A few weeks ago I went to a seed fair in Itapúa, the department in the southeast corner of Paraguay. We left at 4:30 a.m., and the sky lightened slowly as we turned through a tangle of highways south of Asuncion. We started seeing rows of these tall, skinny trees; backlit, they made a strobe-light out of the rising sun. The NGO director who was driving had already told me what she thought of eucalyptus, or rather, of PROEZA, a state plan incentivizing farmers to grow the tree. PROEZA has won support from the UN’s Green Climate Fund, a pool of $10 billion reserved to help poorer countries cut emissions, on the promise that it will reduce poverty while reforesting and promoting renewable energy. PROEZA’s critics say it will yield plantations that demand pesticides and constrain biodiversity, engulfing more lands and farmers into soybean-corn systems by powering grinders with biomass.
Posted by Alanna Elder – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU
I spent at least a third of an 8-hour layover in Houston exploring Paraguay on Google Maps, looking ahead to when I could finally see and move beyond the length of an airport terminal. Still laboring under the illusion that I would go for regular runs while I was in the capital, I made a mental note to check out the Avenida Costanera, a freeway and bike path that wraps around the Paraguay River. Tourist sites note the tereré stands, rollerblade rental, and boat access across the river to the neighboring department, Presidente Hayes. (That is, U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, a b-side character once nicknamed “The Great Unknown” by his own party but appreciated in Paraguay for deciding a territorial dispute in the country’s favor). From the avenue, you can see the old city center and the new, two clumps of towers balancing the skyline. They might be swaying imperceptibly in the flow of money, history, and traffic, or facing each other down like the planning edition of Dorian Grey.
The Costanera seemed like a nice parallel for Riverside Park, the superhighway of green space and river access that fringes Manhattan’s West Side, and the closest park to my apartment. These two areas have something else in common: they caused some inconvenience for the people already living there. In the late 1930s, Robert Moses’ Park Commission added 132 acres to Riverside, fielding criticism for razing not only a so-called Hoovertown built by veterans, but also the Columbia Yacht Club. People still build shelters tucked along the Hudson, and in the 1990s another large group was kicked out for a state transportation project.
By Gustavo Setrini, a Paraguayan political scientist and Assistant Professor of Food Studies at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education, Culture and Human Development and a Faculty Affiliate of the NYU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
University students are making history in Paraguay in what is being dubbed La Primavera Estudiantil (the Student Spring). Over the last weeks, they have mobilized one of the largest protest movements in the country’s history, demanding democratic reforms to the governance statutes of the National University of Asunción (UNA). Should they succeed, it will arguably mark the first time in the country’s modern history that major national reforms result from social movement pressure. The success that student protesters have had in mobilizing massive support and sympathy both reveals important changes in Paraguayan politics and has potential to transform it further still.
Over the last weeks, protests have attracted upward of 10,000 students and unified the university’s 12 schools in a strike and a campus sit-in that has paralyzed the university. Students have pledged to lift the strike only when university leaders accept four basic reforms to university governance: the elimination of the absolute majority currently held by professors in the university governing assembly that is composed of elected representatives of the professors, students, and alumni from each of the 12 faculties; term limits for elected university leadership positions; a ban on the “personal appointees” (“cargos de confianza”) of university leaders running for and occupying elected voting positions in the university governing bodies; and the creation of an independent electoral commission to regulate university elections.
In response to student mobilizations, the university assembly has called a meeting today to debate and vote on the proposed changes to the university statutes. On two earlier occasions in the last two months, the assembly met and voted down the students’ proposals, provoking further mobilization from the students.
A march on September 20, 2016 drew thousands of students and supporters. Photo by La Chispa
On September 29th, the Center for the Latin American and Caribbean Studies partnered with the office of the President of NYU, and the Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement (NYU Law), for a presentation by the President of Paraguay H.E. Horacio Cartes. The event, hosted at the New York University School of Law, D’Agostino Hall, gave a unique opportunity to members of the NYU community to listen to a Latin American head of state’s vision for his country. Students, faculty, media, and members of the Paraguayan community in New York, filled the 135 seat capacity room to hear about President Cartes’s proposals for making Paraguay “A Land of Opportunity,” as his presentation’s title stated. President Cartes also answered questions from the audience in a session moderated by Jorge Castañeda, Global Distinguished Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU.