Yesterday, July 16, a delegation of 20 human rights activists and scholars from Latin America and Europe began a visit to the areas affected by the increased U.S. militarization in Paraguay. The group is planning to interview peasants, indigenous peoples, urban communities and human rights organizations about the effects of military exercises in rural and urban areas and the increasing criminalization of social movements in the country.
The Network for Human Rights Defense and Justice, a Grassroots International partner, is participating in the delegation that is expected to conclude its visit on Thursday, July 20th with a press conference to lay out its findings.
The group will be divided in three teams. One team will go to Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, to meet with representatives of peasant organizations (today, July 17), national labor unions (in the morning of July 18), human rights organizations and urban-based organizations (in the afternoon of July 18). The Asuncion Team will be observing the social mobilization events against the renewing of the Bi-National Agreement of Military Cooperation and will participate in the DEBATE Roundtable in the National Congress.
Another team will be visiting the city of Concepción, 400 km northeast of Asunción, where the U.S. Army is organizing its war exercises. According to the organizers of the Delegation, the U.S. Army has demonstrated a particular interest in this site. Since the U.S. Army has entered the region, social movements have been the primary target of a criminalization campaign. In Concepcion, the team will meet with members of local peasant organizations, visit agrarian reform settlements and interview local authorities.
The third team will travel to Mariscal Estigarribia, 525 km North of Asuncion, where the 5th Division of the Paraguayan Army is located. There, the Mariscal Team will be interviewing rural and urban communities and local authorities about the militarization process in the area. Particularly, the team will be observing the place that is expected to be, in the long term, a new operative U.S. Base (or FOL) in Paraguay.
This delegation is organized by the Servicio Paz y Justicia de Paraguay, Movimiento de Objecion de Onciencia de Paraguay and Campaña por la Expresión Ciudadana of Paraguay in coordination with the Campaign for the Demilitarization of the Americas.
Stay tuned for updates as this delegation continues.