Antimilitarists respond to targetting of civilians in Paraguay

IssueApril 2006
News by Javier Garate

Antimilitarists in Paraguay have expressed concern at recent military operations targeting predominantly poor, civilian populations and campesina organisations in rural areas.

On 25 March the Moviemiento de Objecion de Conciencia (MoC), Paraguay, issued a statement in which they called for the punishment of the soldiers responsible for these abuses, adding “We demand that the government stops wasting resources in these [military] institutions, and instead invest in effective policies to eradicate poverty.”

Their comments come in response to current action taken by local military units in the San Pedro region which has seen M16-wielding soldiers breaking into people's homes, arbitrarily detaining young men, and threatening to prevent local ownership of land unless military service rules are complied with.

Routine violence

Local groups report that military units have been active in the region for the past eighteen months and state that political repression of, and violence against, the rural population has become routine. In March two local human rights activists were threatened by the military during their operations in the San Pedro area.

Last May Amnesty International reported that “members of peasant farmers' organisations and indigenous groups are subjected to human rights violations in the context of disputes over land and social issues. There were continued reports of the torture and ill treatment of army conscripts.”

MoC Paraguay suggested that these recent episodes reveal the “real aim of the military units”, saying that “the growing militarisation of the countryside, with government control and repression, comes as a consequence of a lack of real security policies ... We believe that security is about guaranteeing a better quality of life for the people.”