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A Year of Demanding Justice in Paraguay: What Happened in Curuguaty?

A year after the clash that resulted in the death of 11 farm workers and 6 police officers in Curuguaty, Paraguay, organizations that defend human rights and farm workers point out that the criminal case investigating the incidents is partial and that there were several human rights violations during proceedings, such as executions and subjecting farm workers to torture as acts of revenge.

They suggest that the evidence to support the accusation of 14 farm workers by criminal association, invasion of property, and homicide is insufficient and in some cases “prohibited,” according to the Paraguayan Criminal Procedural Code. The defense and defendants themselves continue claiming that the snipers that infiltrated the campsite were those ones who initiated the fire, which led to the deaths of the first police officers, who were unarmed.

A complete report from the PEICC (Platform for the Study and Research of Farm Worker Conflicts) can be downloaded on Scribd [es]. The report will be used as the basis for the defense of some of the farm workers during criminal proceedings and mentions comprehensive details of the massacre in addition to everything that occurred subsequently.

The facts

On June 15, 2012, Curuguaty, a city located in the Canindeyú department almost in the center of the Republic of Paraguay, was the protagonist in a clash between the police and farm workers following an eviction proceeding.

Since January 18, 2012, close to 50 people found themselves occupying lands known as Marina Cue (a phrase in guaraní that refers to the lands that “were of the navy” due to the fact that the navy used them for some time after being donated to the Paraguayan government). The property of these lands to this day remains the focus of litigation between Campos Morombí S.A. (a company belonging to the politician Blas N. Riquelme) and the Paraguayan government.

The eviction [es] sparked political destabilization throughout the entire country, which led to the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo, a former bishop elected president in 2008. The impeachment trial that was carried out in 24 marathon hours and one that some sectors within as well as outside the country categorized as a “parliamentary coup,” resulted in a temporary suspension of Paraguay from the Mercosur bloc, among other international policy implications.

A video from the program “Algo anda mal” [es] (“Something is wrong”), shared on YouTube and led by Paraguayan journalist Santiago González [es], presents a chronological version of the tragedy from the scene with testimonies from the protagonists and key actors in the conflict:

Another shortcoming involved in the defense of the detained farm workers and the sectors that support them is the inexistence of “invasion of foreign property” as a crime, which they were accused of since these lands are found under litigation and their ownership is still being disputed in court, as previously mentioned.

Nonetheless, prosecutor Jalil Rachid assures that he has sufficient evidence to prove at trial that the farm workers who were on these lands came planning the clash beforehand and that it was not a random episode.

In this documentary, filmed by Daniela Candia [es], a summary of the legal situation of the lands in dispute can be seen along with testimonies from families and farmers involved in the occupation and killing.

Today the 14 farm workers find themselves deprived of their freedom as a precautionary measure and are awaiting the first trial hearing, which was suspended a second time this week by the judge on the case, Janine Rìos. The judge sustained that the cause for suspension is that “the time periods from which the Court of Appeals rejected the request for pre-trial, where it should have been resolved if the lands belong to the State or Campos Morombi, were not respected,” as official daily Ultima Hora [es] reports in its online edition.

The first anniversary of Curuguaty

Last Friday, June 14, in commemoration of the first year since the tragedy, residents, human rights defenders, and artists united to pay tribute [es] to the deceased and demand justice.

Numerous actions were carried out, ranging from commemorative acts where the incidents took place to various documentaries that appeared on digital platforms with testimonies from families, witnesses, and the accused farm workers today.

Additionally, important artists from the local scene gave their support through a short film directed by Sandra Kukú Flecha circulating on the Internet since Saturday, June 15, that was released in honor of the anniversary of the confrontation. In the short, filmmakers, actors, singers, and dancers give their points of view with respect to what they believe really happened, and the feelings this dark episode in Paraguayan history produced for them as citizens as well as the consequences they expect immediately and in the future.

Spontaneous interventions in the streets, painted murals, parades and the inevitable posts on the timelines of those who support the campaign entitled “What happened in Curuguaty?” [es] has already become an emblem of those who seek to attain clarification on the facts of what truly happened that June 15.

What really happened in Curuguaty? Were there infiltrators? Did the farm workers receive military guerrilla instructions? Was it all planned? Was the impeachment part of the plan or just a consequence? Will we know someday?

If you want to know more about this case and the campaigns that support the uncovering of the truth as well as respect for human rights, visit quepasoencuruguaty.org/ [es].

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