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25 September 2012 | | | | | | |

The “Sin” of wanting lands

Interview with one of the peasants arrested after the Curuguaty massacre

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Adalberto Castro is one of the Paraguayan peasants who has been in prison since the police operation that was carried out in Curuguaty on June 15th and which resulted in the death of eleven landless peasants and six police officers. He lost a brother in the confrontation and he was shot, tortured and death threatened. Now he is telling his story to Real World Radio.

Adalberto (24) is the son of Mariano Castro, president of the Commission of Victims of the group of relatives of the peasants who died in the massacre. Adolfo,
Adalberto’s brother, was 28 years old and had two children. The information managed by the family is that he was executed, which according to several sources, not only peasants, also happened with many of the murdered landless peasants. Nestor, Adalberto’s other brother, was shot in the jaw and is also in prison. He was taken to Asuncion, capital city of Paraguay, to have his jaw reconstructed.

On June 15th, a huge police operation with hundreds of police officers, horses, an helicopter, 20 police cars and some ambulances attacked the Marina Cue land, 35 kilometres from Curuguaty, in Canindeyu department. Eleven peasants and six police officers were killed, there were tens of injured people and 12 peasants arrested. There are 54 people charged with seven crimes, and tens of them remain fugitive.

According to information provided by the peasants, authorized by the Paraguayan de facto government, Marina Cue, a 2000-hectare land, is a state land destined to the agrarian reform, but it was taken over illegally by cattle company Campos Morombi, of former Colorado Party lawmaker, Blas Riquelme, who died on September 2nd. Riquelme was benefited by former Paraguayan dictator, Alfredo Stroesnner, with “illgotten” lands, which had to be destined to the agrarian reform.

The peasant struggle for the Marina Cue land has been taking place for nine years, with several occupations by the landless peasants and evictions. On June 15th a disaster, a massacre, took place.

“We were expecting the police or some authority to talk to us and bring a document that said whether that land had an owner or not. We were not going to fight, I never thought that was going to happen, we wouldn’t had been with our children there if that was the case”, said Adalberto to Real World Radio. The interview was carried out in Coronel Oviedo regional prison, in Caaguazu department.

The peasant told us that the police attacked them, and there wasn’t any attempt to dialogue by the police officers. Carlos Filizzola, Minister of Interior of Fernando Lugo’s administration, who resigned on June 15th after the massacre and the questionings received, said to Real World Radio that the person in charge of the operation, Erven Lovera, had tried to talk to the peasants. The peasants’ version indicates the opposite. “Villalba (Ruben, one of the main leaders of the landless settlement) requested to talk, (but) they were thousands and attacked”, said Adalberto.

In a TV report by Paraguay.com, who had a team of journalists joining the operation and was with Lovera before the events, the police chief can be seen talking to a superior on the cellphone and saying that “the anti-riot group was going to attack directly”. Lovera’s plan, who died from high caliber gun-shot wounds, corresponds to the version of the peasants about the beginning of the confrontation in Marina Cue.

Some peasants, and especially one of the fugitives who preferred not to give his name, said that some of their friends had guns to defend themselves, but not high-caliber guns. Filizzola confirmed that the peasants didn’t have that kind of weapons and that there were never any problems in the 100 eviction operations that took place while he was minister. The former authority highlighted the theory of the presence of hidden hired snipers to cause a massacre and destabilize Lugo’s administration.

Adalberto said he tried to run, but he was shot in the leg. He was death threatened, hit and called a "criminal". He added that a police officer interceded for the others to stop hitting him. Another one told him to run, but Adalberto supposed he was going to get shot in the back and didn’t accept the invitation. He chose to stay during that hell and try to save his life.

The young man told Real World Radio from Coronel Oviedo prison that his leg still hurts and that he would like to be seen by the doctors again. The doctor of the prison requested Adalberto to leave the prison to be checked, but the judicial authorities refused. On June 15th, he was taken to a hospital in Curuguaty at 1pm, several hours after he had been hurt. There, they discharged him when he was still in pain. He says the bullet continues to be in his leg, which is denied by Coronel Oviedo’s authorities.
“I want my freedom. Mi sin was to want a piece of land, because I didn’t have guns, I never thought (a confrontation was going to happen)”, said Adalberto. His father visited him a few times, but it is too expensive to travel from Yvy Pytã community, five kilometers from Marina Cue, to Coronel Oviedo. There are tens of kilometres between them.

According to the information provided by the lawyers to the nine people imprisoned in Coronel Oviedo, the investigation about what happened on June 15th will last six months. The peasants hope to be released. “When I leave the prison I want to have my own land, work and start a family”, said Adalberto.

Photo: Real World Radio

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