As a result of the rapid expansion of genetically modified soybeans into the area, peasants and Indigenous people in Eastern Paraguay have become the targets of land evictions, pesticide poisoning and assassinations.
While Brazilian, Italian and Canadian Mennonite farmers have been the beneficiaries of the global soy boom in Paraguay, the majority of people living in the area only see the worst side of the monocultural invasion.
This is particularly acute in the department of Caaguazu, where three indigenous communities have been forcibly displaced, a dozen peasant communities have disappeared, and the very last of the trees will soon be replaced by fields of beans.
In the last three years alone, hundreds of protesters have been arrested in clashes with police, and military and paramilitary groups protecting the soybeans have killed six people. And with 2006 shaping up to be a very poor harvest, the danger of confrontation over land resources can be expected to escalate.
Although there has been a huge amount of opposition to the soy harvest, social organizations in rural Paraguay tend to be disorganized and disjointed. The country’s long legacy of dictatorship and repression of peasant and indigenous movements has left the rural politics a suspicious and localized mess.
Every few years an organization emerges to try to bring these disparate protest groups together, but they have never had the necessary financial and institutional support to keep such a coalition working. The newest of these organizational attempts is the Frente Departamental de Lucha por la Soberania y la Vida. Responsible for blocking last year’s privatization bills, and for organizing a two-week march for land in the fall of 2004, the Frente has not had the necessary resources to hold a large meeting in almost a year.
Now, with the organizational help of progressive priests, leaders of the Frente are asking international supporters to help them put together a Regional Congress this March to hash out a coordinated response to the coming soy harvest.
Working with its contacts in Paraguay, ACT for the Earth is trying to quickly gather funds to help the Congress have a lasting impact, and the Frente to continue its vital work of protesting the complete takeover of eastern Paraguay by genetically modified soy beans.
A few dollars goes a long way in Paraguay to help build a social movement, and to demonstrate international solidarity with the plight of the rural poor.
For more information, read the following articles from www.activistmagazine.com:
GMO Soy Growers commit Massacre in Paraguay
Canadian Anthropologist Witnesses GMO-related Shootings in Paraguay
Soybeans and Guns in Rural Paraguay
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This article was previously published in Activistmagazine.com and is reprinted here with permission from the author.