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On Sunday night Paraguayan peasants Cipriano Flores and Asuncion Acuña were shot by gun men. Both of them live in the landless settlement India Juliana, in Ararupi, Caazapa department.
Cipriano (17) was injured in his mouth. He had surgery yesterday at the local hospital of Encarnacion and is in critical condition. Asuncion has three broken bones but was treated and discharged from hospital.
“The unfortunate events happened at 2am, while they were watching the settlement. They were attacked there by two armed civilians”, reads a public statement issued by the Organization of Struggle for Land in Paraguay (OLT), a member of La Via Campesina, of which both rural workers are a part of. There are work brigades at the settlement, including security guards. Cipriano and Asuncion were attacked while they were working and their colleagues were asleep, before changing shifts.
“The shooters were identified as employees of Aldemar Bubans and Elenice Alles, owners of Buchinger corporation, who claim to be the owners of the plot of land number 460 with nearly 2,500 hectares of land”.
130 families live in India Juliana. They are big families, with several children each, OLT leader Esther Leiva told Real World Radio. They have been occupying the land adjacent to the disputed territory for six years. “We understand and have documents that prove those are state-owned lands. That is why we reclaim them”, she said.
Leiva said the de facto owners are Brazilians, party devoted to planting soya, and said the workers of the landless settlement are sure the gunmen were hired by the ranchers. “Our colleagues have all the information” she said, and added that the organized peasants are working with a team of lawyers to investigate the number of people who claim to own the land.
OLT’s press release explains that in early 2012 the landless Neighbor Commission of India Juliana is representing the 130 landless families camping by the side of the road. The peasants claim that they have been constantly harassed by armed civilians who work for Brazilian soy producers.
The landless peasants have filed, without success, many proceedings before the National Institute of Rural Development and Land (INDERT), which is responsible for the granting of lands to poor families. “There is no political willingness” said Leiva, who blamed INDERT’s chair, Luis Ortigoza.
“In response to this violent incident we demand the authorities to investigate what happened, to bring the responsible to justice and to punish them and demand the payment of damages”, reads OLT public statement. “We do not want to see more deaths as a result of the government’s lack of action. This happens too often and continues to affect our country just for reclaiming lands”.
Leiva expressed concern over the serious situation of access to land in Paraguay. Most land in the country is owned by foreigners, especially Brazilians.
“We cannot live without harvesting, we cannot eat, because we have no government support. The people, especially the children camping in the settlement are going through a very difficult situation”, said Levia before adding that “the peasant sectors have no justice, no guarantees, no nothing”. “We cannot live like this. Meanwhile, the Brazilians are privileged, the gunmen are privileged”.
OLT made a call to peasant, social and grassroots organizations to join efforts to be alert to violent incidents that aim to silence their fair struggle for land.
“We ratify the need for an agrarian reform. The peasants need land to work and live in dignity”, concluded Leiva.
“Este triunfo de Uruguay debe ser un llamado urgente a analizar, revisar, renegociar o anular cuando corresponda todos los tratados bilaterales de comercio y de protección de inversiones que ha suscrito el país, antes de exponernos a nuevas demandas en las que podemos correr con distinta suerte que en la recién finalizada”.
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