Dozens of Paraguayans participated in an anti-government demonstration in Asuncion on Friday, calling for the release of 11 political prisoners connected to the Curuguaty Massacre. The demonstration was held days ahead of the fifth anniversary of the incident.
On June 15, 2012, 300 heavily-armed police officers stormed into Marina Kue in the Curuguaty district of Paraguay in an attempt to evict 70 rural farmworkers who had occupied the land. The landless workers asserted that the land belonged to the state after former dictator Alfredo Stroessner passed it to its new owner, Blas Riquelme.
The conflict, which swiftly turned violent, resulted in the deaths of 17 people, 11 campesinos and six policemen. The youngest of the campesinos was 18-year-old Luciano Ortega.
The repossession order involved 324 Paraguayan police and elite troops trained by the CIA and the U.S. army. Horses, gas bombs, a helicopter and heavy armament were also used.
Commemorating the massacre, protesters also held an ecumenical ceremony at the sight of the tragedy.
Jorge Bogarin, a lawyer involved in the case, emphasized that a final appeal is being prepared by the Supreme Court of Justice due to “a series of procedural violations” that were “focused exclusively on the deaths of the police,” Brasil de Fato reported.
He added that the process was “absolutely contaminated from its roots, which now bears contaminated fruits.”
Bogarin denounced that “there's no correspondence between the weapons that were seized” from the campesinos and the larger projectiles that killed the police.
Ruben Villalba, a campesino leader, was accused of four deaths in the case. Observers describe his condemnation as being a farce and a criminalization of social movements.
Other campesinos convicted for the massacre include Luis Olmedo, Arnaldo Quintana, Nestor Castro, Lucia Aguero, Fany Olmedo and Dolores Lopez.
Felipe Benitez Balmori, Alcides Ramirez, Juan Carlos Tilleria, and Adalberto, all sentenced to four years in prison, were released in 2016.
President Fernando Lugo, a progressive head of state in a country that had been ruled by the right-wing Colorado Party the 60 years prior to his 2008 election, was blamed for the massacre, which was subsequently used as pretext to oust him only one week later through an expedited, and widely criticized “impeachment.”