The teachers' union in Paraguay has called a general strike against the neo-liberal government of Horacio Cartes. Cartes is a multi-millionaire business man, who has served time in jail for fraud, and has been implicated in drug smuggling scandals. He won votes on the promise of attracting private capital to improve infrastructure in the country, where over a third of the population  live below the poverty line and where services are some of the worst in Latin Ameirca.

The government is pursuing a policy of privatisation and Public Private Partnerships, which could eventually see all public services taken over by private companies. The teachers say that this is undemocratic and unconstitutional. They are demanding an end to the privatisation policy as well as a 25% pay rise and for high prices to be brought down. 

Once again they are joining up with other social groups, in particular, students, small farmers and indigenous groups. The government has been involved in the repression of peasant and indigenous communities and aerial spraying of crops. Teachers have consistently supported small farmers' demands for land reform, in a country where a small elite own 80% of the land. The teachers are also  supporting the students who, like those in Brazil, are fighting amongst other things against soaring fares for public transport.

Last year teachers struck for weeks against the Cartes government, demanding decent pay and pensions. At the time, their average salary was $385 and their average pension, $185 a month. As well as striking, the teachers took part in hunger strikes and road blocks and when they returned to school, instead of teaching the normal curriculum, they discussed the reasons for their strike with their students and the policies which had led to it.

The teachers strike will be on March 26th.