- BBC News World
A mobilization led by peasant and indigenous groups that took place this Wednesday in Asunción, the Paraguayan capital, ended with dozens of injuries and disturbances in different parts of the city.
Among the wounded, according to a report from the police headquarters, there is an agent who was hit by an arrow.
The riots began when the 80-member Chamber of Deputies, with a majority vote of 49 members of the ruling Colorado Party, approved the modification of a law that increases the penalty from four to six years in prison for those who illegally occupy private property.
Now the law must be signed by President Mario Abdo Benítez for it to enter into force.
Indigenous and peasant groups have indicated that the protests will continue if the law is not withdrawn or vetoed by Abdo Benítez within 48 hours.
“The President of the Republic must veto the law in favor of the indigenous people,” the protesters said.
For their part, the deputies who tested the law defended their position.
“The law does not seek to persecute anyone but to give security to citizens of urban and rural areas, even from indigenous communities, “Senator Fidel Zavala, from the Patria Querida Party, told the Semanario Universidad portal.
“What you want is to protect private property, so that people who want to work have the security that their property will not be invaded,” added Senator Enrique Bachetta, of the Colorado Party.
According to National Peasant Federation, The underlying problem dates back to when many peasants and indigenous people had their lands taken away, which were later handed over to landowners or people close to Alfredo Stroessner’s military government, between 1954 and 1989.
A report by the Truth and Justice Commission, created to investigate the violations that occurred during the Stroessner regime, pointed out in 2006 that about two-thirds of the land handed over during the agrarian reform orchestrated by that government went to people close to the authorities.
Since then, these peasant and indigenous groups have tried to recover these lands and one of their strategies has been invasion and temporary occupation.
“They never solved the land problem and they want to make us look like criminals,” Derlis López, one of the indigenous leaders, told various local media.
And I add: “We are going to come en masse in case the law is enacted, we are not going to shut up anymore“.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor Juan Carlos Ruiz Díaz published an order for the commander of the national police, commissioner Luis Arias, to identify – through photographs and videos – the people who participated directly in the attacks on police officers and the burning of vehicles.
The Vice Minister of Criminal Policy of the Ministry of the Interior, Rubén Maciel Guerreño, said on his Twitter account that “I sincerely hope that just increasing penalties will reduce crime; it would be the magic solution.”
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock manifested on its Twitter account “repudiating all kinds of violent acts among Paraguayans. That is not the way. We call for sanity and dialogue.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.