Friday 15.9.2017 in Latest Developments in Paraguay Country Page
In July 2017, farmers in Paraguay mobilised to demand the government to comply with a 2016 agreement that “promised the refinancing of agricultural debts of approximately 18,000 producers”. The farmers stayed in tents for over 35 days in Plaza de Armas in La Asuncion as a form of resistance and to express their dissatisfaction.
It was reported that on several occasions during the month-long protest, the police blocked the farmers from reaching the city centre and prevented them from participating in the protest. The police justified the actions, citing law 1066 that regulates peaceful protests in the capital city from 7:00 p.m. to midnight, Monday to Friday, and on Sundays and holidays from 6:00 a.m. and then for only for 24 hours. During the daytime, groups of no more than 50 people can meet in front of the Government Palace to deliver petitions, but they are prohibited from blocking streets, bridges, railways or public roads.
Human rights organisation Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay sent a letter to the Interior Minister expressing concern over the restrictive measures used by national police to prevent the protests.
In a separate incident, thousands of students have taken to the streets of Asuncion to demand reforms in the education sector. Federación Nacional de Estudiantes Secundarios has demanded, in particular, “more budget infrastructure, nutritional supplement, support for technical high school students as well as access to higher technical equipment”
As was reported on the Monitor, an appeals court in Paraguay upheld the sentences against 11 campesinos (rural farmers) after a court in July 2016 found them guilty of first degree murder, land invasion and other crimes. Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay reported that family members of the campesinos are holding a peaceful protest in front of the Supreme Court building as a "Carpa de la Resistencia" until the court issues a decision on the new appeal to nullify the trial.
On 6th July 2017, journalists Héctor Rodríguez, Alberto Núñez and Carmen Ruiz, were fired without justification from Unicanal. It was reported that the reason behind this decision centered around their involvement in the trade union. Recently, Rodríguez and Ruiz announced their candidatures for the election of delegates to the Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP), and Núñez had been part of a demonstration in front of the TV station. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also reported that during July and August 2017,18 journalists were fired from Unicanal. IFJ stated that the journalists were dismissed for expressing dissenting opinions on the outlet's editorial line or due to their union membership and activity.
It was also reported that media professionals were harassed while covering the farmers' protests as explained above in the section on Peaceful Assembly. On 11th August 2017, police officers interrogated the journalists and took notes on car registration numbers and even searched their vehicles.
In a separate incident, journalist Clara Martinez was sexually harassed while covering a soccer game. Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay condemned the incident and requested that the authorities protect media workers when such incidents occur. The journalist claimed that she asked a police officer for protection and the officer did not help her. This is not an isolated incident; it was reported that during 2016 and thus far in 2017, 27 women journalists have been victims of violence.
Indigenous people in Paraguay are seeking to form a political party. Indigenous activists have taken to the streets of the capital, collecting signatures to present to Paraguay's Electoral Court. This is the next step to be able to stand formally as candidates for elections. They have already formed a political movement, Movimiento Político Plurinacional de Indígenas del Paraguay (Paraguayan Multinational Indigenous Political Movement), but the group explained that they need to become recognised as a political party and elect their representatives, otherwise they “will continue to be ignored and to suffer inequality”.