Paraguay: Tractor Blockades from the Right

  Source: Americas Program

As one of the biggest producers and exporters of soy in the world, Paraguay suffers severely from the adverse social and environmental effects of export monoculture. These effects include the destruction of biodiversity, deforestation, contamination from agrochemicals, and violent dislocation of campesinos and indigenous people from their land.

"Violence, murders, extreme poverty, and forced displacement are some of the terrible consequences facing campesino movements in Paraguay. These result from the imposition of the agribusiness model in which huge transnational corporations participate," reports Radio Mundo Real. "The Paraguayan model is characterized by the production of soy as a monoculture depending for the most part on transgenics, and on intensive livestock farming. This model affects biodiversity and puts the livelihood of the people in danger."

In response to this situation, organizations of campesinos have participated in protests, occupied land, taken direct actions to stop fumigation by toxic agrochemicals, and organized resistance against evictions from their land. The authorities, landholders, and sectors allied with agribusinesses have responded to this resistance with violence and repression. The recent election of the progressive candidate Fernando Lugo to the presidency of the republic promises positive change in the traditional stance of the Paraguayan government regarding monoculture and agribusiness. However, the web page "La Soja Mata" warns: "In this new political context, social movements are pressing to advance their most important struggles: agricultural reform and the recovery of food independence. The new government has produced visible progress such as the change in national direction of the Agrarian Reform Institute (INDERT, Instituto de Reforma Agraria), in which it has employed people close to the campesino movements. However, the repression of campesino movements continues as can be seen by recent violent evictions from occupied land and the murder of the campesino leader Bienvenido Melgarejo on Oct. 4, 2008."

Soy producers are confronting the new government with a series of "tractor blockades," demonstrations using heavy agricultural machinery in the streets of Asunción, the capital city, and other major cities. The organizers maintain that the objective of the "tractor blockades" is "a safe Paraguay where everyone, without exception, lives together respecting the law."

The organizations of people exiled from their land, the small campesinos, environmentalists, and labor unions call these protests a demonstration of violence against social change. "They have the machines, we have the people," said a campesino organizer of "La Soja Mata." "The peace and safety they demand is a declaration of violence against those who want a new Paraguay. They will become more confrontational when Lugo’s government does not give in to the wishes of a corrupt minority," proclaimed the Social and Populat Front (Frente Social y Popular).


La Soja Mata Collective, "Tractorazo: Los productores de soja protestan para ‘paz, securidad y trabajos,’"

Radio Mundo Real, "Monocultivos de soja y ganadería intensiva amenazan biodiversidad y campesinado en Paraguay,"