SOA Watch wishes to make known to the international community our complete repudiation of the convictions — ranging from 4 years to 35 years in prison — which were recently passed on landless campesinos in Paraguay as a judgment for the “Massacre of Curuguaty”. That massacre took place on June 15, 2012, during the process of an eviction which had been ordered by local authorities, and in which six policemen and 11 campesinos were killed.
These unfortunate events, it is recalled, were used as the pretext to initiate an “express train” impeachment of the democratically elected President Fernando Lugo, removed without due process and without a fair and impartial trial. The result, that President Lugo was removed from office, is considered by many to be, effectively, a coup d’etat.
Regarding the trail of the Paraguayan campesinos, it is important to keep in mind that no official of the Paraguayan police was ever charged or investigated for the death of any of the 11 campesinos in the “Massacre of Curuguaty”, despite the strong suspicion that several of the injured campesinos were then extrajudicially executed at point blank range soon after the original rain of bullets.
We also bear in mind the report of the SOA Watch Human Rights Observation delegation, which visited Paraguay in April 2013, and expressed grave concerns about this case in a written report and public media interviews. We wrote that “people must not be deprived of their freedom because of generic accusations, without conclusive evidence or without certainty of identification of the alleged perpetrators. We consider it a grave violation of human rights to keep people in prison without proof and in many cases simply arbitrarily detained”.
The SOAW Observation Mission heard testimony of torture against the detained campesinos and“various testimonies, in parallel to the prosecution, that complained of the summary execution of several of the 11 deceased campesinos”.
“We believe that the tragedy of Curuguaty, starting from the murky legal (land title) arrangements which set the background, has serious irregularities which demonstrate the manipulation of the State apparatus by those with true power and by mobsters. As declared by the Justices of the Supreme Court, the lands of Marina Cue were not the property of the Riquelme Family but were donated years before by a company, Industrial Paraguaya, to the Paraguayan state, who nonetheless neglected to put their name on the title to the land. That is, neither the Paraguayan state nor the Riquelme family held the titles to the property. In this way, the police invasion (disguised as a raid) to evict the occupants was clearly illegal.“ In our report we pointedly questioned the legality of police action which led to the slaughter. More than four years after these occurrences, we must conclude that justice has not been served for the condemned campesinos nor for the dead.
One of the defense lawyers, Victor Azuaga, told the press that the sentence is deplorable for its lack of evidence: “There is no corroborating evidence. And the material evidence is not reliable either. The weapons which were seized, according to the prosecution itself, had not be shot, as shown by the paraffin tests on the dead campesinos (who had allegedly fired at the policemen). The tests were negative and that means those people could not have been responsible for offenses “.
Therefore, we again express our solidarity with the convicted campesinos and with their families, and with the social organizations and human rights organizations who have accompanied them all these years crying out for justice.
We join our allies SERPAJ-Paraguay who “roundly reject the sentences“ and together with SERPAJ-Paraguay we demand ”a review of the case, and for a mistrial to be declared in the case, because defects at the origin of the case prevent the basic conditions of fairness and thoroughness”.
Finally, there remains open and pending the burning question to which the Paraguayan state still needs to respond, clearly and objectively: “What really happened at Curuguaty?”
Justice is still pending…