Militarism in Paraguay: The Other Side of the Economic Model

By Raúl Zibechi

, by CIP Americas Program

A production model based on soy monoculture results in economic growth, but also causes social instability that can lead to political crises. The temptation is to use armed force to resolve them.

At the end of September, construction began on the World Trade Center of Asunción. The first step is to demolish old houses and dig the foundation. “With each brick, window, door that we take out of here we’re making a commitment to build an educational center en Bañado Norte,” explained the manager of Capitalis, the company in charge of the project [1].

“Police to Carry out Social Work in Bañado Sur,” was the headline in the daily newspaper ABC, explaining that uniformed police officers will provide dental, pediatric, gynecological, and ophthalmologic services to area residents. They will also issue identification cards and provide hair-dressing services. The article added, “the Anti-Narcotics Division will deliver preventative talks. Soothing music will be provided by the National Police Musical Band” [2].

The headline in Última Hora was quite different. It read “Massive D.A.-Police Operative in el Bañado Sur”, referring to an operation in which 100 police officers and two helicopters were used to search dozens of homes, detaining five people [3]. The day that operation took place, ABC reported “Mothers fighting for the health of their children will march this Friday in Bañado Sur to Police Station 24 to show their opposition to the illegal sale of drugs” ABC, July 29, 2011..

The mother’s march took place in the same neighborhood where the massive police operation occurred. Their objective was to denounce the police station, demanding that “it work to eradicate the illegal sale of drugs,” specifically, crack [4]. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out that the mothers were accusing the police of being accomplices to drug-trafficking.

Throughout Latin America, poor and working-class barrios like Bañado Sur, located between the city proper and the Paraguay River, are the object of permanent police and military intervention [5]. Drugs is the pretext; those who are detained are usually young and poor, unemployed and without a future, often forced from the countryside because of the expansion of soy, mining, and monoculture.

For various reasons Paraguay is a good place to observe the causes of militarization in the region. In 2010, the government of Fernando Lugo decreed a state of emergency in five provinces on the pretext of fighting a small group called the EPP (Army of the Paraguayan People) [6]. A more detailed explanation will reveal what is really going on.

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[1La Nación, August 26, 2011.

[2ABC, August 5, 2011.

[3Última Hora, July 29, 2011.


[5Sobre los Bañados: Raúl Zibechi, “Bañados de Asunción: La potencia de la comunidad”, Americas Program, July 24, 2008.

[6“State of Emergency in Paraguay: Risks of Militarization,” Americas Program, May 11, 2010.