Vidal Vega (46), an official representing small farmers of Marina Cue, was fatally shot in his home late Saturday night. Vega had provided key details in an investigation examining the “Curuguaty Massacre” of last June, which left 17 dead and contributed to Paraguay’s ousting of former president Fernando Lugo. In its analysis of the incident, the investigation denounces the killings, a lack of emergency medial services to wounded, and unnecessary detentions, proposing the reallocation of the disputed land to family members of the victims.
Two men reportedly arrived at Vega’s home around 4.30am; when Vega answered the door he was shot to death in front of his partner and two children.
Crime Investigation agents and local police have apprehended one suspect: José Luis Franco Toledo, also known by his false name José Franco Troche.
Authorities seem to be harbouring several suspicions as to the murder’s motive. Local public prosecutor José Zarza claimed the incident arose from a personal dispute over finances. Authorities also suspect the crime may have been linked to a marijuana trafficking incident in which a transport vehicle broke down. Police investigators are considering the possibility that the slowed examination of Marina Cue land allocation that Vega was heavily involved in may have ignited conflict between the potential beneficiaries, but note that they have not ruled out underlying political motives.
Farmers’ rights organizations agree with the latter; they claim Vega’s murder is linked to his influential role in an investigation of the “Curuguaty massacre”. Vega was in charge of filing documents compiled by family members of those killed during the clash before the National Rural and Land Development Institute (Indert) for the allocation of Marina Cue land, the area originally under dispute and the eventual site of the bloody conflict.
José Rodríguez, leader of National Landless Farmers’ League, told radio channel 780am he is sure the murder was intended to eliminate access to that information, and added, “The more the exposition of the responsibilities for the Campo Morombí massacre is delayed, the more similar situations will occur.”
Farmer’s organizations are planning a series of protests this week to demand punishment for those responsible.
Small farmers continue to fight against what they say was an unjust investigation into the Curuguaty dispute and the incarceration of 12 of their fellows, four of whom have been on hunger strike for more than two months.