International human rights activists and legal experts arrived in Paraguay on Monday in order to attend a public trial related to the deaths of 17 people — 6 police and 11 farmers — in 2012.
The deaths prompted a chain of events resulting in the impeachment and removal of then-president Fernando Lugo, which neighboring countries described as a coup.
Lugo was the first president not from the right-wing Colorado party in over 60 years.
Three days after the 2012 massacre, in which police forcibly removed a group of landless farmers occupying private property in Curuguaty, Paraguay’s Public Prosecutor filed criminal charges against 13 landless peasants on charges of invasion of property and criminal association.
Yet the deaths of the 11 peasant farmers were never investigated, despite indications that at least nine farmers were executed by police officers during the tragic eviction.
As a result of this failure, various local and international human rights organizations have made allegations of judicial irregularities in the trial.
According to the Curuguaty Association, which is comprised of various social organizations brought together by the legal case, foreign experts will observe Monday’s trial in order to verify the “respect for human and procedural rights of the judicial process.”
During Monday’s legal proceedings 10 of the landless farmers on trial will face charges for the attempted murder of six policemen. Yet, not a single police officer involved in the violence is being charged with the deaths of 11 other local citizens.
The Curuguaty massacre is now recognized as a serious case of human rights violations and is indicative of the growing conflict over land ownership in Paraguay, which has one the most unequal distributions of land in South America.
According to the 2008 agriculture census, 2.6 percent of landowners hold 85.5 percent of Paraguay’s lands while 91.4 percent of small farmers—with properties smaller than twenty hectares—hold only six percent of the agricultural land.