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5th Jul 2022

Paraguay's right-wing 'paradise' draws European anti-vaxxers

  • Founded by couple Sylvia and Dr Erwin Annau, their Paraguay-registered business promotes itself under tags such as "#nomasks #nomandates #nofearofviruses #no5g #naturalmedicine #organicfood #nochemtrails" on Instagram (Photo: paraiso-verde.com)
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Dozens of Europeans have flocked to an anti-vax, far-right "paradise" in Paraguay, hoping to attract thousands of likeminded people in future.

The El Paraíso Verde project in Paraguay's Caazapá region already has some 150 mostly Austrian, German, and German-speaking Swiss residents.

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And Caazapá saw a jump from four German residents in 2019 to over 100 in 2020 as the pandemic unfolded, according to official figures cited by The Guardian newspaper on Thursday (27 January)

Founded by a couple called Sylvia and Dr Erwin Annau, their Paraguay-registered business promotes itself under tags such as "#nomasks #nomandates #nofearofviruses #no5g #naturalmedicine #organicfood #nochemtrails" on Instagram.

Its YouTube channel said the pandemic was "non-existent", while at the same time peddling snake-oil cures for Covid.

And its website spoke of people meditating among tropical butterflies and showed photos of couples hugging trees.

But its wellness claims aside, it also described itself as a place to escape from "socialist trends" in world politics.

Erwin Annau has, in the past, questioned the need for German WW2 guilt, The Guardian showed.

And he has given free rein to his Islamophobia.

"Islam is not part of Germany. We are enlightened Christians, and we are concerned about our daughters," he said in a speech in Paraguay in 2017.

"We see the Qur'an as [containing] an ideology of political domination, which is not compatible with democratic and Christian values," he added.

El Paraíso Verde did not reply when contacted by EUobserver on Thursday.

"Is El Paraiso Verde a cult?", its own website asked in an FAQ.

"Definitely not ... We will never position ourselves as leaders or gurus or accept such here. We are just normal people", it said.

But its FAQ also asked: "Are you a haven for Nazis?".

And the answer spoke volumes: "Unfortunately, today this word [Nazi] is abhorrently and reprehensibly misused to shove those who think differently politically into a corner," El Paraiso Verde said.

"The word Nazi is instrumentalised in order to enforce equalisation of opinion with unworldly, extremely left-wing multi-culti ideologies," it added.

The "paradise" is designed to house up to 20,000 people in 1,500 plots when completed, its website said.

It aimed to open its own university and alternative medicine centre.

It called itself "in the process of being established as the largest private colony in South America".

And it spoke of an "ever-increasing wave of emigration [from] Europe".

The German-speaking colony is not the first of its kind to arise amid the pandemic.

Some 2,500 Austrians and Germans have also created a secure community in Aheloy, on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, in what German magazine Der Spiegel called "corona-truthers" and "Querdenker: that hodgepodge of anti-government conspiracy theorists who have waged an ongoing campaign against all measures aimed at combatting the pandemic".

Back in Germany, the Alternative für Deutschland party, the third largest in the Bundestag, has circulated the same mix of anti-vax and far-right ideas espoused by El Paraíso Verde's founders.

Anti-vax protests, including riots in Brussels, have been on the rise in several EU states in recent months.

They have often attracted extreme-right minorities and hooligans

Related conspiracy theories have been pushed on media and social media by Russia and by US conservatives.

And some European anti-vax activists have belittled the Holocaust by wearing yellow stars at rallies, as if they were Jewish victims of Nazi German extermination camps.

"Today I see how the memory of what happened is politically abused, sometimes even ridiculed and trampled under foot," Margot Friedlander, a Holocaust survivor said in the European Parliament on Thursday, the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

"It is with disbelief that now, as a 100-year-old, I see symbols of our exclusion by the Nazis, the Star of David, is being shamelessly used by the new enemies of democracy on the street to style themselves in the midst of a democracy as victims," she said.

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