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Paraguay: Anything but a ‘new direction’

Dear LAB Supporter and Friend,

Does Horacio Cartes have a sense of humour? The candidate for the Colorado Party who was elected president of Paraguay on 21 April campaigned on the slogan Un Nuevo Rumbo para el Paraguay, ‘A New Direction for Paraguay’. This is the least likely result from the return to government of the party that governed Paraguay for 60 years.

LAB’s Claudia Pompa highlights the lack of unity on the left as a reason for the Colorado victory, and says that Cartes’ victory was similar to Lugo’s in that both were outsiders, though this time the backing of a strong party was crucial (Read More ). And yet paradoxically, argues a former adviser to the left-wing parties Avanza País and Frente Guasu, the left’s divisions and lack of new proposals, and the fact that Cartes is new to politics, allowed the Colorado candidate to appear as the option for change and even to pick up younger people’s votes (Read More ).

The difficulties experienced by Fernando Lugo in changing the Paraguayan economic system are described in detail by Peter Lambert and Andrew Nickson in the Epilogue to a fascinating new book, The Paraguay Reader, of which they are the editors. It is published here by their kind permission. ‘His reform program (especially land and tax reform) was vehemently opposed by powerful rural lobby groups with strong representation in Congress.’ These opponents included members of his supposed ally, the PLRA, and the Colorado party still had majorities in both Houses of Congress, and on departmental and municipal councils. ‘By 2012,’ they note, ‘his popularity had plummeted, principally as a result of his inability to implement promised reforms, but also because of his personal behaviour (namely paternity scandals, both alleged and proven).’ (Read More). LAB readers can benefit from a special offer on the Paraguay Reader by
completing the flyer (See here).

Paraguayan politics may now be emerging from the paralysis that has affected it since Lugo’s overthrow, and the new President will have a lot of unfinished business to deal with. One of the most contentious items is the trial of 14 campesinos involved in the clash with the police in Curuguaty which was used as a pretext for overthrowing President Fernando Lugo. Police and judicial handling of this case has been criticised by the United Nations, and by a delegation from SOA Watch that visited Paraguay in April (Read More). The Curuguaty massacre highlights the issue of land as one of Paraguay’s main social problems. An analysis by Fernando Martínez Escobar describes Paraguay’s economy, based on the export of agricultural produce, as a ‘poverty factory’ (Read More).

The deaths at Curuguaty and the ‘parliamentary coup’ are also the subject of an article by Natalia Viana, of LAB’s Brazilian partner A Pública, who looks at the US stance, especially its influence on a delegation from the Organisation of American States, which accepted Lugo’s overthrow as one of those things that happens in ‘our Hemisphere’ (Read More).

President-elect Cartes’ business interests have been subject to much criticism, including accusations of links with drug trafficking. The International Consortium for Investigative Journalism has been looking at a bank he owns, located in the Pacific tax haven, the Cook Islands (Read More).

Paraguay’s human rights record appears to be worsening. Journalists who attempt to report on sensitive issues face real dangers, as documented in a report from the ‘Journalists Without Borders’ (Read More). It is not only rural communities and farm-workers who face danger: women in the poor riverside Bañados in Asunción are organising protests against police violence (Read More). By contrast, we have a short video illustrating the political attitudes of prosperous brasiguayos, Brazilian soya producers living in Paraguay (Read More).

In Other news

Guatemala: Although almost all witnesses have been heard, the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s former military ruler, has been suspended once more. The situation appears to be changing almost daily. (Read More).

Mexico: A plan to build a new international airport in San Salvador Atenco, abandoned after community resistance, has been revived and poses even greater threats to the local population (Read More).

Honduras: Violence continues in the Aguán valley. Army-inspired stories of guerrillas training in the jungle seem to be a military ploy to justify repression of rural communities to further the interests of rich landowners (Read More).

Central America: María Suárez Toro, a Costa Rican and Puerto Rican feminist intellectual and activist, reflects on the role of feminism in social change (Read More).

Peru:A tribute to the Peruvian socialist leader Javier Diez Canseco, who died on 4 May (Read More).

Argentina The Argentine filmmaker Ricardo Preve introduces his film on Chagas, a little-known disease that affects more than 15 million people worldwide, most of them in Latin America, and may kill as many as 50,000 each year (Read More).

Brazil: Amanda Hopkinson reviews Genesis, an exhibition of new work by the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado that makes a plea for the preservation of nature (Read More).

Blog Posts

We have a new blog: Interviews with Social Movements. The first post is an interview by Silvia Rothlisberger with Lusbi Portillo, who describes his work to defend the Yukpa people in Venezuela against pressures from miners, cattle-ranchers and drug producers (Read more).

Nayana Fernandez has posted news and a video of an occupation at the Belo Monte dam complex on the Xingu river, protesting against the lack of consultation and destruction of their livelihoods (Read more).

Latest blog posts are collected at the foot of the Home Page (Read More).

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Best wishes,

The LAB Team