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Oxfam in Paraguay today announced its involvement in a campaign to get “public lands” into the hands of landless young people. 1980 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel is supporting the campaign, co-organized by local communities and the Articulacion Curuguaty (Curuguaty Network).
More than half of the 900,000 people evicted from Paraguay’s rural areas in the past 10 years have been under the age of 30. Paraguay is poor, ranking 111th in the Human Development Index, and its land among the most unequally distributed in Latin America: 2% of the population own 85% of its farm land. One in three people in rural areas live in extreme poverty.
However Paraguay’s economy is booming. In 2010 it was the third-largest growing economy in the world, based on it becoming the fourth-largest exporter of soy. Between 80 to 90% of all its arable land is now growing soy. Soy companies pay little if any export tax. Paraguay’s Treasury collects only 2% of its income from its richest agriculture export sector.
The Articulacion Curuguaty campaign focuses on the “Marinakue” lands in Curuguaty district, owned by the government and now occupied by a soy company. Local people say the lands should have been allocated to small-holder farmers as part of agrarian reforms in 1992, as established by the country’s Constitution. The dispute of the Marinakue lands that began in 2004 culminated in a violent eviction in June 2012 where 11 farmers and six policemen were killed, resulting later that month in the impeachment of then-President Fernando Lugo.
Articulacion Curuguaty – a broad movement of local civil society groups and supporters – was organized as a result of these events. On the 15th of each month it holds remembrance events around the Marinakue lands to support local landless people and prisoners.
Supporting a peaceful negotiated settlement
Oxfam does not condone or support violence. It is co-organising the campaign in Paraguay to support a peaceful negotiated settlement of the dispute and the lands given over to provide livelihoods for local young landless people.
"We tell anyone who does not understand our struggle that the land gives us life and nourishment, that is why it is so important to us and to everyone", Rodolfo Castro, president of the Comisión Campesina de Lucha por la Tierra de Curuguaty (Rural Commission for Land Struggle in Curuguaty). "Many of us young people don't have land. This forces us to live on the outskirts of big cities."
The right to a decent life and a better future
“President Cartes should listen to the clamor for justice coming from Curuguaty and now from many parts of the world”, Concepcion Oviedo, representative of the Articulation Curuguaty said. “In Paraguay and throughout Latin America, the struggle of rural families affected by land concentration is a struggle for the right to a decent life and a future free from poverty and exclusion. There is no more legitimate and just demand than that”.
“My call is for the global citizenship committed to the Human Rights: Let’s make Curuguaty a cause for justice and dignity of rural men and women from Paraguay and the world”, said Nobel Peace Prize-winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel. “Those who guarantee the food sovereignty have no land, and if keeps on like this, land has no future. Let’s use our will to change their lives”.
Oscar Lopez, Oxfam director in Paraguay, said "land in Curuguaty is the future of its youth. If the country's rural families — made up mainly of under 30 year olds — do not have access to land, the government's social development program will not be effective. Transparency, defense of public goods and creating opportunities for the whole population, especially the people in rural areas who grow our food, is Paraguay's future.”
Notes to editors
Carolina Thiede - Communications officer in Paraguay
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