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Story Publication logo August 14, 2007

Paraguay: Demanding Land in the Plaza Urugruay

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Paraguay is the fastest growing soybean producer in the world bringing untold riches to a very poor...

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Image by Carlos Bittar. Paraguay, 2007.

Three months ago the Plaza Uruguay was the place to find cheap prostitutes in Asuncion.  But since May they were all chased out by the likes of Beatriz Rivarola, a Guarani "Indian" who, along with 150 others from her reservation, have set up 73 tents and camp in the center of the city as a way to protest land distribution in Paraguay. 

Rivarola cooks noodles over a fire pit while her children run barefoot through the busy traffic begging for coins.  Actually, Rivarola lost her youngest child.  A 15 month-old girl who developed a respiratory problem and died.  Rivarola thinks it was the chemicals used in soybeans that killed her daughter.

All the Guarani I spoke to in Plaza Uruguay blamed soya for their problems:

"Soya is pushing us out."

"There is only room for soya."

"The fumigation is horrible."

Reaction to the Guarani's presence in Asuncion is mixed. Some bring gifts and encourage their struggle. Others loath them and give me and my crew dirty looks for paying them attention.

A sectional leader for the Colorado party said the government already gave the Guarani land but they simply sold it illegally to Brazilian soy growers. "They didn't invest the land properly," he said.

True, all of the Guarani I spoke with had either no conception of private property or decidedly Marxist views in how that land should be distributed. Over and over again I heard "They have so much land and we need land. Why should we not have it."

Even the advocates for the landless put their number only at 30,000 (which is a suspiciously high number). Per capita, that's about half the number of homeless people in the US. They have no political voice and seemingly little desire for one. They want only land.

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