Taking land rights issues seriously in Paraguay: a ‘deadly’ land dispute leads to the President’s conviction

President Fernando Lugo was impeached by Congress in June.

The Telegraph reported that in a 39 to 4 vote lawmakers found him guilty of performing his duties badly during the land dispute, which left 17 people dead – at least six police and 11 squatters  – on a huge estate which poor farmers claim was acquired by political influence decades ago.

International Business Times reported  (15.6.12)

The farmers were occupying a property in eastern Paraguay, claiming the land was taken from them during the military rule of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989. In total, 100 families entered onto the property in Canindeyu province three weeks ago, though it is not clear how many remained at the time of the confrontation with police.  

Police officers moved in to evict the farmers early Friday morning and were ambushed in a wooden area by some of the farmers. In addition to those killed in the fighting, dozens more were wounded. It is not clear how many people have been arrested, but Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has ordered the military to step in and said in a press conference that “[a]ll the forces are working towards reestablishing calm and security to the area.” 

Mr Lugo sacked his interior minister and Paraguay’s police chief to try to defuse the crisis, which highlighted the president’s failure to redistribute land to the poor in a country where only a few have all the wealth.

In many countries land and homes can be seized ‘legally’ by government, against the owners’ will, and illegally by the rich and powerful.

In India a protest march against such abuses will get under way in October and in Britain a new high-speed rail link is being resisted in many ways by farmers and homeowners, including a legal action which will start in December. The British experience includes low compensation, failure to communicate or respond and official loss or withholding of documents submitted.

Heads of neighbouring states protested – but we welcome action which makes the powerful realise that they will be held accountable for their actions.

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