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What Happened in Marina Kue? The Quest for Human and Land Rights in Paraguay

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Author: Courtney Brantley

In an event organized by OXFAM and LAWGEF on October 3, 2014, José Tomás Sánchez, a Paraguayan Fulbright Research Fellow and former government official under the Lugo administration, presented the land conflict case of Marina Kue, exposing violations of land and human rights in Paraguay.

Land and human rights are greatly threatened in Paraguay, one of the smallest countries in South America with only 6.8 million people, 40% of whom live in rural areas. It has one of the most unequal distributions of land in the world, leading to land conflicts, such as with the case of Marina Kue. 

On June 15, 2012, sixty landless farmers were violently evicted from the area of Mariana Kue in eastern Paraguay by 300 policemen in riot gear. The dispute left eleven farmers and six policemen dead. To date, it is not clear how the violence started. But what is clear is that there has not been a fair investigation. Not a single case has been opened against members of the police, although the human rights network CODEHUPY has documented alleged extrajudicial executions, including of wounded farmers, by members of the police.

Yet some 14 poor farmers have been charged with “attempted homicide” and other crimes, although prosecutors have not been able to identify specific perpetrators. This case speaks volumes to the historical need for a fair justice system in Paraguay that defends the victims of land and human rights abuses in the country. According to José Tomás Sánchez, from 1954 to 1989 during the Stroessner dictatorship, approximately 20 percent of Paraguay’s land was distributed to Stroessner’s friends in the agricultural sector, in a controversial move masked as an “agrarian reform.” Even after Paraguay´s transition to democracy in 1989, impunity for crimes in land conflict cases ran rampant; from 1989 to 2013, 130 people were killed over land conflicts. Today, 300,000 farmers are still without land of Marina Kue. The country must show that it is moving toward a more transparent justice system, due process of law, and more access to land for its citizenry, especially youth

So what can be done? To start, Articulación Curuguaty, a coalition of over 40 local and national Paraguayan organizations who have united to support the people who seek to claim their right to the land of Marina Kue, have been asking for support from the international community to ask Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes to meet their three demands.

  1. Legally transfer the State land of Marina Kue to the landless youth and families of Curuguaty;
  2. Conduct an independent investigation into the June 15, 2012 massacre
  3. Bring those responsible for the massacre to justice and release those community members who have been unjustly detained.

“Marina Kue is an open wound,” said Mr. Sánchez. “To have a promising future, we need to cure this.”