GENERAL RESQUIN, Paraguay – One man took a rubber bullet in the eye and five other people suffered minor injuries on Wednesday when peasants clashed with Paraguayan police deployed to protect a tractor spraying toxic pesticides.
The peasants sought 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.
Cresencio residents say the pesticides are poisoning their crops.
Brandishing sticks, the peasants tried to get past the 250 police officers guarding the 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.
“The peasants’ motive is the lack of respect for environmental laws,” Rodas said. “Here in front we clearly note there is no protective barrier, as the law says.”
“The use of agro-toxins seriously harms the health of the population, the environment and the traditional production of peasant families” the mayor said.
While the protester struck in the eye by a rubber bullet was taken to a hospital, paramedics treated the other injured people at the scene.
Laws prohibit the spraying of pesticide when winds are greater than 10 kph (6 mph) or the temperature exceeds 32 C (90 F), Rodas said, but the thermometer read 36 C at the start of Wednesday’s fumigation.