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Monday, June 1, 2009


I arrived in Asuncion late last night after a long trip from Juliaca via Sao Paulo. At least I had a productive flights and pulled together my report on the Indigenous Summit in Peru (listen to my story on FSRN at

Our delegation began this morning with a meeting with economist Luis Rojas of Base Investigaciones Sociales at the offices of Serpaj (Servicio de Paz y Justicia). Rojas laid out an overview of Paraguayan history, including the growth of modern agrobusiness which makes intensive use of land and capital but results in little demand for labor. The growth of soy production and the presence of large transnational agrobusiness corporations like Cargil, Monsanto, and ADM forces campesinos into the urban periphery where they suffer from a lack of work. (To put this in context, those same corporations largely made family farms financially unviable in the United States which is why I left South Dakota in search of a better life.) Current Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo came to office last year after 60 years of Colorado Party domination that used repression and property laws to assure elite control over society. He was a priest influenced by liberation theology, and promises to use power to make life better for previously dispossessed people.

In the afternoon we went to the Memory Museum which had previously housed a torture center during the 35-year Stroessner dictatorship. Maria Stella Caceres, the director of the museum, took us on a tour of the museum with a detailed and enlightening explanation of what took place in the "National Office of Technical Matters." Apparently the "technical matter" was how to keep people alive under torture. The government used this center to detain and torture communists and other real and perceived dissidents. Many of the people who conducted the torture were trained by the U.S. Army School of the Americas that is now located in Ft. Benning, GA. Martin Almada who was detained and tortured at this center from 1974-1977 told us of his experiences, and provided a passionate call to close the SOA.

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