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Paraguay: A History Lesson

By       Message Guglielmo Tell     Permalink
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As for Paraguay, after the overthrow of the 35-year-long dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner in 1989, it became the last of the Latin American countries to "stabilize" its elections system. Soon after, the files of the "Condor" operation, "The Files of Death," were found right in Paraguay. [See Condor Operation: A Criminal Pact, by the Argentine reporter Stella Calloni.]

One long-awaited and long-fought-for measure adopted by the country's new government was the acceptance of the Guarani language as Paraguay's second official language, along with Spanish. However, the country's new institutional system suffered a violent crash in March of 1999, when the power groups related to different interests within Stroessner's dictatorship threw the country into a civil war for a few days, each group trying to grab total power for itself. All the participants in the power struggle were actually the metamorphosed descendants of those who returned "home" in 1870, and all had been dependent on big business abroad ever since. 

Smuggling is one of the "normal" ways by which Paraguay has tried to maintain economic stability since Stroessner's times. (The President from 2003-2008 was Francisco Frutos, who represented a "liberal" wing of Stroessner's Colorado Party. He tried to do something against smuggling and corruption, but little else; nevertheless, a planned attack against him was discovered in the nick of time.)

The "political crisis" of 1999 was rather more like a Chicago-style gangster fight, which the corporate media wrapped into the robes of a "struggle to preserve democracy." More recently, the Paraguayan system has been denounced (by "TeleSur" (, for example) for making the purchase of votes a standard practice. Despite that, Fernando Lugo, the Bishop of Asuncion, who abandoned the church to enter politics and was known as "The Bishop of the Poor," was elected President from a coalition of left-wing forces in 2008. Oligarchy's traditional parties, however, kept control of the Congress, paralyzing all reforms, particularly agrarian reform, and torpedoing the admittance of Chavez's Venezuela into Mercosur.

Nine months before the last elections (April 21, 2013), a massacre of peasants occurred in Curuguaty. Information about the atrocity is still very dark. Other peasants were charged for it, but they claimed innocence from the beginning. In addition, witnesses denounced the presence of the police and of the local land owners' hired men. In any case, the massacre was used by the Congress as an excuse to remove President Lugo after a "political trial" of only 45 minutes, without giving him a chance even to defend himself. Investigation of the atrocity was terminated immediately afterwards, despite U.N. demands that it be carried through to a finish.

The new Paraguayan "government," composed of traditional land owners, came under sanctions from the whole of Latin America. These were solely political, except for the cancellation of oil shipments from Venezuela, which caused the government to turn to the U.S. for oil and to do business with "Monsanto." (When such a shift occurs, local peasants, no matter where, have to be thrown out by any means possible. That's how it works all over the world. [See articles at "The Bastar Land Grab: the Expropriation of Farmers in India" (related to mine exploration); also, Monsanto-related stories: "Genetically Modified Seeds: Monsanto Is Putting Normal Seeds Out of Reach"; "Genetically Engineered 'Terminator Seeds': Death and Destruction of Agriculture"; "Killer Seeds: The Devastating Impact of Monsanto's Genetically Modified Seeds in India"; "The Seeds of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming"; "A New Earthquake Hits Haiti: Monsanto's Deadly Gift of 475 Tons of Genetically-Modified Seeds to Haitian Farmers"; "Seeds of Doubt: Brazilian Farmers Sue Monsanto"; etc.] In addition, bio-fuels are not to be forgotten here.)

The Paraguayan coup "government" also reiterated the idea--much cherished by the Pentagon and, understandably, frozen by Lugo--of a huge military base in the Three-Borders area near the Itaipu hydropower station. (The continent has one-third of the world's reserves of "sweet water"; 65% of its lithium [neighboring Bolivia has the world's largest proven reserves]; 90,000 indigenous plants, of which at least 2,000 have proven medical [pharmaceutical] use; Amazon forests that keep being cut, etc.).

At the same time, expenditures for public services, which President Lugo could increase only a little, were all cut drastically--to the point of causing blackouts in hospitals and forcing virtually all public services into privatization. Federico Franco, the once Vice-President made President thanks to the Parliamentary coup, screamed in public that he and Paraguay "will be remembered for having stopped the expansion of the Bolivarian Revolution over the continent."

The "winner" of the last "election" was Horacio Cartes, a big-bucks businessman from Stroessner's Colorado Party (again), to whom offers were made to bring Paraguay back to the Latin American forums and to restore normal diplomatic relations with all other Latin American Presidents, including even Nicolas Maduro. (Results of the last Venezuelan elections represent the continent's latest torpedo show, with the gangster Capriles represented as the new "freedom hero," especially in Miami.) Cartes has been accused of practices as corrupt as drug dealing, but that didn't keep him from throwing some dirt at Lugo in public speeches, along with making the usual promises. And this especially should be kept in mind: Today's Paraguay is the country with the highest concentration of land proprietorship in the world: over 90% of all the country's land is owned by 2% of the population.

Submitter Bio: Russian sociologist interested in development issues, residing in Cuba.

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