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Home About Us Equipo Sur South-North Encuentro Paraguay - 2010 Encuentro Country Updates
Paraguay - 2010 Encuentro Country Updates PDF Print E-mail

2010 Encuentro Country Updates


Servicio Paz y Justicia-Paraguay

Paraguay, between political change and re-militarization

Paraguay, located in the heart of South America, has a long history of war and militarism. Two international wars -the war that took place 1865-1870, called against the Triple Alliance (Argentina-Brazil-Uruguay), and Chaco war against Bolivia from 1932 to 1935-, as well as several civil wars, have forced a culture of militarism.

We experienced a 35-year long dictatorship -that of the General Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989)- which was sustained by state terrorism, and was based on the doctrine of national security and the Plan Condor, with the excuse of fighting communism.  The regime of dictator Stroessner is credited with various disappearances, killings, and the exile of many compatriots who fought for a more democratic society.

The dictatorship fell in 1989, and was then followed by several presidents[1], who remained obedient to the hegemonic interests of the United States.  It is in the era of the Duarte Frutos government that the possibility of installing U.S. bases in Paraguayan territory became stronger.  It is also during the Duarte Frutos government that 500 American marines were allowed entry as part of Law 2594/95, and as Ceceña Sther Ana says, the Paraguayan territory became a large U.S. military base ever since the law began to give wide powers of action to the 18 combined military exercises[2]. Following actions from various anti-military organizations, denouncing the real interests (one of them the Guarani aquifer) of the U.S. military, the government did not introduce any new laws allowing the entry of U.S. soldiers.

April 20, 2008, is a historic day for many Paraguayans.  After 61 years of hegemony by the National Republican Association -known as the Colorado Party- President Fernando Lugo, a former bishop connected to the doctrine of liberation theology, and representing the Patriotic Alliance for Change, was chosen by a national election.  It is the first time in six decades that there was a transfer of government from one political party to another.

After Lugo's inauguration as president, there was hope for change in terms of the issues we will be discussing at this international Encuentro.  Lugo initially denied the presence of U.S. troops for the "Nuevos Horizontes" military exercises.  It is also necessary to understand that "Paraguay is reasonably accompanying the unitary position of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) with the exception of Colombia."

Nevertheless, as a result of the emergence of a group called the Paraguayan's People Army (Ejercito del Pueblo Paraguayo, EPP), which used leftist slogans and whose method of struggle includes kidnapping and the burning of police stations and military outposts, Lugo's government responded with several police-military-fiscal operations, reaching what we call the militarization of areas. However, Rafael Filizzola, the Interior Minister, said the armed forces would provide logistical support to the police and that procedure would be "in the first place to implement internal security Law 1137/97," adding that the intention was not to militarize the area[3].

This military operation known as Jerovia[4], deployed in the north of the country, was composed of more than 500 soldiers and 250 police officers, dispatching four helicopters, three planes, 30 patrol boats, 20 trucks and 15 trucks of the Armed Forces.

After this operation, there were several more operations in the eager search for the members of the EPP, which according to the government's own data would not arrive at even a hundred people.

In April of this year, Lugo's government enacted Law 3994/10, declaring a state of emergency in the states of San Pedro, Concepción, Amambay, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay, with the excuse of fighting against the EPP.  The government mobilized 3320 public forces personnel, of which 2000 were members of the military and 1320 were police, all of which were part of specialized operations forces, such as anti-kidnapping forces, a battalion of special forces (army, navy and aeronautical), amphibious command of the First Infantry Division.  Many of these soldiers were trained in the U.S. [5]

A state of emergency, under Article 288 of the Paraguayan National Constitution, may be established when there is an international armed conflict or serious internal commotion, neither of which existed. However, Lugo established a state of emergency for 30 days.

As I mentioned, the U.S. military presence is no longer held under a law, but rather, by the permission of the Commander-in-Chief, Lugo, except for cooperation from the U.S. government providing civic-medical action.  Such civic-medical action is organized by the Paraguayan armed forces, with support from the civil affairs section of the U.S. embassy's Office of Defense Cooperation, a new program taking place in the suburban barrio area of Asuncion, called chacarita. [6]

Also after the state of emergency, U.S. and Paraguayan military provided medical care in different specialties, including general clinic, dentistry, pediatrics, gynecology and ophthalmology, and educational talks on military planning. This activity took place in Concepción, in the north of the country, one of the areas of EPP action. [7]

"Concepción and San Pedro are the states with the highest number of organized peasants, and the states where the most U.S. military exercises have been carried out in recent years, which together reach more than 16, without counting areas highly accessible to exploitation of the Guarani Aquifer.

These areas have already been identified as very important by U.S. military personnel, who have developed armed operational groups, and where between last December and February, Colombian advisers were installed." [8]

For some time, members of the public prosecutor's office in Paraguay have been developing training courses with their Colombian peers. Also, ten experts from the Colombian military forces came to collaborate on anti-kidnapping tactics.[9] The Colombian Administrative Department of Security (DAS), the most important intelligence agency of the Colombian state, also advises the Paraguayan Ministry of the Interior.[10]

According to the International Federation of Human Rights (Federacion Internacional de Derechos Humanos, FIDH) in their document Colombia: Activities of DAS: Discredit, Destroy, Sabotage. "This institution has become an instrument of government and its allied organizations to attack and carry out harassment, threats, extortion, blackmail, and all kinds of operations outside the law and against human rights..."  We can therefore say that Lugo's government extends the Plan Colombia to the heart of South America.

This is the Paraguayan context within the situation of militarization in the region. On the one hand it is allied with the voices against the installation of military bases in Colombia.  Nevertheless, internally, this context has given new impetus to the use of military force on issues where the national police would have to be the lead.  This means that once again have turned itself to a structure which uses war as an answer, a structure that seeks the physical elimination of the enemy.  The military forces are not prepared to combat delinquency, and much less prepared to assist the people socially - for that there exists the entities that have a social function within the state. However, for a long time our countries have wanted to give a new face to the military, which not so long ago, was a structure which served to kidnap, disappear, and kill people who only sought a better quality of life.

Anti-militarization organizations in Paraguay have confronted this issue in several ways:

  • The inclusion of conscientious objection to compulsory military service in the National Constitution of 1992, and from there large-scale workshops focusing on the right of conscientious objection have been led. There has been a major impact, with more than140,000 youth today rejecting compulsory military service.

  • Also, for more than 10 years, we have worked on the Campaign to Disarm the Budget (Campaña Desarmemos el Presupuesto) with various social organizations, and have challenged military spending to instead be reinvested in social causes.

  • Observation missions by members of regional organizations, for joint continental actions.

All actions that we can carry out together, at the continental level, have to be inclusive and where, above all, social justice, is the fundamental premise. Working for a culture of peace means individual and collective transformations where coherence between ends and means is essential.

[1] Gral Andres Rodriguez, 1989-1993, Juan Carlos Wasmoy-1993-1998, Raúl Cubas Grau-1998-1999, Luis Gonzalez Macchi1999-2003 y Nicanor Duarte Frutos-2003-2008.

[2] Operativos militares combinados, denominados Medretes por sus siglas en ingles y Nuevos horizontes, que consistía en atenciones medicas, oftalmológicas y construcción de infraestructuras.

[3] Oficializan intervención de militares en San Pedro. Diario Abc Color, Asunción, 8 de enero de 2009, disponible en <http://archivo.abc.com.py/2009-01-08/articulos/485261/oficializan-intervencion-de-militares-en-san-pedro>,

[4] Palabra guaraní que significa "para creer".

[5] Diario Ultima Hora, Asunción, pagina 6, 21 enero 2010.

[6] Diario Ultima Hora, Asuncion, pagina 8, 29 octubre de 2009

[7] Diario Abc color, pagina 3, 24 mayo de 2010

[8] Gobierno de Lugo despliega Plan Colombia en la región,Orlando Castillo Caballero, ALAI AMLATINA, 12/05/2010

[9] Diario Abc color, Asunción, pagina 3, 18 de octubre de 2009

[10] Ver.www.das.gov.co


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