The winds of change blow in Paraguay (Part 3)

Winds of Change in Paraguay part 3

VITAM IMPENDERE VERO

A lot has happened since the University president; Mr. Froilán Peralta submitted his resignation a few weeks ago. To begin with, Mr. Peralta was sent to prison, where he will await trial. Not before proving that life is stranger than fiction, faking a heart condition in order to avoid incarceration. Of course, social media feasted on this performance.

Several deans followed Mr. Peralta’s example and submitted their resignations, nonetheless the fight keeps going for students in many faculties who keep demanding and waiting for the resignation of their respective deans. Classes have not resumed yet in most faculties and students denounce threats from their professors.

In the meantime, the Prosecutor’s Office keeps investigating over 300 university staff members and professors.  In this respect, students have manifested their distrust towards the Prosecutor’s office and expressed serious doubts against some of the officials appointed to the investigation. In light of all the irregularities observed in the process, one can hardly blame them for taking this stand.

As the UNA vigil made all the main headlines, even the President of the Republic had to join the popular claim and decided to tweet a support message to congratulate the student’s movement. Albeit, this only made them angrier, manifesting that the president had ignored their claims and that a tweet is not enough support to their cause.

The UNA has a new President, Mr. Abel Bernal. He has praised the student’s movement and he has promised to call an Assembly in the next few months to change the University’s statutes (the center of the student’s claims). He has stated the events that took place at the UNA taught all of us a lesson, and that the lawful claims made by the students will be heard.

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Mr. Abel Bernal. Photo: Ultima Hora. http://www.ultimahora.com/la-una-se-volvio-una-gran-olla-presion-y-culmino-un-tsunami-n937826.html

Mr. Abel Bernal. Photo: Ultima Hora.
Live for the Truth
As many old age institutions, the UNA uses a Latin phrase as its motto. Since 1889 the phrase Vitam Impendere Vero stands on its logo. This sentence can be translated as “To devote one’s life to Truth.” Above all, one has to pursue honesty and justice, quite a task for anyone to take on. After all that has happened, this sentence will have a far deeper meaning for the students of the UNA, because they have acted by it.  They didn’t keep their heads down, like generations before them had to; they didn’t succumb to the defeatist claim that there’s no chance for victory against established systems; they didn’t even respect the old national tradition of apathy in the face of corruption and injustice. They wanted their truth to be heard. To sum it up, they were young idealistic fools. But then again, where would we be without idealistic fools? As history teaches us, true change never comes swiftly or easily, but one has to start somewhere.

The support they received from every sector in society was not only because people empathized with the cause, but because it woke our collective dormant indignation, even in those who believed their protest would probably lead to nowhere. They gave an entire country hope that maybe things can change for the better. Peralta, at that moment wasn’t only a corrupted teacher; he represented every single case of abuse of authority that went unpunished, every dime that got diverted, every bribe, every injustice committed. The Universidad Nacional de Asunción became a metaphor for something bigger. As if we needed young students to tell us that nothing is going to change unless someone gets outraged and says enough. Undergrads gave us a huge lesson.

Even though I am not a student of the UNA, I felt proud. I couldn’t help but feeling their victory a bit as my own. I have to recognize and praise the level of organization they showed. It is not enough to just protest, you have to be clear with your objectives. Not only had they organized shifts for groups to guard the faculties and to accompany the prosecutors’ work (the UNA campus has roughly 300 hectares, divided among 12 faculties, dean offices and the main office building. Hats off to their effort). They also arranged medicine stands, power charging stations, water and food stations, student press sectors and teams in charge of cleaning the campus. People, me included were pleasantly surprised.

It is too soon to tell what will become of the student movement that raised its voice against a deeply corrupted institution. Even if they don’t obtain all of their objectives, they have made it a little harder for corruption to happen and what is certain, they will no longer be underestimated. Hopefully, they won’t ever keep quiet again.

Eventually, students will return to their classes, in the same old buildings, to study the same subjects, to pick up where they left. However, I trust they will not be the same; their university will not be the same, because no matter what comes next everything has already changed.

Guadalupe Diaz

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