The drama about Clara and Lara is now over, the two German girls (10 and 11) who disappeared in Paraguay were handed over to the public prosecutor’s office after months of searching. One girl from her mother, the other from her father.
Without the consent of the other parent, the couple had taken the two children, each from an ex-relationship, to Paraguay. Now they turned themselves in to the authorities voluntarily. According to the Paraguayan police, the two are doing well and are now undergoing a medical examination.
The case of Clara and Lara is the most prominent of all. According to official information, more than 2,000 Germans have emigrated to Paraguay since the pandemic. Six minors fared like the girls from Essen: They were simply abducted by a parent without permission – for fear of “civil war-like conditions in the Corona dictatorship in Germany”.
At least that’s what Lara’s mother and Clara’s father wrote in a farewell letter published by Der Spiegel. But why are the corona refugees drawn to Paraguay in particular?
The tracks lead to Caazapá, a small town between cattle pastures and swamps in one of the poorest areas of Paraguay. Only a few streets are paved, the shops mainly sell equipment for agricultural needs.
The central strip of the main street is lined with palm trees and is under water in heavy rain. In summer it gets hot and muggy up to 36 degrees. Nothing that looks attractive at first glance. But anyone who thinks so has made the calculation without marketing.
Around 16 kilometers outside, an Austrian couple who dropped out created a “green paradise” in 2016. 16 hectares of a former cattle ranch, which is to become an “autonomous community”. 250 people currently live there; there will be up to 20,000 one day. The whole thing is registered as a public limited company called Reljuv.
Its president, Juan Buker, is a hulking man who drives an SUV with armed bodyguards. The project’s founders are Erwin and Sylvia Annau, former followers of the Scientology sect. Both are considered Islamophobic vaccination opponents and had previously tried in vain to set up similar projects in Switzerland and the USA – where Erwin was convicted of fraud.
It finally worked in Paraguay, and the project has been booming since Corona. The couple are busy on social media, praising the real estate project with suggestive videos as a “mental and spiritual oasis far from European regulations”. The whole thing is made possible by very lax legislation in Paraguay and the complicity of politicians.
Residents of Paraíso Verde have their say in professionally edited videos and are allowed to report on their “bad experiences with state authority”, such as Christian from Hanover, ex-soldier and special education teacher. Others are said to be fleeing the spread of global socialism, 5G or chemtrails. Third before the foreigners and the increased crime rate in Paraguay, however, the murder rate is 24 times as high as in Germany.
And then there are those who just seek sun and a tropical lifestyle. And the tax refugees who want to benefit from the low taxes in Paraguay, which even the International Monetary Fund denounces as too low.
The fact that the whole thing is a turnkey emigrant project also contributes to its success. Those who come here leave the bureaucracy to the AG. Very few can speak Spanish, hardly anyone has heard of Paraguay before – but that is unimportant, because in the fenced and guarded Paraíso Verde, the German dropouts mostly keep to themselves.
There is a beer garden, a kindergarten and a school that is neither affiliated with the Paraguayan nor the German school system. The health post is overseen by naturopath Uwe Crämer, who told the AFP news agency that there is no place in Germany for doctors outside of conventional medicine.
On closer inspection, however, it is not quite as paradisiacal. The Paraguayan public prosecutor’s office is facing charges of environmental destruction and fraud. “A foreigner says he was cheated out of $200,000,” said Caazapá Mayor Amado Díaz Verón.
After initial enthusiasm, many left the huge, almost treeless construction site and preferred to go into the city. Some because they didn’t like the strict rules imposed by the founding couple. Others complained about the miserable infrastructure, the shaky internet and the precarious electricity and water supply.
Whoever sells his land needs the consent of the Annaus. “The ownership structures are opaque. The construction prices are four to five times higher than the average,” criticizes Paul Saladin, who was supposed to create the permaculture. But when he realized that the irrigation canals were affecting a nearby nature reserve, he left the colony.
Paraíso Verde is not an isolated case. Paraguay has a long tradition as a projection surface for utopian worldviews, from the indigenous model settlements of the Jesuits, Mennonite colonies and projects of the Moon sect to the anti-Semitic New Germanic settlement, which was founded there in 1886 by Elizabeth Nietzsche, the sister of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
At the time, Paraguay was very attractive to fascists. In 1928, not far from Paraíso Verde, the first National Socialist party outside of Germany was founded. The German-born dictator Alfredo Strössner of the Colorado Party also sympathized with Nazism. Among the most famous Germans who found refuge in Paraguay after the Second World War were the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele and the Nazi pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel, advisor to Strössner and at the same time one of the most important arms traffickers in the South American country.
The right-wing extremists left lasting traces. Santi Carneri, correspondent for the Spanish newspaper “El País”, for example, discovered a swastika at the entrance to a finca during a site visit in Mbocayaty in early 2022. Fascism and National Socialism are the intellectual compass that stretches from the Strössner dictatorship to today’s opponents of vaccination, he writes.
What worked then as now are the political networks. The founders of Paraíso Verde have the best relationship with ex-president Horacio Cartes, said the former chairwoman of Caazapá Gladys Rojas. Cartes is one of the richest entrepreneurs in Paraguay, belongs to the Colorado Party and is considered a cigarette and drug smuggler.
Two of Cartes’ relatives are on the Reljuv board of directors, and Rojas says Buker campaigned for Cartes’ candidates in the last municipal elections. But because Reljuv is the largest employer in Caazapá, no one dares say anything against them.