On March 21, around 5,000 Paraguayan peasants, farm workers, agricultural workers and Indigenous people, participated in the 26th annual Peasant March in the capital, Asunción. Despite heavy rainfall, people from across the country, including a larger number of women, youth and children, converged in the capital city and marched from the former metropolitan seminary to the Plaza Uruguaya. With their traditional carved wooden sticks, a symbol of peasant struggle, they shouted slogans such as“Agrarian reform, urgent and necessary.” Their main demand was that the government of president Mario Abdo Benítez change the agrarian productive model and redistribute the land equally.
The march was organized by the National Peasant Federation (FNC), with the slogan “Land and production for national development, building people’s power”. Every year, since March 1994, members of the FNC have been carrying out this march with the aim of making their demands heard. The first peasant march was held on March 15, 1994, during the government of Juan Carlos Wasmosy. It was called by various peasant groups and rural movements, which had been in the forefront of resisting the dictatorship of general Alfredo Stroesner (1954-1989). Peasant movements in Paraguay are the strongest among all the social movements.
“The peasants are here for land and production for national development, against the large estate ownership of land and against the concentration of 85% of the land in the hands of 2% of the large landowners. This is the fundamental obstacle to development” said Marcial Gómez, deputy general secretary of the FNC, explaining the objectives of the march.
Apart from the inequality with respect to the distribution of land, migration of young people due lack of opportunities, violent evictions of peasants and indigenous people, reduction of healthy food production and poverty were the other issues that the peasants raised in the march this year.
The peasants criticized president Benítez and condemned the fact that the government only supports the agro-export model, completely ignoring the small producers, the main social group in the country, which constitutes the basis of food production and sustains the economy. They also demanded that the government provide them with new technologies in order to help them achieve a more sustainable form of development, respecting their traditional and cultural values.
The representatives of various trade unions such as the Corriente Sindical Clasista (CSC), the Paraguayan Educational Workers Organization (OTEP-SN) and the left-wing political party Partido Paraguay Pyahurâ (PPP), joined the peasants to demonstrate their support for their claims.