Paraguay: Violent evictions affect land rights defenders

Paraguay: Violent evictions affect land rights defenders
Campesino farmers in the FNC take part in a march. 2017, REUTERS/Jorge Adorno.

Association

On 15th June 2022, campesino farmers and police clashed in Edelira, Itapúa department in a violent confrontation that ended with the killing of campesino Édgar Emiliano Centurión Almirón. The incident took place on a disputed property, where police had attempted to evict families from a settlement known as 1 de mayo. According to Base Investigaciones Sociales (Base Social Investigations - BASE-IS), witnesses said the police approached the settlement violently, shooting at residents in order to clear the land for the sowing of field crops. Centurión was killed with over a dozen fatal shots.

Coordinadora Itapúa Unido Por la Soberanía (Itapúa United for Sovereignty Coordinator), which brings together members of different landless farmer settlements, demanded information on Centurión’s killing. As of 5th July, files from the investigation had not been provided to the deceased’s family.

Another eviction on 19th May resulted in two Ava Guaraní Indigenous rights defenders detained. This was the third eviction in the Indigenous community Cerrito de Minga Porã, in the Alto Paraná department; 40 families were affected by the eviction, with police officers allegedly destroying the families’ homes, farms, and a temple.

In a separate case involving a land dispute, Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay (Human Rights Coordination of Paraguay - Codehupy) reported that 30 campesino farmers were criminalised in the district of Abaí, Caazapá. According Codehupy, the farmers face trumped-up charges of “invasion of third party property” based on allegedly falsified land title documents. On 19th May 2022, the organisation requested an audit of the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the case to review potential irregularities in these charges.

Peaceful Assembly

In a positive development on 28th April 2022, the country’s Senate voted to archive the bill to amend the Criminal Code which would criminalise road blockades, as previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor. Under this draft legislation, peaceful protesters who block roads could have faced up to three years in prison.

Mobilisation by the National Federation of Campesinos (FNC)

On 24th and 25th May 2022, Federación Nacional Campesina (National Federation of Campesinos – FNC) mobilised in Asunción to demand land rights for campesino farmers in 40 settlements across five Paraguayan departments. The demonstration also underscored the need for the state to promote policies of legalisation and development of these settlements. Eviction and criminalisation of the struggle for land rights are not the way forward for national development, they said. During the two days, leaders of the FNC met with several public authorities to discuss their demands for such improved policies and rights protections.

On 7th June, members of the FNC organised more protests in nine of the country’s departments under the slogan - “Without land reform, there will be no peace”. Their demands included a plan to support smallholder farming production in the face of the climate crisis.

Expression

On 25th May 2022, former Paraguayan national team goalkeeper and captain José Luis Félix Chilavert was handed a suspended prison sentence for defamation of the president of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol), Alejandro Domínguez. Chilavert has repeatedly accused Domínguez of being “corrupt” in various publications and on Twitter. During the sentencing, the judge said that there is a fine line between ‘an opinion’ within the right of freedom of expression, and an ‘accusation’. The magistrate read some of Chilavert’s tweets and explained that some sought to “subject a person to scorn”. In addition to the suspended prison sentence, Chilavert was banned from leaving the country without judicial authorisation and must appear monthly before the court for three months to register in the court records.