Paraguay’s campesinos have rejected the government’s proposal to address their debts and have continued protesting in the streets despite the doubled police force set out to impede their march through the capital Asuncion.
Campesinos in Paraguay March in Push to Pass Debt Relief Bill
“The comrades won’t give up on this, we are not abandoning our plan,” said campesinos leader Luis Cabrera, referring to a proposed set of public subsidies that would help alleviate their crippling debt.
Since the beginning of July, about 2,000 campesinos from across the country have converged on the capital to pressure lawmakers and the government to approve an emergency bill.
The bill aims to fund and restructure the debts of small campesinos — defined as owners of less than 30 hectares — with compensation of up to US$10,000 per campesino.
Campesinos have set up a camp on the square facing the Congress but national police have systematically denied them the right to march towards the center of the capital.
Paraguay’s President Vetoes Campesinos’ Debt Relief Bill
The new round of protests follows the decision on Friday of the conservative government of Horacio Cartes to veto the bill that passed in Congress which argued the measure was too expensive.
On Tuesday, Cartes submitted a new proposal to the country’s political parties, which includes a plan to fund the campesinos’ debts and to deliver food and seeds to the campesinos during a 90-day period.
Campesinos hope that Congress will be able to override the president’s veto, which would require a majority vote from its 23 senators and 41 representatives. The vote in Senate is scheduled on Thursday, while the lower chamber has set a date yet.
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.”
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.