Five demonstrators in Paraguay have nailed themselves to crosses in an effort to draw attention to an employment grievance. The five are part of a group protesting payments they say they did not receive for 25 years of working on construction of the Itaipu Dam shared by Paraguay and Brazil, Univision.com reported.
The protest is taking place outside the Brazilian embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay, and includes a large group huddled together with the five who crucified themselves under a tent. The group says it represents more than 9,000 of the 40,000 workers who worked on the dam and were denied bonuses for food, productivity and other things.
The five demonstrators who crucified themselves were identified as Roberto Gonzalez, 61; Gerardo Orue, 49; Roque Samudio, 58; Rosa Caceres, 52; and Pablo Garcete, 71. Gonzalez, Orue and Samudo have been nailed to their respective crosses for 21 days, while Caceres has been on hers for 14 days and Garcete joined the protest by having himself crucified New Year’s Day, according to the Latin Journal.
“My family wouldn’t want to see me like this, but I’ve come to claim what’s mine,” Garcete told the Latin Journal.
The demonstrators say they are owed benefits for their work on the dam.
Abel Gimenez, an Itaipu representative, told the Associated Press the workers were not entitled to the benefits because they were contractors, not employees, according to Univision. “They signed a labor agreement with the construction companies, not the Itaipu binational entity,” which is owned by Paraguay and Brazil, the rep said.
However, Gonzalez, who Univision described as the leader of the group, claims “the bilateral agreement signed in 1973 between the governments of Paraguay and Brazil established employees of contractors of both nations should receive the same benefits without discrimination, unchanged.” He said that only the Brazilian workers were given the benefits.
“As a former worker, I decided to crucify myself remembering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ,” he told AP. “This is a drastic protest that I would not want to go to, but it is a pity that [the] Paraguayan and Brazilian governments, owners of Itaipu, just do not respond to our request.”
The demonstration is expected to grow. Gonzalez said 20 more people have volunteered to be crucified in the coming days, and the group will continue the protest “until they pay us." According to him, each of the Paraguayan former workers should receive about $40,000.
The dam is located on the Parana River between Paraguay and Brazil, and has 20 generating units with a capacity of 700 megawatts each. Until being surpassed by China’s Three Gorges Dam last year, it was the most prolific hydroelectric power producer in the world, as Agence France-Presse reported.
See video of the Paraguayan protesters below.