ASUNCION – President Mario Abdo Benitez issued property titles to some 500 peasant families during a ceremony on Tuesday where he spoke of the Paraguayan government’s historical debt to “the working people of the countryside.”
With the titles, the new landowners will be able to borrow money to improve production and facilitate the purchase of livestock.
The president decried Paraguay’s persistent inability to create and maintain “sustainable social policy” and pledged to address that failure by developing new initiatives which would outlast his term in office.
“It will take time to generate an impact in the countryside. We won’t be able to solve all of the problems overnight, the historical debts of 50 years ago,” he said at Government Palace.
Abdo Benitez asked the farmers to be patient, despite “how much you have been lied to” and invited them to take part in the dialogue the government initiated in December with peasant and indigenous groups with the aim of creating a road map for rural policy.
Those discussions are expected to address issues ranging from land tenure, production, food security and improving access to education and employment for indigenous people and the broader rural population.
The president also looked ahead to next month’s 26th annual gathering of peasants in Asuncion to press for land reform and other measures to aid family farmers.
“There has to be mobilization,” he said, calling it a “just tool for those think they have something to demand from the Paraguayan state.”
Abdo Benitez said he was ready to pay heed to the farmers’ grievances.
Also present for the ceremony was Horacio Torres, director of the National Institute of Rural Development and Land (Indert), who stressed the transformational potential of getting legal title to land.
“The title makes of the farmer an entrepreneur, a boss and a producer ... which replaces his former status as an agricultural laborer,” Torres said.
Indert determined the demarcation of the properties for which titles were issued Tuesday and confirmed that all of them were suitable for agricultural, he said.
Peasants make up about 35 percent of the population of Paraguay, the second-poorest nation in South America, where 90 percent of rural land is held by less than 5 percent of the landowners.