The Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes is vetoing a bill to cancel the debts of small and medium farmers, despite his promising to support it, sparking more protests in the capital, Asuncion.
Thousands of Campesinos March in Paraguay to Pressure Lawmakers
"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.
The Financial Rehabilitation bill had been approved by the Lower House and the Senate.
The President said he had reviewed the legislation and decided to veto it when he realized the costs could exceed US$3.2 billion, or 25 percent of the nation’s budget.
The campesino workers, had been lobbying the government to approve it by holding three weeks of protests, often bringing the capital to a standstill.
Cartes had initially said that he "intended to pass this law to avoid social upheaval and possible violent confrontations."
The legislation, introduced by the progressive Guasu Front, sought to fund and restructure the debts of campesinos who own of less than 30 hectares with subsidies of up to US$10,000 per person.
Once back in Congress, the veto could be lifted if it has a majority vote of 23 senators and 41 lawmakers.
Paraguayan Campesinos Demand Senate Address Agriculture Crisis
"The march will resume with greater force, as never before in Paraguay, starting Monday," Campesino leader Jorge Galeano said, according to Ultima Hora.
Galeano said that the veto represents the direct death of their farming and the workers will hold Cartes responsible for the wellbeing of their community.
The nation has one of the biggest campesino populations in South America: about 35 percent of the country’s population work 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.
2.6 percent of landowners hold 85.5 percent of Paraguay’s lands while 91.4 percent of campesinos — with properties smaller than 20 hectares — hold only 6 percent, according to the 2008 agriculture census.