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    Paraguay's President Horacio Cartes welcomes the Senate's new President Fernando Lugo and the lower chamber's Pedro Alliana. | Photo: EFE

The former president promised Indigenous communities that he will bring their demands to the forefront of the public debate in Congress.

Access to land continues to be one of the main issues for Paraguayan Indigenous communities, said Senate leader and former President Fernando Lugo, the progressive leader ousted during a parliamentary coup in 2012.

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He said he will use his position as the head of the upper chamber to make visible the needs and demands of Indigenous communities “who deserve to live with dignity.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Lugo met with representatives of the Guarani Mbya community from the southern province of Caaguazu.

Indigenous leader Tomas Dominguez repeated a long-standing demand to facilitate the legal property rights over the land — a request made in 2014 to Paraguay's Indigenous Institute, which responded then that the Finance Ministry was supervising the purchase of property rights.

President Fernando Lugo, a former bishop influenced by the Marxist interpretation of Christianity known as liberation theology, became the first progressive head of state in a country that had been ruled by the right-wing Colorado Party 60 years prior to his 2008 election. Lugo was wrongly blamed for the Curuguaty massacre — a military operation to evict Indigenous land activists — which was subsequently used as a pretext to oust him a week later through an expedited and widely criticized “impeachment.”

Land ownership has long formed the basis for bloody disputes in Paraguay, where the state often acts in the interests of the elite; 2.6 percent of landowners hold 85.5 percent of Paraguay’s lands while 91.4 percent of campesinos — with properties smaller than 20 hectares — hold only 6 percent of the agricultural land, according to the 2008 agriculture census.

Agribusiness involved in the export of soy has been decried as the main factor for the unequal land distribution in Paraguay. Soy cultivation also requires heavy use of pesticides and genetically-modified organisms, linked to many cases of lethal intoxication of campesinos families.


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