February 14, 2013

Eju-mi Paraguay pe! Please come to Paraguay!

Eju-mi Paraguay pe! Please come to Paraguay!

Oñondive, Jajapota! Thirty years ago the people of Paraguay showed me the meaning of that phrase which in Guarani means “Together, We will do it”. I had come to Paraguay to work as a nurse in response to a request by local schoolteachers to help get a rural health clinic started. “Together, We will do it!” In spite of material poverty, the hospitality and generosity of my neighbors was rich. And in the face of repression and violence suffered by friends under the brutal regime of General Stroessner, the dignity and resistance around me was impressive. It wasn’t until after I had lived there over a year that my Paraguayan father whispered to me about the torture to which he had been subjected.

I returned to Paraguay many summers in succession to continue with the clinic and to teach health or nursing classes. The repression that had led to the death and disappearance of thousands of Paraguayans at the hands of the repressive military regime continued. To my chagrin, many of those responsible for torture and assassinations had been trained in my own country, at the School of the Americas. I became active with the SOA Watch movement and joined their Legislative Working Group to rally support for a bill to close the SOA in Congress.

Today I write you today to share an invitation from my Paraguayan friends: Eju-mi Paraguay pe! Please come to Paraguay!  Paraguay is in great need of international solidarity at this moment! Organizations in Paraguay with whom SOA Watch partners have specifically asked SOAW for solidarity at this time. Please consider joining us on an SOA Watch Delegation to Paraguay from April 16-24th.

On April 21st elections will take place that will either legitimize or question a regime that toppled President Fernando Lugo last June. A bloody confrontation between landless peasants and police forces was used by Paraguay's right wing congress as a pretext to remove Lugo, an ex-bishop inspired by liberation theology. Lugo ran on a platform of agrarian reform and justice and accountability for past human rights violations and his 2008 victory ended the 61-year rule of Stroessner’s Colorado Party.

The “express coup” was condemned throughout the region, and Paraguay was removed from UNASUR and Mercosur by fellow Latin American governments.

The SOA Watch Delegation to Paraguay will focus on observing the presidential elections, as well as on issues of violations of human rights, criminalization of social protest and the struggle for land rights leading to the militarization of the north. For those wanting to experience one of the most stunningly beautiful spots on the planet, we invite you to participate in the 2-day extension of the delegation to Yguazu Falls. Please consider joining us! For more information, contact Lisa Sullivan, or call Mary Anne Perrone at 734-996-9390, or download the application here.

For those who cannot travel as far as Paraguay, we hope that you can join us in Washington for the SOAW April Days of Action. Or consider going an another SOAW delegations to the US/Mexico border in May and to Chile in September.

Next month other SOA Watch activists will be visiting Costa Rica and El Salvador to ask that they withdraw their troops from the SOA, as have done 6 other nations. Keep tuned for how you can help with these efforts. Whether it be by congress, the courts, or attrition, we will close this school! As my Paraguayan teachers told me: Oñondive, Jajapota! Together, We Will Do It! And each of us is helping to make that happen.

Please consider joining us in my beloved Paraguay, bajo el cielo Guarani, and if you can't make it, please know that we bring the strength of your support and solidarity.

In Solidarity,

Theresa Cameranesi
SOA WATCH Council.

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