Impressions of tractorazo in Asunción (16/12/2008)

Paraguayan national media hypes pathetic mobilization of paraguayan great land owners instead of reporting on severe situation on the countryside and new, fatal cases of fumigation, such as the death of a four year old boy last week. By making up false numbers, tiny gatherings in the paraguayan capital, Asunción, appear to have been a great success. An eye-witness account proves this to be pure propaganda.

Yesterday, on Tuesday 16th of December, the long expected and announced mobilization of large-scale producers of agricultural goods in Paraguay took place in Asunción.
This huge mobilization, called tractorazo, resulted in two minor events that we could witness throughout the day in the capital of Paraguay.
The first one took place in front of the rural association of Paraguay (ARP - Asociación Rural del Paraguay) in the form of a short line of trucks, small transporters and cattle vehicles that gathered there in order to show their slogan on big fancy banners: work and security for all (trabajo y seguridad para todo).
The second one has been long announced by Paraguayan mass and corporate media (such as ABC Colors) as political demonstration and big festival at the same time, being the result of an eight days mass mobilization. In the prelude, mainstream media has been talking about more than 50 thousand participants. Now, articles have been published, namely by the ABC network, mentioning numbers from 60 to 80 thousand people who put down their work in order to demand from the government 'peace on the countryside'.

It is incomprehensible how these numbers could have been reached. Since all witnessed events hosted not more than some hundred participants the only conclusion that comes to mind is that great land owners ordered their employees and dependents to put down work for one or two days.
Furthermore, it can be assumed that quite some people have been paid (and be it with a paid, work free day, as it is quite a common tactic used i. e. during election time) to go on the street and to fight for the cause of their employers. It has been witnessed that some vehicles for cattle transportation packed with workers from the countryside arrived late last night to drop of willing demonstrators, who were immediately armed with Paraguayan football shirts and little flags.

The rest of the 'crowd' in front of Asunción's city hall was made up of white, rich looking folks, drinking beer, also wearing football shirts and waving flags, and tons of journalists. The whole gathering resembled more a nationalistic football feast than a political demonstration. Fitting into this picture, the one political speech at the beginning was rather short, talking of work and security for all and reminding everybody present that this is a Paraguayan cause. This is especially remarkable in the context of mechanized agriculture, which is creating conditions that are not really producing work for the people on the countryside (one person needed to work 200 hectares), causing people to leave their homeland by leaving dead, green deserts behind. A model, of which all the people present are highly in favour, presenting it as the model of Paraguayan progress.

The budget for this mobilization must have been enormous: The stage that has been put up in front of the city hall was huge, the sound system made for tenth of thousands of spectators rather than a couple of hundreds. The security (also dressed up in football shirts) was numerous and the artists famous. The huge projection screens that encircled the square remained mostly unnoticed because all spectators would easily fit on the tiny square itself. Obviously the organizers had hoped for more publicity.

Therefore we have to conclude that this great land owner's mobilization failed pathetically. It remains to mention that in times of massive land conflicts and incredible injustice on the countryside it is outrageous that all national media is paying more attention to a totally artificially constructed mobilization that fails in every aspect than to the sufferings of the Paraguayan people. While death toll of fumigated people might once more have risen through the death of a four year old boy last week, Paraguayan mainstream media counts false numbers and brags about the 'movement for work and security'.

A sad story to be continued.