Land Disputes Key In Impeachment Of Paraguay's President Lugo
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sat Jun 23 20:44:42 BST 2012
Latin America's Old Land Disputes Resurface In
Impeachment Of Paraguay's President
By Ryan Villarreal: - June 22, 2012 6:15 PM EDT
Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has come under
fire from lawmakers over his handling of the
attempted eviction of landless farmers in
Canindeyu province last week that resulted in a
bloody clash leaving seven police officers and at
least nine farmers dead. Impeachment proceedings
began Friday, less than 24 hours after both
chambers of Congress voted to approve them. Lugo
refused to attend the trial, describing it as an
"express coup d'etat" that was carried out "in
the wee hours of the night." "The president has
been given fewer guarantees and fewer rights to
defend himself than someone with a traffic fine,"
said Adolfo Ferreiro, a lawyer on Lugo's defense
team, Reuters reported. "They seem to think
anything can be justified in the name of
politics." Lugo's political opponents, who
dominate the Paraguayan legislature, are seeking
his ouster over the eviction incident, in which
300 police officers fired upon 150 farmers after
the farmers had ambushed their forces on a
4,900-acre estate, refusing to be evicted from
the property. Whether or not the motivations for
Lugo's impeachment are purely political, the
trial highlights the real grievances of
Paraguay's landless farmers in a country where
nearly 80 percent of the land is controlled by
only 1 percent of the population. The farmers
claimed the estate, owned by a wealthy political
opponent of Lugo, had been taken from them during
the 35-year military rule of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989.
thousands of acres of land had been seized from
poor farmers and redistributed to members of the
military and social elite. Stroessner was
eventually ousted by a military coup, although
his right-wing political faction, the Colorado
Party, remained entrenched and held the
presidency until 2003. During this period of
"democratic reform," the issue of land
expropriations went unaddressed. Lugo, an
independent left-wing member of the center-left
Patriotic Alliance for Change, or PAC, coalition,
was voted into office in 2008 on a platform of
land reform that would benefit Paraguay's
disenfranchised farmers, who represent 40 percent of the population.
While Lugo has addressed many concerns of
Paraguay's poor and working class through
improved social services such as public housing,
medical care, and cash subsidies for the most
impoverished, he has made little headway on land
reform, largely due to resistance among the
moderates in the PAC coalition. "Lugo has been a
politically weak president from the outset of his
term. He has been struggling to hold together his
shaky coalition," said Michael Shifter, president
of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in
Washington, the Associated Press reported.
Nevertheless, Lugo retains strong support among
Paraguay's poor and working class, and his
impeachment trial has been met with mass public
protests led by his supporters. The Paraguayan
Senate is expected to hold a vote on whether to
remove Lugo from office Friday. If he is removed,
he will be replaced by Vice President Federico
Franco. "If presidents were ousted because of the
reasons cited in this case, there would be few
Latin American presidents left in office,"
Shifter was quoted as saying by AP. "The
opposition simply didn't agree with Lugo's
policies and didn't approve of the way he
governed. As a result, the opposition manipulated
the system, adhering to the letter of the law but
departing from the principle of democracy."
Land Rights in Australia: The Mabo Case Twenty Years On
by Binoy Kampmark / June 4th, 2012
The destruction of ideas, suggested the British
aphorist Geoffrey Madan, is much like the setting
of a beautiful sunset. With the stoning of the
terra nullius doctrine in the Mabo case of 1992
and the pronouncement that native title had
survived colonial settlement in 1788, the
Australian legal system was propelled into a
post-colonial era. The sun had indeed set upon a
doctrine. New legislation had to be drafted.
Native title, it seemed, had survived like buried
water in the bore of jurisprudence. It took the
Mason-led High Court to reveal that. The decision
was shattering to the establishment, and made the
heckles of the conservative establishment visibly ugly.
The decision of June 3, 1992 validated the claims
to native title by the Meriam people over the
Murray Islands which are annexed to the state of
Queensland. The applicants were not only told
that a recognised system of land ownership
pre-dated settlement but that land which had not
had native title removed could count as theirs as
long as they could prove a customary association
with it. The federal Native Title Act 1993 was
thereby introduced to provide some framework to assess these claims.
The High Court was subsequently assailed in
various quarters for its activism. Sir Anthony
Mason, then Chief Justice of the High Court,
foresaw that the judgment would be controversial
but as often happens you dont actually foresee
the extent of the controversy (ABC, Four
Corners, May 10). Justice Brennan of the High
Court was attacked as having the judicial
discretion that had been watered by a cleansing
ale and discussions with his Jesuit brother
Father Frank Brennan, a long term advocate for indigenous rights.
The members of the Samuel Griffith Society
huddled in monastic fervour, fearing the
destabilising effects of such judicial
enthusiasm. Visions of a vengeful dark Australia
marching forth, and off, with land came in a
rush. And those effects were profound the
creation, under the Keating government, of a
system of Federal Native Title that was as controversial as it was moving.
Prime Minister Paul Keatings language on the
subject of native title in the Redfern speech six
months after Mabo remain the most smouldering and
searing. It begins, I think with an act of
recognition. Recognition that it was we who did
the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands
and smashed the traditional way of life. We
brought the diseases and alcohol. We committed
the murders. We took the children from their
mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion.
A very loud conservative reaction lay in the
separatism the decision potentially encouraged.
It flew in the face of integration and national
solidarity. A happy Australia was suddenly
creased with doubt. Justice Enfield of the
Federal Court, in July 1993, rebuked such
characters as Hugh Morgan of the Western Mining
Corporation for language that stirred racial
hatred. Morgan had spoken of that naïve
adventurism in the court that had failed to
protect property. The assimilation project, it
seems, had not only assumed the mantle of a
mantra, it looked like it was being undermined by judicial indiscretion.
The miners and pastoralists feared that their
entitlements to land were about to end. Former
Western Australian Premier Richard Court was
particularly aggrieved given that seven percent
of the state was freehold, the rest of the land
might well be up for claims. Many demanded that
the states be allowed to regulate the issue and
ultimately extinguish native title altogether.
The land managers were desperate to move in and
clean up. The commonwealth baulked at the suggestion.
Western Australia subsequently attempted an act
of extinguishment on its own accord. The act was
challenged in the High Court and found wanting
against the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination
Act. The outraged premier considered it an
insult that the state act could be deemed racially discriminatory at all.
The legacy of Mabo today reveals no avalanche of
land claims. Many, in any case, have failed. The
infamous attempt in 1993 on the part of the
Wiradjuri people to claim a third of New South
Wales came to nought. This does little to stop
such minor publishing outfits as Australian News
Commentary to feature articles on the great land
give-away (Sep 22, 2003), and the fears that
non-Indigenous Australians are themselves going
to be dispossessed. The megalomaniac at the
desk as former opposition John Hewson accused
Keating of being, succeeded in pushing what had,
a few months before, seemed an impossible notion.
The question now remains how far the Mabo legacy
has come and where on the rough road to
reconciliation it features on. For indigenous
Australians, the answer is simply not far enough.
That in itself hardly undermines the stellar
legacy of one of Australias most remarkable acts
of judicial involvement, which placed
reconciliation on the agenda in the first place.
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