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Bauern gegen die IWF Bedingungen

(Stark gekürzte Übersetzung der Meldung des Nachrichtendienstes "Weekly Update on the Americas" Nr 662)

Eine Koordination (CAP) aus über 60 Organisationen (Landarbeitergewerkschaften, soziale Organisationen und Handelsvereinigungen) riefen ab 23.September zum landesweiten Widerstand gegen eine Reihe wirtschaftlicher Massnahmen der Regierung Macchi auf, die diese ergriffen hatte, um die Bedingungen des Internationalen Währungsfonds für neue Kredite zu erfüllen.

Dazu gehörten unter anderem die Erhöhung des Dieselpreises um 25%, des Wasserpreises um 20% und die Erhöhung der Mehrwertsteuer auf 12%. Der IWF übrigens findet, dass diese Massnahmen nicht ausreichen, um seine Konditionen zu erfüllen.

Obwohl die CAP - Spitze weiter mit der Regierung verhandelte und diese einige Erhöhungen etwas abmilderte war die Ankündigung des Innenministers am 24.9, der Protest sei beendet, voreilig.

Am 25.9 wurden den ganzen Tag die sieben grössten Autobahnen des Landes blockiert und es fanden überall Demonstrationen statt. Daraufhin reduzierte Präsident Macchi am 26.9 die Wasserpreiserhöhung von 20 auf 17% und die Verteuerung des Öls von 2.185 Guaranis je Liter auf 2.035 Guaranis - ein Angebot , das die Leitung der CAP akzeptierte - aber längst nicht alle Demonstranten. Am 27.9 gingen die Anti-Aufruhr-Einheiten der Polizei gegen Demonstranten im ganzen Land vor, am heftigsten gegen die Blockade der Autobahn Nr 6 in Itapua.


Paraguayan farmers and campesinos began an open-ended national mobilization on Sept. 23 to protest a series of economic measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The mobilization was called by the Agricultural Coordinating Committee of Paraguay (CAP), an alliance of some 60 unions, trade associations and social organizations, to protest a Sept. 5 measure that increased diesel fuel prices by 25% and water rates by 20%. The protesters also object to a proposed increase in the value-added tax (IVA in Spanish) to 12%, part of a fiscal adjustment bill already approved by the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies is discussing changes to the bill, including setting the IVA at 11% instead of 12%. The IMF, which has conditioned a promised $200 million loan to Paraguay on implementation of sweeping fiscal austerity policies, is apparently not satisfied: in a Sept. 17 letter, IMF officials told Paraguayan finance minister James Spalding that even the Senate version of the bill fails to meet IMF requirements.

On Sept. 21, the government tried to head off the protests by reducing diesel prices by 100 guaranies ($0.016), from 2,185 ($0.35) to 2,085 guaranies ($0.334) per liter. The move failed and the protests began as scheduled on Sept. 23, although negotiations continued between the CAP and the government. On Sept. 24, CAP president Hector Cristaldo said the government had promised to present a new proposal to reduce diesel and water prices; Cristaldo said if the offer was "satisfactory" the protest could be lifted. That same evening, Interior Minister Osvaldo Benitez announced the mobilization had been lifted.

But no new offer was announced, and on Sept. 25 thousands of truckers and campesinos used their tractors and other vehicles to block at least seven of Paraguay's main highways. Taxis also joined the protest, blocking traffic in the capital, Asuncion, and in the cities of Ciudad del Este, Encarnacion and Coronel Oviedo. At rush hour, truckers blocked Route 10, the Trans-Chaco highway, outside Asuncion. CAP president Hector Cristaldo called the protest a "civilazo," implying a civilian uprising. He said negotiations with the government were continuing, and publicly urged the protesters to avoid blocking roads. But he said the mobilization "is difficult to control" because it covers rural areas across the country.

On Sept. 26, with the protest in its fourth day, President Luis Gonzalez Macchi signed a decree reducing diesel fuel prices by 6.86%, to 2,035 guaranies ($0.326) per liter, and cutting the water rate increase from 20% to 17%. The CAP accepted the deal and ordered a truce in the mobilization, telling protesters to end their blockades but remain in a "permanent vigil" by the side of the road until Oct. 1, when the Chamber of Deputies is to vote on the fiscal adjustment bill.

Not everyone obeyed the order: on the afternoon of Sept. 27, a group of campesinos were continuing to blockade Route 6 in Itapua department, demanding that the Chamber of Deputies call an emergency session to deal with the bill. When police failed to convince the protesters to unblock the highway, some 200 riot agents from the Special Operations Group (GOE) in Ciudad del Este were sent in break up the protest. The agents used tear gas, rubber bullets and billy clubs against the campesinos, often firing the rubber bullets at nearly point blank range. More than 10 campesinos were injured and several were arrested. Police agents also smashed the windows of the campesinos' trucks and tractors, and slashed their tires.

"Weekly Update on the Americas" Nr 662

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