The summoning of civilians for Friday 21st June was made via social media networks, under the hashtag #porunparaguaymejor. [“For a better Paraguay”]
The protest in Asunción bore two fundamental complaints.
Firstly, citizens demonstrated their disapproval at the presentation of a bill that, as was presented in the beginning, lowered the minimum required retirement age for Parliamentarians by 10 years from 15 for 100% of their salary; that which is in the region of 40 million Guarani monthly (some US$ 8,500 approximately).
After the protest, some Parliamentarians stated that it was really about a bill presented by lawmakers that would not be returning to occupy seats in the next term commencing in August of this year. According to the daily paper Ultima Hora [es], “with the amendment of the law in those provisions, [members of parliament] sought legislation for their own benefit, since with those modifications they would not have to turn 55 years in order to retire”.
The second complaint is related the postponement [es] of the credit approval for the implementation of the metrobus, a new type of public transport that promises to improve the precarious conditions that are found in the current service.
At 7pm on Friday, June 21, an “open mic” was set up on a roundabout in the Plaza de Armas [main square] in front of the National Congress, where those citizens brought together could express their discontent and channel their complaints.
In just a few minutes, some 50 people formed a line in order to express their complaints in front of a large crowd. The most frequent complaints that were made echoed the popular discontent with the attitude of those MPs that increased their own salaries and privileges and believe they are of “their own special breed”, as a citizen denounced.
The crowds responded chants to each of the citizens that spoke out. In the following video we can hear how one citizen said “Paraguay has no fear” during his minutes of open mic, to which the people responded with phrases such as “They must all go away, none should be left”:
These are some of the phrases that sparked a standing ovation from the crowd and echoed in social media networks: “There are 1,500,000 Paraguayans that don't know what they are going to eat tomorrow, and they [MPs] buy gold pins and retire in 10 years for 40 million [Guarani]”, “Paraguay has woken up”, “Many young people are spat out by the system”, “They are called honourable by the law (referring to a law that was introduced obliging citizens to refer to MPs as “honourable”) and they don't represent us”, “What happened in Curuguaty?” (with respect to the massacre that left 17 dead after a police raid in the north of the country), “Where is Fonacide?” (Fondo Nacional de Inversión Pública y Desarrollo [National Fund of Public Investment and Development] created in 2012 with money that Paraguay obtained after adjusting the price of surplus energy from the Itaipú hydroelectric dam sold to Brazil).
The ‘open mic’ is already an emblem of the self-summoned citizen protests in Paraguay, those which started in 2012 with the name “After Office Revolutionary” [es] and which succeeded in stopping a multimillion budgetary increase for the contracting of political operators.
A year after the political trial that removed Fernando Lugo from the presidency, the Paraguayans took to the streets once again leaving their political parties and ideologies to one side in order to “mark the parliamentary agenda”, as one citizen expressed during the open mic session.
The open mic citizen presentations lasted about two and a half hours, until 21:30, when a group of protesters chose to march towards the Panteón de los Héroes [Mausoleum Monument of the Heroes], which caused a moments tension and the deployment of the armed national police, although no incidents were registered.
Other Paraguayan cities also came together and took to the streets to make their voices heard, like in Ciudad del Este and Encarnación, the second and third most important cities following the capital, Asunción.The Brazil Effect
This promises to be one of many protests that will follow the example of neighbouring Brazil, and which will be convened through social networks, according to that expressed by citizens upon closing the open mic session.
The effects of the protest did not take long in making themselves felt, as ABC Color [es] reported: “The President of the House of Representatives, Víctor Bogado (ANR [Colorado party]), assured yesterday that the bill to modify and reduce to 10 years the legislator's pension contribution will be rejected by the House”.
However, the national press has not placed much prominence on the protests in comparison to international media, such as Folha de Sao Paulo [pt] or BBC Mundo, [es] which have observed the protest with extensive coverage and images.
The Twitter account @xunpymejor has been set up in order to notify citizens of new events, share images and keep protesters informed. The account will serve as a fundamental medium of communication for the citizen-led organisations and the protesters of this movement that hope “to mark the parliamentary agenda of the new parliament that will take office in August” and have their complaints resolved effectively.