The woman has not seen the ten-year-old girl for six months. Her ex-husband is on the run with the child in South America – apparently to prevent a corona vaccination.
The woman fights back tears. “I’m a desperate mother,” she said at a press conference in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion. Then her voice breaks.
“Have a heart for our girls and help us find them.” The woman from the Ruhr region has not seen her ten-year-old daughter for six months. Her ex-husband fled to South America with the girl, his new wife and her daughter from her first marriage. Somewhere in Paraguay they are hiding. “Please get in touch and end this terrible situation,” the mother begs her ex-husband.
According to the searching mother, the fugitive couple left a farewell letter when they left in November 2021. In it, the two write that there is no future for the girls in Germany, that they do not want to have them vaccinated against the corona virus. A few days ago, the fugitives published a video message. “We are now wanted worldwide, like criminals, like murderers, like criminals,” says the man in it. The woman adds: “We just wanted to protect our children. We just want our kids to be okay and now you guys want to separate us.”
The police assume that the family went into hiding in one of the numerous German colonies in Paraguay, where they should be able to count on the support of like-minded people. “There are very isolated German communities here, which makes the investigation so difficult,” said the deputy head of the kidnapping department of the Paraguayan police, Mario Vallejos.
Dorado of German opponents of vaccination
Paraguay can look back on a long tradition of immigration from Germany. Already at the end of the 19th century, many Germans came to the fertile country to start a new life. Elizabeth Nietzsche, the sister of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, even founded a settlement with her husband called “Nueva Germania” (New Germania) and dreamed of an Aryan enclave in the Paraguayan hinterland.
During the corona pandemic, Paraguay then developed into a Dorado of vaccination opponents, lateral thinkers and right-wing conspiracy ideologues. According to the Paraguayan migration authorities, 3,440 Germans settled in Paraguay last year alone. The German embassy in Asunción estimates that a total of around 26,000 Germans live in Paraguay.
Paraguay is attractive as an immigration country because foreigners, especially from Europe, can easily obtain a residence permit and can also buy land or real estate. Paraguay became interesting for opponents of vaccination during the corona pandemic because you could initially enter the country without proof of vaccination. Many immigrants settle in traditional German communities like San Bernardino, Hohenau, and Bella Vista. Recently, however, new settlements were founded by emigrants from German-speaking countries.
Armed sentries at the gates
One of them is the Paraíso Verde colony, which was founded a few years ago by the Austrian couple Erwin and Sylvia Annau in Caazapá and which actively recruits German opponents of vaccination as new settlers. “I’ve been a lateral thinker for as long as I can remember,” writes Erwin Annau on his website. Due to violations of the quarantine regulations, the public prosecutor’s office approached the peak of the pandemic and was surprised at the armed guards at the gates of the settlement.
Inside, the conspiracy myths flourish: “I believe that very few vaccinations really make sense. It’s just a business model,” says naturopath Uwe, who moved from Cologne to Paraíso Verde in November 2020, in a video released by the organization. “I don’t trust the pharmaceutical industry.”
Christian and Jessyca from Hanover have been living in Paraíso Verde with their daughter for six months. “Politics in Germany, for example with the Infection Protection Act, is very problematic for the German population,” says Christian. “The political agenda of scaring people is a crime.” The ex-soldier now calls Paraguay his home.
Numerous emigrants are said to have recently turned their backs on the country. Language problems, low earning potential, the extreme climate and differences in mentality drive emigrants back, according to relevant Internet forums. “The question is whether people will integrate. Most don’t really learn Spanish, so that’s where things get stuck,” says emigration worker Eveline Huber. “Those who don’t integrate will quickly go back.”
The immigration of declared opponents of vaccination is not met with approval by everyone in Paraguay anyway. “Most of those who come are not vaccinated,” said the mayor of Hohenau, Enrique Hahn, in a recent interview. “You have to know that there are laws here too.” In the meantime, those entering the country had to prove that they had been fully vaccinated against the corona virus. According to Hahn, however, opponents of vaccination partially circumvented the regulations by coming from Bolivia across the green border to Paraguay.
Interpol turned on
According to the Paraguayan public prosecutor’s office, the fugitive family from Germany is now being sought worldwide for child abduction on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the international police authority Interpol. Police recently discovered an abandoned rental car in the town of Bella Vista near the Argentine border and questioned the car’s rental company. “We believe that they are still in the country,” says prosecutor Carina Sanchez. “We want the girls to be safe and healthy and find a way to dialogue to resolve the situation.”