Paraguay’s campesinos have returned to the streets, undaunted by the doubled police force which the government set out to meet them for protests in Asuncion.
Paraguay’s President Vetoes Campesinos’ Debt Relief Bill
Campesinos converged on the capital in a last attempt to save the bill which may lift the burden of debt off their shoulders.
Since Friday, congress has been mulling over the decision to approve a bill which would cancel the campesino’s debt. However, the much-anticipated announcement, which was supposed to happen Monday, was postponed, igniting Tuesday’s round of protests.
The senate’s board of directors stated yesterday a need for an extra session to discuss the technicalities of passing the bill, topics which were completely overlooked on Monday’s schedule.
Meanwhile, the government of Horacio Cartes has announced a proposal to deliver about 4 million pounds of food to campesino communities as a possible substitute for the bill.
The Cartes stated that the administration is attempting to find a solution which would be beneficial to all, but added that the executive branch would not support any sort of debt relief as it risks encouraging a culture of noncompliance to financial commitments.
The promised bill was vetoed Friday by Cartes, despite his plans to support it, citing the fact that he didn’t realize that the legislation would cost the state US$3.2 billion.
"In reviewing the economic analysis of the impact of this law, I clearly understood that putting it into effect would condemn our country’s economic future. If I had to, I would rather condemn my political future than condemn Paraguay," Cartes said in a televised message.
However, there is still a chance to save the bill as it returns to congress to override the president’s veto, which would require a majority vote from its 23 senators and 41 representatives in order to be passed into law.
Former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, who was impeached in what many called a parliamentary coup in 2012 and is now a senator, said the bill was “a legitimate act, legal and just” adding that it would be “an act of recognition of a sector that has been historically overlooked.”
Thousands of Campesinos March in Paraguay to Pressure Lawmakers
In order to afford the bill, officials against the bill are claiming that other government social programs would see serious cuts.
Lugo contradicted this line of thinking, stating that the legislation and care of society’s poor communities are more important than the costs to budget. He said that by vetoing the bill, “it will be evident that the most marginalized in the country are not the priority of this government.”
The nation has one of the biggest campesino populations in South America with about 35 percent of the country’s population working on the land.. Land ownership has long formed the basis for bloody disputes in Paraguay, where the state often acts in the interests of the elite.
For the past four weeks, campesinos, grouped together in the National Intersectoral Coordinator, have been camping out in Asuncion demanding the approval of two bills subsidizing their overdue debts and declaring a national emergency for family agriculture.