Punitivism and militarization in times of quarantine in Paraguay

March 31, 2020

31 Mar, 2020

BY Mirta Moragas Mereles

This is an excerpt from a blog post originally published via  Injusta Justicia. A campaign launched in Latin America to question the use of the criminal system to address  SRHR violations. Find the original full post in spanish here.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the adoption of preventive health measures in Paraguay as early as March 7th, when the first cases were made public, acknowledging the lack of capacity of our health system to adequately absorb the spurt of multiple cases at once. These measures have been considered correct and adequate in health terms, but they underline the lack of adequate social and economic responses to provide effective containment for the population, which mostly works in the informal sector, and even those with formal jobs do not have access to basic labor rights (social security, for example). In other words, the real possibility of complying with health measures relies on inter-ministerial work, which should provide real intersectoral solutions not only limited to health matters.  Yet, the reality unveils a national, departmental and municipal state, weakened by years of low social investment and corruption.

In this context, health measures have been “reinforced” with punitive strategies that lend themselves to excesses on the part of the public forces, and that strengthen the discourse around punitive measures being the only strategy that can bring real “order” in the midst of a public crisis. It is the fear of prison and police intervention –including military intervention–  that intend to bring rationality to the governed. 


I wonder who will be “selected” by the punitive system as “law breakers” during quarantine, because let’s not be naive, punitivism always falls on very specific groups of people: will it be the family that goes out for a drive because they “are bored”? Or will it be the family that goes out to the streets because staying at home means not having food for the day?  As we might be able to predict, surely the same people will continue to be persecuted by a criminal system that has always been classist, sexist and discriminatory. I hope I’m wrong.