Center for Paraguayan Studies Antonio Guasch
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Center for Paraguayan Studies Antonio Guasch (CEPAG) is a non-governmental organization located in Paraguay and belonging to the Society of Jesus. It was created in 1967 and is dedicated to research, education, and social action. It is named after the Jesuit Antonio Guasch, a scholar of the Guarani language.
CEPAG began in a period of dictatorship, 1967 to 1976, and was called the Center for Research and Social Action, to promote dialogue on politics, sociology, and religion in a university context. It also made efforts at organizing the peasantry and indigenous peoples. In 1976 under state repression more than half of its members withdrew or were imprisoned or exiled, though its Action magazine continued to publish learned studies. After 1986 some educational and development work in rural areas was undertaken, along with studies in the Guaraní culture and history. Action went from being a quarterly to ten issues a year and the Ediciones Montoya division of CEPAG was born, at first under the name of Editorial Loyola. After 2001 rural education and action continued and there was increased emphasis on research and communication. The Country Partnership project was launched to work toward unifying the country in an equitable way.
Paraguay's indigenous people number about 120,000 in 19 groups, constituting about 1.6% of the population and evenly divided between the east and the western Chaco. They need protection from export-oriented business interests that have exploited their lands for soybeans, maize, and trees. This has caused migrations and forced indigenous peoples to live as subsistence farmers, bereft of their community life. This despite the supposed protection of Law No. 904 for the protection of indigenous communities. Also, 30,000 of the indigenous live around Mennonite colonies where they furnish cheap labor. CEPAG is helping peasant farmers to achieve more healthy and sustainable production. It also works to better the situation of women in the home and working environment as well as in the public forum. The indigenous peoples have no national organization but in September 2017 they met to further organize at the local and regional levels, with the coordinating help of CEPAG and OXFAM.
Entreculturas gave CEPAG €426,839 for three projects: improvement of the income capacity for 57 peasant families (2011), and again in 2014 for a much larger group; then in 2015 the grant was for the defense of the rights of the inhabitants of Bañados de Asunción. In 2017 CEPAG facilitated the construction of a sales center for agricultural products in Yasy Cañy. CEPAG also participated in a reforestation program with assistance from the US government, and was part of a coalition that challenged the prime minister's statement on the safety of herbicides used by corporations. In 2015 CEPAG represented Paraguay in a Justice and Peace Seminar sponsored by the religious order of Dominicans in Brazil.
CEPAG is a member of Decidamos, a citizen advocacy group of NGOs, and in 2014 joined other NGOs in protesting Paraguayan activities of the TNCs Monsanto, Cargill, and Bunge. CEPAG has also been critical of the asymmetry of countries party to the Mercosur free trade agreement. It has distinguished itself in the study of medicinal herbs for the benefit of peasant families and has facilitated a local seeds fair held in the nation's capital.
The center publishes the monthly Action magazine, the oldest such publication in Paraguay. It promotes dialogue on faith and culture and advocates for greater equity and justice. CEPAG also publishes books as well as audios and audiovisuals. In 2010 and 2011 it produced a series of educational radio programs on Guarini agricultural experiences.
On the occasion its 50th jubilee in 2017, CEPAG held a teachers' conference on education and the family, and also Expo Acción with displays of the center's work spanning the areas of education, health, and advocacy for peoples' rights.
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