...and other military activity in this heart (Paraguay) of the continent represent a new style of militarism in Latin America.
Paraguay now illustrates three new characteristics of Latin America’s right-wing militarism:
- joint exercises with US military in counterinsurgency training and monitoring of social organizations,
- the use of private mercenaries for security and
- the criminalization of social protest through "anti-terrorism" tactics and legislation.
In July of 2005 hundreds of US soldiers arrived in the country and Washington's funding for counterterrorism efforts in Paraguay doubled. The US troops conducted various operations and joint training exercises with Paraguayan forces, including the Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETEs).
Orlando Castillo, a military policy expert at the human rights rights organization Servicio, Paz y Justicia in Asunción, Paraguay, says the MEDRETEs were "observation operatives" aimed at developing a "a type of map that identifies not just the natural resources in the area, but also the social organizations and leaders of different communities."
"The kind of training that used to just happen at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia is now decentralized," he explained. "The US military is now establishing new mechanisms of cooperation and training with armed forces."
this new militarism is aimed at considering internal populations as a potential enemies and preventing the coming to power of insurgent, leftist groups
A group of representatives ... traveled to Paraguay in July, 2006 as part of the Campaign for the Demilitarization of the Americas (CADA) to observe and report on the repression going on in the country linked to the presence of US troops
THE NEW US MILITARY BASE IN AT MARISCAL ESTIGARRIBIA, PARAGUAY. THE GAS FIELDS AND THE SECCESIONISTS ARE IN TARIJA, BOLIVIA.
In December 2006, the Paraguayan Senate and executive branch, responding to pressure from neighboring countries, voted to end the troops’ immunity. Paraguay would have been excluded from the lucrative regional trade bloc of Mercosur if it continued to grant immunity to the US troops.
Castillo sees private mercenaries, or paramilitaries, as another key piece of the new militarism puzzle. In Paraguay, the strongest paramilitary group is the Citizens Guard. "These paramilitary groups are made of people from the community. ... all very similar to the paramilitary activities in Colombia." ... Many of the paramilitaries are connected to large agribusinesses and landowners ... these paramilitary groups have nearly 22,000 members, while the Paraguayan police force is only 9,000 strong and the military has 13,000 members.
Anti-terrorism rhetoric and legislature is being mixed into this deadly cocktail. The Paraguayan Senate is scheduled to pass an anti-terrorism law which will criminalize social protest and establish penalties of up to 40 years in prison for people that participate in such activities. A large march against the passage of the law took place in the country’s capital on July 26th.
BOLIVIA HAS NATIONALIZED ITS GAS. OLIGARCHS IN THE PETROLEUM PROVINCES BORDERING PARAGUAY ARE TRYING TO SECEDE