People’s Movement stops government privatisation programme in Paraguay

Eye witness report from Paraguay, one of the smallest and poorest countries in South America, and for many decades ruled by a murderous dictatorship that fiercely repressed any form of political opposition, is today a country in the throes of a popular revolution. For the first time anywhere in the world, a popular struggle, not linked to any political party, has forced a government to put a complete stop to its privatisation programme!

This struggle is being led by the National Co-ordinating Committee of Peasant Farmers’ Organisations, supported by secondary and university student organisations, and civil society in general, who have formed a Permanent People’s Assembly. A massive march, bringing together activists and supporters from all over the country, was launched on the capital, Asuncion, in May. They demanded of the government and parliament the revoking of laws passed over the past few years, under pressure from the IMF and multinational business interests, to privatise the few public enterprises left in Paraguay. In particular, the people demanded that negotiations underway to privatise Telecom Paraguay be stopped.

The government tried to stop the People’s March from reaching the capital. Barriers were erected on all roads leading into the city, and fierce clashes took place. One farmer was killed and many were injured on both sides, but the sheer numbers of marchers forced the security forces to retreat and the march reached the steps of parliament. The massive crowd sang revolutionary songs and chanted anti-privatisation slogans, with clenched fists raised – something never before seen in Paraguay!

The government was forced to negotiate with the leaders of the National Co-ordinating Committee, and such was the pressure that they were unable to negotiate partial concessions – it was all or nothing! Victory was achieved on the 5th of June, as the people surrounded the Senate while an emergency session was held. By 30 votes to 7, the infamous Privatisation Act, Act No. 1615, was suspended indefinitely, and the privatisation of Telecom Paraguay was halted!

What an amazing victory for the Paraguayan people, and all the more remarkable in a country with no history of revolutionary activity over the past 40 years, and no revolutionary party. In spite of this, the leaders of the National Co-ordinating Committee and the people’s movement in general are very clear ideologically. Their analysis and strategies are based on sound class analysis.

Of course the international media have not given prominence to these historic events in Paraguay. Let us do what we can to support the struggling people of Paraguay, and to make their struggle and remarkable victories known all over the world! And Paraguay is not alone in being sold off to the multinationals – the whole of Latin America is being treated as a colony of the United States. Let us take note in Africa as a lessons of that suffering continent!

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