant families have been evicted for soya plantations and over 100 peasant leaders have been murdered since the late 1990s in conflicts over access to land. Agro-chemical (glyphosate, 2,4D, and others) spraying of soya plantations severely affects the health of people living in soy region, in some cases leading even to deaths, and also destroys people´s food crops. Hunger and malnutrition are increasing as less and less land is available to farmers for growing food.

In August this year, a new government took office and the new president, Fernando Lugo, promised to support small farmers against pesticide poisoning and soya expansion. However, the government has given conflicting signals by also supporting increased soya exports at the same time. Also, the police and juridical forces have been supporting soya businesses in suppressing the peasant movement in their fight against pesticide spraying and the expansion of soy monocultures.

This month, at the start of the new soya planting season, small farmers' organisations have mobilised to stop pesticide spraying and to protect peasant agriculture and the environment against further destruction. They have set up around 130 lawful camps at the margins of soya 'latifundios' (large estates). In recent weeks, they have been increasingly subjected to violence, with two murders of peasant leaders, unlawful arrests and detentions. Also, various camps have been violently evicted, with use of increasing numbers of paramilitaries. Many peasant leaders are receiving death threats. The civil security guards that former government organised 'Comision Garrote' are the main actors behind this threats.

The tendency seems to be that the violence and repression against the peasant movement will intensify. For many in the movement, this year is their last chance to stop soya expansion and to protect what remains of Paraguays' forests and wetlands, sustainable peasant agriculture, and small farmers and indigenous people?s future.

Please write to the authorities in Paraguay and urge them to fully support small farmers and their demands for protection from pesticide spraying, from evictions, environmental destruction and pollution, for food sovereignty and land reform.

See last action report - farms occupied - at http://earthfirst.org.uk/actionreports/node/21753/

See also:
Video about the 2 evictions in Alto Parana:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYEBsk0jtG4
Video about the camp against the pesticide spraying in Caaguazú
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4xnXaZGjS8
Peasant community in San Pedro against the pesticide spraying
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfLEXvipkJw

Articles about the current situation in Paraguay:
http://www.lasojamata.org/

LETTER (send the Spanish version that is below)

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: Please protect Paraguay's communities and environment against soya
monocultures

I was very pleased to hear about President's Lugo's stated commitment to
protect small farmers against soya plantations, including against
pesticide spraying and to stop deforestation. However, I am deeply
concerned to hear about the increasing violence against peasant
organisations that are mobilising against pesticide spraying in the soya
monocultures, while arguing for a new agricultural policy that protects
small farmers and food sovereignty as well as the environment.

Two peasant leaders ? SindulfoMartínez member of the organisation MCP and
Bienvenido Melgarejo of the organisation ASAGRAPA have recently been
murdered. There are reports of a 'hit list' with the names of fifty
peasant leaders who fear that they could be murdered next. In the past
weeks, the courts and the police have been involved in the eviction of
peasant camps which have been lawfully set up on the margins of, not on,
soya plantations, resorting to laws which exist to prevent criminal
offences. People have been unlawfully evicted, detained, criminalised and
tortured.

With this letter, I want to show my strong support to the main demands of
peasant movements and civil society organisations in Paraguay: that
pesticide spraying of soy monocultures must be banned and effectively
stopped. The lands illegally sold to agribusiness companies must be
returned to the landless Paraguayan peasants.

I urge you to stop the eviction orders and repression against peasant
mobilisation. The two recent murders and all reports of police violence
and torture must be fully investigated and those responsible must be held
to account. The families of those who have been murdered must receive
financial compensation.

The government must take immediate action and investigate the death
threats against peasant leaders. The first step for this is to dissolve
the so called ?Citizen Security Commissions?, commonly called ?Garrote
Commissions?. These groups are the main actors of the para-police violence
against social organisations in the rural areas.

In front of the urgent situation of poverty and environmental devastation
in Paraguay, the government must initiate a programme to support peasant
farming and food sovereignty, rather than further sacrificing Paraguay's
communities and environment to produce animal feed and agrofuels for
export.

Please let me know what your plans are for addressing this urgent
situation, in order to avoid more violence and human rights violations,
including more killings of peasants, and to protect communities and the
environment from soya monocultures.

Thank you,

Yours faithfully,
Asunto: Por favor, proteja a las comunidades paraguayas y al medio
ambiente de los monocultivos de soja

Estimada Sra., Estimado Sr.,

Ha sido muy satisfactorio para mí, saber acerca del compromiso del
Presidente Lugo para proteger a los pequeños campesinos en contra de las
plantaciones de soja, así como de las fumigaciones con pesticidas y la
deforestación. Sin embargo, me preocupa seriamente cuando escucho acerca
de la escalada de violencia dirigida hacia las organizaciones campesinas
que se movilizan en contra de las fumigaciones de pesticidas sobre las
poblaciones y a favor de una nueva política agraria que proteja a los
pequeños campesinos, la soberanía alimentaria y el medio ambiente.

Dos líderes campesinos -SindulfoMartínez de la organización, Movimiento
Campesino Paraguayo- MCP (Vía Campesina-PY) y Bienvenido Melgarejo de la
organización Asociación de Agricultores de Alto Paraná- ASAGRAPA han
sido recientemente asesinados. Hemos tenido noticias acerca de una ?lista
negra? con nombres de unos cincuenta líderes campesinos que temen ser los
próximos asesinados. Jueces y la policía han estado en estas últimas
semanas implicados en el desmantelamiento de campamentos campesinos
establecidos legalmente en las márgenes, y no dentro, de las plantaciones
de soja, amparándose en leyes de prevención del crimen. Los campesinos han
sido ilegalmente expulsados, detenidos, criminalizados y torturados.

Con esta carta quiero demostrar mi enérgico apoyo a las dos principales
demandas de los campesinos y las organizaciones de la sociedad civil de
Paraguay: Las fumigaciones con agrotóxicos de los monocultivos de soja
deben ser prohibidas y detenidas de manera efectiva. Las tierras vendidas
irregularmente a los agroempresarios deben ser devueltas a los campesinos
sintierras paraguayos.

Exijo frenar la actual ola de desalojos y represión a las movilizaciones
campesinas. El desalojo por recursos de amparo preventivo es una medida
jurídica irregular. Los dos recientes asesinatos y todos los reportes de
violencia policial y tortura deben ser investigados a fondo, y sus
responsables deben ser penalizados. Las familias de los asesinados deben
ser compensadas económicamente.

Así también el gobierno debe actuar de forma inmediata y frenar las
amenazas de muerte que penden sobre los dirigentes campesinos. El primer
paso para ello es atender a las demandas de las organizaciones de
desarticulación de las ?Comisiones de Seguridad Ciudadana?, comúnmente
denominadas ?Comisión garrote?. Estos grupos son los principales
protagonistas de violencia parapolicial contra las organizaciones sociales
en el campo.

Frente la urgente situación de pobreza y devastación ambiental del campo
paraguayo, el gobierno debe iniciar inmediatamente un programa de apoyo a
la agricultura campesina y la soberanía alimentaria. Basta ya del
sacrificio de las comunidades campesinas e indígenas del Paraguay y del
medio ambiente para mantener un modelo agroexportador sojero que sólo
produce alimento para animales y agrocombustibles.

Por favor, deme a conocer sus planes para contener esta urgente situación
y para evitar más violencia y violaciones de derechos humanos, incluyendo
más asesinatos de campesinos en su país, y para proteger a las comunidades
y al medio ambiente de los monocultivos de la soja.

Muchas gracias por adelantado y un atento saludo.

ADDRESSES / DIRECCIONES

1. Presidencia de la República del Paraguay
Excelentísimo Don Fernando Lugo Méndez, Presidente de la República del
Paraguay
Palacio de Gobierno
El Paraguayo Independiente e/Ayolas y O´leary
Central telefónica 4140000 (RA)
website: www.presidencia.gov.py
e-mail: presidente@presidencia.gov.py
webmaster@presidencia.gov.py

Secretaria General
S. E. Miguel Angel López Perito
Ministro, Secretario General y Jefe del Gabinete Civil de la Presidencia
de la República
Tel 4140288, fax 4140310

2. Secretaria del Ambiente (SEAM)
S. E. José Luís Casaccia , Ministro, Secretario Ejecutivo
Avda. Madan Lynch 3500 y Reservista de la Guerra del Chaco.
Tel + 595 21 615803/4, fax + 595 21 615807
casaccia jcasaccia@hotmail.com

3. SENAVE, Servicio Nacional de Calidad y Sanidad Vegetal y de Semillas
Ing. Agr. Luis Llano Imas , presidente
Oficina central del SENAVE: Edif. PLANETA I. Humaitá Nº 145 c/ Ntra. Sra.
de la Asunción. Telefax: + 595 21 445 769 /+ 595 21 441 549, Asunción -
Paraguay
presidencia@senave.gov.py
secretaria_general@senave.gov.py

S. E. Rafael Filizzola, Ministro
Chile y Manduvirá
Tel + 595 21 493 661, fax: + 595 21 450.027
ministro@mdi.gov.py
vmseguridad@mdi.gov.py
sgeneral@mdi.gov.py
5. Ministerio de Justicia y Trabajo
S. E. Blas Llano, Ministro
Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia y Estados Unidos
Tel + 595 21 447010, + 595 21 493209, fax + 595 21 208469
mjt@mjt.gov.py

6. Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia
S. E. Candido Vera Bejarano, Ministro
Presidente Franco 479
Tel + 595 21 441036, central + 595 21 451316/ 447304
Viceministerio de Agricultura: vagricultura@mag.gov.py
Secretaría General: secretariagral@mag.gov.py

7. Fiscalía Gral. del Estado
Dr. Rubén Candia Amarilla
fiscaliageneral@ministeriopublico.gov.py