LATIN AMERICA

Land revolt in Paraguay leaves 17 dead

Clash took place after authorities called in to evict squatters who had taken over private land

A relative of a farmer killed in police clashes mourns over his coffin.
A relative of a farmer killed in police clashes mourns over his coffin.FAVIAN ACOSTA (AFP)

At least 17 people were killed in a clash between police and "landless farmers" that took place in an eastern province in Paraguay on Friday after authorities were called in to evict squatters who had taken over private land.

About a dozen farmers were ordered held in custody by a judge who charged them with the murders of six police officers during the confrontation in eastern Canindeyu department, near the Brazilian border.

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo ordered the army to restore calm and replaced Interior Minister Carlos Filizzola and Chief of Police Paulino Rojas.

The revolt, which shocked a nation that isn't used to seeing violent territorial disputes, began early in the morning when officers tried to evict some 100 protesters who had invaded private land. According to one police official, the farmers ambushed officers in a wooded area. Authorities wanted to negotiate a peaceful settlement but did not expect a violent reaction, said Walter Gómez, a top police official.

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