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A volunteer Marist co-worker committed to the defence of a minor who was raped and abused by a sub-officer



A mobilisation for the defence of the rights of children and adolescents

24/05/2005: Paraguay

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<198.jpg alt=Actúa Ahora >The defence of the rights of the child and the adolescent in Paraguay is in need of our attention and our support. This call concerns Marisa N. N., a young girl of thirteen years of age who was working as a domestic helper in the house of a sub-officer of the Paraguayan army who used to continually abuse and rape her. The minor found the courage in June 2002 to make public the humiliations to which her employer was submitting her: Gilberto Cantero, a well-known military person in the region, used every possible means to conceal and be cleared of these accusations. After several problems in the management of the case, as for example the loss of reports and the mysterious change of name of the accused in the case, the process has been drawn out and delayed but the trial must start by the 1st June if it is to proceed at all. The Attorney General and various organisations in the country are working to prevent any further delay and to start the trial against the sub-officer. This would be the first time that the Paraguayan justice system had dared to prosecute a member of the military.
>urgentOne of the first people to know about this case was Teresa Mayoral, a volunteer co-worker from the NGO – SED, a Catalonian from Lleida. Teresa has lived in Paraguay for more than two years and has worked in the programme of support for the defence of the rights of children and adolescents that SED has developed in the Chaco desert. Teresa protected Marisa and has followed the stages of the case very closely, which has transformed her into a very important witness in the coming trial. Her security and that of all the people who are prepared to be witnesses is primordial for the success of the trial and to avoid the integrity of a minor in Paraguay being harmed again.
The NGO – SED (Solidarity, Education, Development), linked to the Marist Brothers in Spain, has supported the project mentioned above since January 2002 with the aim of making the new Paraguayan law of December 2001 well known, a law that focuses on the defence of the rights of children and adolescents. This project is being realised in the heart of the Chaco desert, an area that occupies one half of the territory of Paraguay, even though only about 100,000 citizens live there. They mainly belong to autochthonic ethnic groups with their own languages, cultures and costumes. This task is accomplished by supporting the Apostolic Vicariate of Pilcomayo as a local partner organisation and with the consignment of the volunteer co-worker Teresa Mayoral through the Marist Brothers’ District. The project is attempting to make the existence of this law known by the people of Chaco: the first action consists simply of letting them know that Human Rights apply also to the protection of children and of women. A second action, more difficult to realise, has been working to change the mentality that governs the relationships between men and women in this country. The fruit of this action has been to bring the case of Marisa N. N. out into the open, for which we are now asking support and international signs of solidarity, in order to put pressure on the Paraguayan authorities so that it is possible to clarify this case and obtain justice.
Marisa and Teresa need us for the rights of children to be recognised and so that precedents in law may be set in this country. For this reason, SED, with several national and international associations for the defence of children, for the fight against the exploitation of children and against the recruitment of child soldiers, have started a campaign from Spain to support this cause. These petitions are VERY IMPORTANT, if the authorities know that they are seen and observed abroad, this can lead them to assure the good progress of the processes in course, the actual commencement of the trial before the deadline date of the 1st June 2005 as well as the SECURITY of Marisa and the various people and institutions supporting this case, one of whom is Teresa Mayoral Seró, our volunteer co-worker.

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