ASUNCION – The massacre that left 17 people dead in the eastern Paraguayan town of Curuguaty nearly four years ago was “premeditated” and began with shots from snipers’ guns, Sen. Miguel Angel Lopez Perito testified Tuesday.
Lopez was a member of the Cabinet of President Fernando Lugo, who was ousted by Congress days after 11 squatters and six police were killed on June 15, 2012, during an attempt by security forces to evict peasants from a rural estate.
The senator said during the trial of the case that he traveled to Curuguaty, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Asuncion, simply to find out what happened and so went to the headquarters of the army garrison.
During the mass murder, according to the garrison commander, “there were shots from more than 100 meters (110 yards) away, or 150 (165) more likely, which means they used heavy caliber weapons of great precision, weapons of war,” Lopez said during the trial in Asuncion.
Lopez gathered testimony from relatives of the victims and from several peasant leaders who were at the scene of the shooting, and they brought him a polyethylene bag full of an “enormous number of shell casings.”
“What was striking was that, and it was published in the press, the shots that hit people in most cases could be attributed to war weapons – shots in the head, in the neck or in the abdomen below the bulletproof vests.”
“That makes you think that whoever was doing the shooting knew where they had to aim,” he said.
The senator was convinced that “there was an outside intervention, the peasants couldn’t have done it with the kind of guns they use there.”
The shooting took place on the Morumbi property, a spread of 2,000 hectares (4,938 acres).
Authorities had sent more than 300 police officers backed by helicopters to clear the peasants off the estate, pursuant to a court order obtained by Morumbi’s owner, prominent politician and businessman Blas N. Riquelme.
Prosecutors accused the peasants, who were protesting peacefully on the land, of intentional homicide, criminal conspiracy, and breaking and entering, while at the same time they have not brought charges against any police officer or politician.
On June 22, 2012, Paraguay’s opposition-dominated lower house voted overwhelmingly to impeach Lugo, and the Senate adopted a schedule that called for the president’s trial to begin at 12:00 p.m. the following day and a verdict to be rendered before nightfall.
Only four of the 43 senators present at the session voted against finding Lugo guilty of misfeasance.
Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, was elected in 2008 at the head of a broad-based coalition in favor of reform in the poor, landlocked South American nation.
Paraguay’s partners in the Mercosur trade bloc characterized Lugo’s removal as a coup and suspended Asuncion from the organization for several years.