October 15, 2011

Civil Unrest

That's a political term I'm probably using wrong, but it seems to fit the tense state of affairs in Paraguay recently.
I never like to get notices from the government in my email inbox, but several have shown up lately to warn us of the happenings.  Of course, one or two of those were warnings to American citizens living abroad all over the world, alerting us to the Middle East threats.  Thankfully, Paraguay is relatively safe in that arena.  The bigger woes have come from within.

Just this past week, several major strikes and manifestations have taken place.  First of all, the teachers got together and decided not to go back to work until their salaries were raised to the national minimum wage.  They organized demonstrations at various key places around the country, most of them kinda near where we live.  This meant that all public schools were on "vacation," much to the delight of the children in Paraguay.

Well, those kids were stuck at home for the most part, because the bus drivers also organized a strike.  They want the government to subsidize fuel costs, if I'm understanding it correctly.  Often when there is a bus strike, those who choose not to drive block the roads and get ugly with those bus drivers who ARE working.  I didn't see nay of that this time, thank the Lord. This past week I had to do a lot of running around for pre-op appointments and studies and such, and the bus strike turned out to be a positive thing... less of them on the road means quicker and safer travel for me!  However, I'm guessing that those workers who depend on the bus system to get to their jobs didn't feel so good about it.

In addition to those two strikes, the campesinos were having a rally downtown.  Those are rather poor folks who live out in the rural areas, who want the government to give them land and houses.  There's a whole lot of political and social drama involved in that, which I won't even attempt to explain lest I butcher it all, but the gist of it is that these guys camp out in makeshift tents in public park, with their tiny children running around almost naked and all their camping supplies/clothing strewn about on the sidewalk or in the bushes.  Sometimes their demonstrations get violent, and some groups of squatters have been linked with violent attacks on landowners.

There have also been lots of rumors, news stories, and crimes lately related to the Paraguayan People's Army (known here as the EPP).  They are a rebel group from up north (we are much further south, Granny, but keep praying anyway) responsible for the deaths of several policemen lately, and rumored to be responsible for a few kidnappings.  Certain parts of the country are in what seems to be equivalent to martial law.  The EPP is all the rage in the current media, and we Yankees have been advised to stay away from the North.  No problem.

With the dollar falling and prices for food, gas, and whatever else on the steady rise, people are turning to desperate measures at times.  Each of these issues is, of course, very complicated, and there are people in need and people hurt on all sides.  Please pray for Paraguay, her leadership, and her people.

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