Author: Jacqueline Cook
On June 15, 2012, over 300 police officers in riot gear evicted 60 landless farmers in Marina Kue, Paraguay. Eleven campesinos and six police officers died in the violent clash.
In a briefing organized by Oxfam and the Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF) on October 22, 2015, Dante Leguizamón, head of the legal department of the Human Rights Coalition of Paraguay (CODEHUPY), shared an update on the land conflict case of Marina Kue, which exposes violations of land rights and human rights in Paraguay.
In the last three years, the Paraguayan government has done little to investigate the case of Marina Kue. Not a single investigation has been opened against the police officers allegedly involved in the deaths of campesinos although human rights groups provided evidence regarding extrajudicial executions and torture of some of the farmers. At the same time, 14 farmers have been charged with attempted homicide amongst other crimes, even though prosecutors have not been able to identify any specific perpetrators and it remains unclear how the violence began.
The case of Marina Kue highlights broader issues of violent land conflict exacerbated by Stroessner dictatorship-era land reforms. From 1954 to 1989, approximately 20 percent of Paraguay’s land was redistributed in an “agrarian reform” to friends of Stroessner in the agricultural sector. After the fall of the dictatorship, rampant impunity in land conflict cases and the failure to redistribute these lands contributed to the violent deaths of 130 small farmers between 1989 and 2013. According to Oxfam International, some 585,000 people have been forced from their farmlands through land grabs and lack of government support for small-scale rural development. Approximately 80 percent of the agricultural land is owned by only 1.6 percent of the people and a third of all small farmers have no land.
International advocacy efforts have helped garner support from U.S. lawmakers and international activists in urging the Paraguayan government to investigate the case of Marina Kue. The Articulación Curuguaty, a coalition of over 40 local and national Paraguayan civil society organizations, launched a campaign with Oxfam in support of the communities of Curuguaty and Marina Kue who seek to claim land rights. In November 2014, an international petition with 37,574 signatories was delivered to President Horacio Cartes asking for a resolution of the land conflict and justice for the victims. This petition was received alongside a letter from the United States Congress. Senator Patrick Leahy also spoke before Congress about the cases on November 12, 2014. A follow up letter was sent in July 2015, in an attempt to spur movement on the stalemated case.
Today, the community’s land claims remain unresolved and justice remains out of reach.