A man who took a rubber bullet in the eye when he and other peasants clashed with Paraguayan police deployed to protect a tractor spraying toxic pesticides near their homes will lose his eye, a hospital director told Efe Thursday.
Anibal Alegre, 67, is undergoing surgery at the Emergency Medical Center, Dr. Anibal Filartiga said.
Alegre was among a group of around 100 peasants who sought on Wednesday to stop the fumigation of a soy plantation just 20 meters (66 feet) from their homes in Cresencio Gonzalez, a settlement in the General Resquin municipality of northern Paraguay.
Brandishing sticks, the peasants tried to get past the 250 police officers guarding a plantation belonging to a Brazilian national who holds more than 40,000 hectares (98,800 acres) in General Resquin, Mayor Eugenio Rodas Riquelme told Efe.
Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets as the tractor continued the fumigation.
While Paraguayan law prohibits the spraying of pesticide when winds are greater than 10 kph (6 mph) or the temperature exceeds 32 C (90 F), the thermometer read 36 C at the start of Wednesday's fumigation.
Rubber bullets generally cause superficial flesh wounds, but can be fatal if fired at the head, Filartiga said.
"Previously they (police) fired at the legs and now they shoot directly in the face and eyes," Candido Alvarenga, a community leader in Cresencio Gonzalez, told Efe.
In the last 10 years, he said, some 90,000 Paraguayan peasants have been forced off their land to accommodate the expansion of soy cultivation.
"We are against this production model. The uncontrolled use of agro-chemicals is causing more cases of cancer, vomiting, fainting, diarrhea. We're in our homes and we see the coming of the poison that kills our poultry and animals," Alvarenga said.
More than 85 percent of the arable land in Paraguay is held by 2.6 percent of rural proprietors, according to the Asuncion office of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. EFE