The case of Clara, who was allegedly kidnapped by her father to Paraguay, sheds light on a scene: During the pandemic, more and more German opponents of vaccination emigrated to Paraguay. They hope for freedom from Corona rules in a country that has been hit hard by the virus.

These are scenes that touch your heart. A mother is looking for her daughter, allegedly kidnapped by her father and his new wife. Not to another European country, but to Paraguay in South America. The story of Anne Maja Reiniger on the search for her daughter Clara has occupied the media for days, but the family for months. At the end of November last year, the ten-year-old did not return from a trip with her father Andreas Egler. Instead, the mother received a farewell letter. “We would like to inform you that we will be extending our weekend trip with the children indefinitely,” it says, according to the “Spiegel”. Along with Clara, Lara, the daughter of Andreas Egler’s new wife Anna, also disappears. The path leads the family via Madrid to Paraguay, the El Dorado for opponents of vaccination, corona deniers, right-wingers and swaggerers.

Even if, according to information from Spiegel on Sunday evening, the couple and their children want to turn themselves in to the authorities, the news sheds light on the growing German lateral thinker scene in South America. In the first two years of the pandemic, the small South American country has become a place of longing for those who believe the disease and the vaccination against it are a lie from the state or, alternatively, an artificial creation to decimate the world population. According to the Paraguayan migration authorities, 3,440 Germans settled in Paraguay last year alone. The wave of arrivals was sometimes so large that the hotels in the capital Asuncion were fully booked by Germans and other Europeans alike. But she is also driven into exile by the fear of a possible Islamization of her homeland. The fact that they sometimes flee to a country that many of them have never been to and whose language they may never speak seems to be totally illogical.

Paraguay: Lateral thinkers gather in their own colonies

But in Paraguay you are also among your own kind: back in February, stern reported on El Paraíso Verde, a project in which unconventional thinkers want to create their own paradise. According to their own statements, 3,000 Germans, Swiss and Austrians have lived in the 1,600-hectare colony – according to the Austrian couple Erwin and Sylvia Annau, the founders should eventually have up to 30,000. “I’ve been a lateral thinker for as long as I can remember,” says Erwin Annau’s biography on the colony’s website. They don’t see themselves as sect leaders or gurus, but as “equals among equals”. In an interview with the German-language magazine “Wochenblatt” in 2018, the Annaus listed the five reasons why Germans come to them, it reads like a potpurri of the Schurbler-Einmalein: The bureaucracy with which people in Europe would be pressed into a scheme , the uncontrolled migration to Europe, the tax burden, weather manipulation and the compulsory vaccination of children. Access to the site is hardly possible. 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.

However, the colony regularly proves on YouTube that the conspiracy myth is lived inside. In videos, newcomers and long-time residents have their say, including Christian, Jessy and Eleni, the couple’s three-year-old daughter. “Since we have long experienced everything we see and read as propaganda, we also know that all the news and everything that is said about South America in Europe and especially in Germany is a farce,” reports Christian in it – the video is also underlined the graphics usual in the denial circles.

No proof of vaccination is required for entry

As a non-medical practitioner, Uwe emigrated from Cologne to Paraguay in November 2020. He does not want to deny the virus and its dangers. “It’s a communicable disease that’s no fun,” he says in an interview. However, apart from a mandatory vaccination in the Bundeswehr, he had never been vaccinated since childhood. “I don’t believe in vaccination. Actually, it’s a business model, very few vaccinations really make sense,” says the naturopath. He doesn’t trust the pharmaceutical industry.

Paraguay, which has no coast of its own and is surrounded by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, is also considered attractive to those wishing to emigrate because foreigners, especially from Europe, can easily get a special permit and can also buy land and real estate. The fact that you could still enter the country without proof of vaccination during the pandemic was a bonus for many opponents. In January, however, the country changed the rule that those entering the country had to provide proof of vaccination. Vaccination opponents tried to circumvent the measures by entering illegally via Bolivia – but for some it was over at the border. According to the Paraguayan migration authorities, since the beginning of June a PCR test or proof of recovery within the last ten to 90 days has also been sufficient as proof.

Intermediaries lure with false promises

People are often lured into social media by intermediaries who sell Germans and other people willing to emigrate plots of land and houses at exorbitant prices. Thomas Vinke, who emigrated to Paraguay 17 years ago and is highly regarded as a documentary filmmaker in the country, told Deutsche Welle that many locals can no longer afford land because of the horrendous prices. They are also lured with the prospect of freedom from all Corona rules. A lie, because Paraguay also passed a pandemic law, and masks are still compulsory in public buildings. Those who do not comply face severe fines or 30 days of community service.

As a common reason for their exile in South America, the new citizens and those who want to become one give in forums that the Paraguayan constitution does not allow the introduction of compulsory vaccination. A misconception, because Article 68 of the constitution states that the state can order vaccination campaigns. The state is even obliged to protect and promote health in the interests of its residents. The article even goes so far that every person can be obliged to “submit to the legally stipulated hygiene measures” while respecting human dignity.

In addition, the country has been an emigration destination for Germans for over 100 years. At that time, impoverished German farmers from the Brazilian border area moved to Paraguay. They realized that the soil was fertile and settled in larger communities. At that time, many of the German immigrants already sympathized with the ideas of National Socialism – a local group of the NSDAP existed in Paraguay even before 1933. After the World War, Nazi greats like the concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele fled to the small country and went into hiding there.

One of the communities that still exists today is Hohenau. A city in the southeast of the country with around 15,000 inhabitants. According to the tourism authority, over 1,000 Germans settled there alone last year – most of them opposed to vaccination. However, they are not met with much sympathy for their attitude, neither in Hohenau nor in Paraguay. “Most of those who come are not vaccinated,” Hohenau Mayor Enrique Hahn said in a recent interview. “You have to know that there are laws here too.”

Paraguay was hit hard by the corona pandemic

The country itself has been hit hard by the pandemic. One in ten of the seven million inhabitants fell ill with the virus, almost 19,000 deaths are in the statistics for the country, which does very badly in South America when it comes to vaccination rates. Because there is no money, the country relies on vaccines donated by the Covax initiative. The vaccines arrived late, so far only 54 percent of the population have received a vaccination at all – in neighboring Brazil it is 86 percent, and Chile is the leader in South America with 94 percent.

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 of them 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.”

Sources: taz, Deutsche Welle, faz, daily news, constitution of Paraguay, weekly newspaper.