Workers of Attorney General’s Office in Paraguay begins one-month strike

The workers of the Attorney General’s Office are protesting the budget cuts announced in the ministry for 2022. The unions have condemned that the reduction in budget will affect various areas of its competence in addition to its daily functioning

October 31, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
On October 27, the workers of the Paraguayan Public Prosecutor’s Office began a one-month nationwide strike in rejection of the budget cuts announced for next year. Photo: La Clave

On Wednesday, October 27, the workers of the Paraguayan Attorney General’s Office began a one-month nationwide strike in rejection of the cuts announced in the institution’s budget for 2022. According to the unions that have organized the strike, the reduction in budget for the already strapped office will affect various areas of its competence in addition to its daily functioning. They are demanding that the government withdraw its decision.

In September, the Attorney General’s Office requested the finance ministry to increase its budget by around 150,000 million Guaranis (over 21.7 million USD) for next fiscal year. However, on the contrary, the ministry announced that it would reduce its 2022 budget by 10,000 million Guaranis (1.45 million USD). The announcement led the unions to call for the measure of protest.

The call for the strike was given by the Union of Officials, Employees and Workers of the Attorney General’s Office of Paraguay (SIFETRAMIPAR). It also received the support of the Association of Prosecutors of Paraguay and the Union of Assistant Prosecutors, among others. The union leaders said that during the strike, only the services of the shift unit, the forensic doctor and the driver on duty will continue.

The general secretary of the SIFETRAMIPAR, Odilón Turo, explained that the demand to increase the ministry’s budget was not only raised because the officials want a salary increase, but also because the ministry needs supplies and subsistence. He stated that currently the Prosecutor’s Office does not have enough resources to undertake large-scale investigations or pay for its staff’s work-related transfer charges. Turo also said that several prosecution offices are about to close due to non-payment of rent, and that the ministry is in debt of 8,000 million Guaranis (1.16 million USD).

“With the new budget, we will be unable to exercise our functions. While we are left without resources to fight organized crime, lawmakers receive over 700 USD a month to pay for the fuel they spend in political campaigns,” condemned Turo. The union leader warned that the workers could extend the measure if their demand is not respected.

For his part, Justo Duarte, a member of the Union of Assistant Prosecutors, reported that “there are more than three thousand civil servants who are going to strike for a month. Rapporteurs, secretaries, assistants, drivers, cleaners, some administrative staff members and some colleagues from the forensic laboratory, we are going to have a 90% adherence to the strike.”

He added that the strike “will affect the entire country,” but assured that their “intention is not that citizens cannot access the justice system. The complaints office will be open. All basic services are guaranteed. We cannot stop attending serious events.”

The popular rejection of the neoliberal economic policies of the far-right government of president Mario Abdo Benítez has increased in recent months. In September, thousands of Paraguayan doctors, Indigenous people, peasants and teachers took to the streets against the national government. The doctors demanded equalization of salary and workload as well as expansion of the healthcare budget for 2022. Likewise, the peasants and Indigenous communities protested a bill that tightens the law against illegal occupation of private lands in the country, and demanded a land reform. Similarly, the teachers demanded compliance with a law that increases the salaries of educators by 16%. In August, the teachers carried out a two-day strike and rejected the finance ministry’s plans to cut the education budget for next year.