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The conviction of eleven Paraguayan peasants to sentences between 4 and 30 years in prison after a criminal process filled with irregularities, recognized by the judicial actors themselves, will mark a turning point in the struggle for land in this South American country, said Diana Rivarola to Real World Radio. Diana is member of Articulación Curuguaty, created in 2012 to join the peasants of Marina Cué charged with the “Curuguaty Massacre”.
The events took place on June 15, 2012, when hundreds of police officers came to Marina Cué to evict 70 peasants that had occupied public lands that had been previously ill gotten by landowner Blas Riquelme.
During the eviction there was a shooting where 11 peasants and 6 police officers died. However, the Prosecution only investigated the deaths of the police officers and the incident served as a basis for the ousting of then President, Fernando Lugo, through an impeachment.
Diana told Real World Radio that four of the peasants sentenced were released since the four years in prison compensate the conviction ruled by the court.
Articulación Curuguaty has raised that the peasants are innocent and that there are numerous elements that make the ruling unacceptable. An appeal will follow shortly, while international solidarity is urgently needed so as to not leave the rest of the peasants alone.
Women´s organization CONAMURI considered the ruling a “scary demonstration of State terrorism to punish popular movements who fight tirelessly for economic, social and cultural rights, for peasants rights and human rights. While on the one side the legal system is accusing poor landless peasants, on the other side, land grabbing and extractivism continue to grow scot free, the rural oligarchy takes over peasant and indigenous agricultural lands and communities depopulate amid an endless sea of soy crops”, stated the women´s group in a press release.
Independent news outlet E´a has made reference to some of the elements that discredit the sentence: first of all, the death of the eleven peasants was not investigated and the charges were generic, i.e., the Prosecutor´s Office charged all peasants with attempted intentional homicide, because it admitted it couldn´t determine which peasant had murdered which police officer.
Also, it has been proven by the defense attorneys that the territories in question were public lands, not private, and that all denunciations of extrajudicial executions and torture were not investigated. Instead, the investigation focused only on the death of the six police officers. These facts reveal a flagrant bias.
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