Writing for Toward Freedom Aug. 2, Benjamin Dangl provides an overview of regional press coverage of the new US troop presence in Paraguay. Dangl finds that the troop contingentostensibly sent in support of humanitarian missions like road-buildingis actually about policing neighboring Bolivia, where militant indigenous and popular movements are threatening government plans for corporate gas and oil exploitation. According to a July 7 article in the Bolivian newspaper El Deber, a US base is being developed in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia. The base will permit the landing of large aircraft and is capable of housing up to 16,000 troops. A statement released that same day from the US embassy in Paraguay said the US has "absolutely no intention of establishing a military base anywhere in Paraguay" and "has no intention to station soldiers for a lengthy period in Paraguay." (Translation at Information Clearing House)
As we recently noted, Paraguay is currently seeing an upsurge of peasant and popular unrest—just as the US has established a new military presence there (ostensibly aimed at chasing down Islamic militants who have supposedly established the country as a base of operations). This report from Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 24, gives a picture of what kinds of landed interests Paraguay's peasants are facing:
Days after a deadly eviction of peasants by paramilitaries, anti-privatization protests are shaking Paraguay. Neither have made any significant international media coverage. Cuba's Prensa Latina reports June 27 that a national mobilization has coverged on Asuncion, the capital, demanding the government halt the pending Law 1615 that calls for further privatization of state services. The protesters have blocked roads and filled streets with massive marches, paralyzing the capital. Led by the National Front in Defense of National Heritage and Public Property, the National Small Farmers Federation, the Front in Defense of Life and Sovereignty, and the Coordination of Small Farmers Organizations, protesters pledge the campaign will escalate if the government goes through with further privatizations.
A little-reported story from Paraguay on an eviction of peasants from contested lands by the private gunmen of local big land-owners (apparently Brazilians), backed up by the army and police. It is the biotech opponents who are distributing this news, as the landowners are seeking to plant genetically-modified soy. As we recently noted, there is a growing US military presence in Paraguay at the moment. It is ostensibly there to train and back up Paraguayan security forces in a crackdown on supposed Islamic terror networks in the country, but here is an ugly taste of how the new prowess could be used. Our friend Javiera Rulli of Argentina's Grupo de Reflexion Rural (GRR) provides this report:
From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), June 20:
The local leader of Hamas was arrested in an often lawless frontier area where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet. Brazilian and Paraguayan news agencies confirmed June 17 that Saiel Bashar Yahya Al Atary and 21 others described as Islamic terrorists had been arrested by Brazilian federal police in the city of Foz de Iguazu. The men were charged with being part of an international ring that committed credit card fraud, counterfeited documents and was involved in drug trafficking.
There was an old joke back in the '70s: Getting Nixon for burglary was like getting Hitler for tax evasion. Now it seems life imitates black humor. From the BBC, June 7:
Mixed day in court for Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet may be charged with tax evasion but not over human rights abuses committed when he was Chile's military ruler, a court has ruled.
On May 27, Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ) Paraguay condemned an agreement approved by the Paraguayan Congress which will allow US troops into the country for an 18-month training and advisory mission from June 1, 2005 through December 31, 2006. The agreement grants full immunity from prosecution to all US personnel involved in the mission. Congress approved the agreement--apparently at the end of last year--with no debate and behind closed doors, and the public was largely unaware of it, according to SERPAJ Paraguay. "No one knows the extent of these accords and the dangers of a US strategy to violate them," the group warned.
While Chilean ex-Minister of the Interior, Jose Miguel Insulza, assumes the post of Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General, Chile’s indigenous Mapuche bring their case to that same organization, accusing the Chilean government of human rights violations. Having exhausted resources for the Mapuche leader’s defense, the denunciation is being presented before the OAS with the objective of restoring the honor of the Mapuche authority, and securing an end to the use of anti-terrorism legislation against the Mapuche people.