AMERICA/PARAGUAY - Agrarian law reform: the Church and peasant organizations call for "an open and broad process, consulting everyone"

Saturday, 5 June 2021 farmers   politics   local churches  


Asuncion (Agenzia Fides) - The Church of Paraguay, through the Social Pastoral Care Commission of the Episcopal Conference (CEP), rejects the reform of the agrarian law without consultation. In the statement sent to Fides, the Paraguayan Bishops warn that an approval without consultation of the Agrarian Statute could have "serious social consequences" and they ask for a careful analysis of the situation, taking into account the statements of the social leaders concerned. The problem of land ownership has become a very critical issue in Latin America, particularly in the Atlantic countries and in the Amazon rainforest.
While on June 3 the Senate of Paraguay deliberated on the proposal presented by the Chamber of Deputies, peasant organizations mobilized to reject a reform to the Agrarian Statute which, in their opinion, benefits large producers and not Paraguayan farmers. After the session, which rejected the bill, the text was sent back to the Chamber of Deputies. In recent days, several organizations, including a delegation led by Mgr. Mario Melanio Medina, Bishop Emeritus of Misiones, had delivered a note to the senators asking them to reject this proposal, since the reform of the agrarian statute aims to legalize a large part of state land illegally occupied by people who are not precisely peasants, direct beneficiaries of the Agrarian Reform.
"An open and broad process, with the participation of all sectors and social actors concerned" ask the Bishops of Paraguay in view of the new discussion of the bill at the National Congress. "An issue of such importance must be discussed with the population that is subject to the Agrarian Reform", reads the statement issued by the National Coordination of Social Pastoral of the Episcopal Conference of Paraguay.
The Paraguayan Episcopate recalls that the Agrarian Statute and its reforms are a legal instrument that was "the result of a long process that involved the participation of the various sectors and social actors affected by the scope of this law". For this reason, it not only requires dialogue, but also proposes to cooperate in order to reach consensus among all the people involved. "The Social Pastoral Care of the Episcopal Conference - concludes the note - in fulfilling its mission of accompanying the smallest and most vulnerable in society, is attentive to the treatment of this law and open to collaborating with all sectors concerned in seeking the consent that allows the achievement of the common good".
In Paraguay it is estimated that about 700,000 hectares of land are illegally occupied by people who do not qualify to be beneficiaries of the Agrarian Reform. The president of the Union of Production Campanies (UGP), Hector Cristaldo, questioned the good intention of changing the Agrarian Statute by trying to confuse the issue of ownership of public lands, and warned that this is a threat to the sector and that they should "beware of false prophets". (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 5/6/2021)