From Socialist Voice, April 2010

International

Paraguayan farmers demand agrarian reform

On Thursday 25 March thousands of farmers marched for agrarian reform in the Paraguayan capital, Asunción. They were demonstrating to demand that President Fernando Lugo keep the pledges he made during his election campaign.
        Lugo had promised wide-ranging agrarian reform. Among the pledges he made was one for the redistribution of land to poor farmers, alongside access to health care, education, and better homes and roads in rural communities.
        However, despite eighteen months in office he has made no moves to keep these promises. 80 per cent of the fertile land in Paraguay is still under the control of 1 per cent of the population, with 85 per cent of small farmers owning only 6 per cent of the land. 38 per cent of the population live below the poverty line.
        Of particular worry to the farmers who were marching is the soy industry. This is a rapidly growing business in the country. Its expansion has led, and is leading, to displacement and marginalisation. Small farmers are being driven from their land through violence and intimidation by large soybean producers. To make matters worse, the soy producers are using toxic pesticides that are poisoning water supplies and killing cattle belonging to the small farmers, not to mention the effect they have on the people, in particular children.
        In response to the demonstration Lugo stated: “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to execute agrarian reform at the speed that we hoped to, but it is moving forward at a slow speed, and we have prioritised these demands.”
        For now, small farmers in Paraguay remain unconvinced. It is what they have been continuously told for the last two decades. They will continue their protests, with the occupation of farm lands and blockading of highways the likely next step.

Opposition to US bases grows

On 30 October 2009 Colombia signed a ten-year agreement with the United States, giving it access to seven military bases in the country. Though the United States has continuously spouted the usual lies about needing to have a military presence in Colombia to fight against narcotics trafficking and guerrillas, the truth is quite different.
        A leaked US Air Force document clearly states that the agreements allow the United States “a unique opportunity for conducting full-spectrum operations” against various threats, including “anti-US governments.” It is clear that these bases have little to do with dealing with internal Colombian problems but much to do with strategic control over Latin America.
        Every single country in South America, other than Colombia, is opposed to the United States having bases there. President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has gone as far as to claim that the “winds of war” are blowing throughout the region as a result of this, while adding that “Colombia decided to hand over its sovereignty to the United States. Colombia today is no longer an independent country, it is a kind of colony.” The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, responded by saying the agreement “constitutes a grave danger for peace in Latin America.”
        While great hopes were held for Obama taking power in the United States, it has become clear that his similarities with Bush far outweigh the differences. These bases are a threat against all the governments and more importantly all the people of Latin America. They must be opposed, as US influence, interference and occupation are no longer welcome.

State terrorism increases in Honduras

On 23 March a prominent member of the Honduran National Resistance Front (FNRP) was murdered in cold blood while at work as a teacher in front of a group of his students. Professor José Manuel Flores, a social science teacher, was shot by plain-clothes men with balaclavas at close range. Flores was well known throughout Honduras for his actions in opposing the US-backed coup in his country. He was heavily involved in organising and participating in protests, as well as publishing many articles criticising the leaders of the coup.
        While the murderers have not been identified, there is little doubt that this was a state-sponsored assassination. It is just another example of the continuing state terrorism in Honduras, where the US-backed tactics of the 1970s and 80s are being used to silence any opposition to the leaders of the coup. Flores is only the latest of the scores of FNRP members to be murdered by Honduran government death squads.
        Despite the continuing illegal detentions, intimidation and murder the FNRP is continuing to struggle against the coup.
[JM]

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