Two international observers over the trial of the Curuguaty massacre urged Paraguayan authorities to drop the criminal charges filed against the 16 peasants involved in the tragedy.
A complete revision of the judicial procedure engaged until now was crucial in this case, Argentinian lawyer Rodolfo Yanzon and German sociologist Robert Grosse declared in a press conference. Both human rights experts are part of the campaign “We are Observers,” created to monitor the trial, which is scheduled to hand down a final sentence of the peasants on July 22.
None of the minimum legal requirements in such an investigation has been fulfilled in the case, they argued.
Moreover, the “pressure exerted upon the technical defense of the defendants affected in return the credibility of the procedure and of its outcomes. The prosecutors, for instance, should be put in difficulty for allegedly delaying the process before the objections questioning the injustices committed against the peasants.”
Yanzon recommended that authorities cancel this criminal procedure and initiate a new one that could guarantee the search of truth and justice. As for Grosse, he urged Pope Francis, who has just arrived in Paraguay, to call on authorities to take seriously the case and recover the public lands that triggered the dispute – still in the hands of private company Campos Morombi. He also demanded the immediate release of the defendants, considering the way the procedure had been carried away so far and the lack of a credible accusation from the part of the prosecutors.
The experts met with social and church organizations, as well as with Elida Benitez, one of the victims' relatives and current spokesperson of Marina Kue peasants' collective, which lobbies for the recovery of the public lands.
In 2012, some 300 heavily armed police officers stormed into Marina Kue in the Curuguaty district of Paraguay in an attempt to evict 50 campesinos who had occupied the land. The landless workers asserted that the land belonged to the state, before former dictator Alfredo Stroessner passed it to its new owner, Blas Riquelme.
Then President Fernando Lugo was blamed for the mass killing, which was subsequently used as pretext to oust him in an “impeachment” marred by a flawed legal process. Land ownership has long formed the basis for bloody conflicts in Paraguay, where the state often acts in the interests of the elite and 80 percent of the land belongs to less that 2 percent of the population, according to the United Nations.