Sunday, August 5, 2012

South American Politics

*This blog has been delayed from June 30th due to media and political issues.

    For those of you with an ear to international news, you might have picked up on an interesting story this week that has quietly unraveled in one of the obscure corners of world events. The President of Paraguay and Catholic priest, Fernando Lugo, went from being the leader of this small country to ousted ex-President in less than 48 hours.
    Following a violent clash between police officers and landless peasants (Campesinos sin Tierra) in the town of Curuguaty in the central-eastern part of the country, Lugo was blamed with mismanagement of the situation which led to the deaths of 17 people, officers and peasants included. The incident occurred as a large police force of roughly 300 men were sent to evict families of peasants, roughly 150 people in total, from a parcel of private property that they were illegally occupying. Peasants then opened fire on the police. The land in question is owned by a well-connected Paraguayan with ties to the opposition Colorado political party and who may also have received this piece of real-estate through shady transactions which occurred (as so many others) during the Strossner dictatorship which fell in 1989 after ruling for nearly 4 decades. It should also be noted that this area of Curuguaty is approximately 1 hour from my house.
    This fighting was one of many reasons, including failure to live up to campaign promises (which largely focused on peasants rights and land redistribution) and the fathering of illegitimate children, that were cited as grounds for impeaching President Lugo. The charges were leveled by almost unanimous bi-partisan vote on Thursday night (June 21st) and by the late evening of Friday, the impeachment trial had been concluded, leaving Lugo as the newest of Paraguay’s impeached leaders (3 have been impeached in the country’s history) and Fredrico Franco (Lugo’s Vice President) as the newest South American leader.
    The situation is confusing to say the least. Franco, in his inaugural address reiterated Lugo’s ideas of peasant rights and land reform, although in reality, he faces the stiff opposition party majority which controls both the houses of the congress and staunchly opposes such measures. At the same time, there have been comments to the tune of Franco being merely a puppet of the Colorado party (despite the fact that he is, as Lugo, a Liberal). Then, there is always the fact to consider that the new president will only hold office for 8 months before the next national elections in 2013.
    Many South American countries have refused to officially recognize the new government. There are accusations of un-democratic practices, especially given the rapidity of the impeachment trial (Lugo’s defense team originally asked for 15 days, then 3 days, then 5 minutes to prepare their case and were denied all three by the high court), and some are calling this political move a “pseudo-coup”. It is interesting that many left-leaning South American countries (Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela etc.) are leading the call for fair democratic processes in Paraguay while countries such as the US have not made any official statements regarding the new presidency.
    So far, everything in the country has been peaceful. Protests and demonstrations have been ongoing in the capital of Asuncion as well as in other cities such as Coronel Oviedo and Caaguazú but there has fortunately been no further loss of life. The protesters, many of whom are landless peasants and Lugo supporters, can’t be too upset--technically, the new government still occupies a platform that represents their interests. How this plays out in the long run, though, is anybody’s guess. The situation in regards to the international community has also created a sort of Paraguayan patriotic revival as the country claims to have followed its own constitution and is merely exerting its own autonomy. This claim may be well founded, but given the curious conditions of the ouster, the reality remains to be seen.

    All of this has been happening over the past 2 weeks or so. I think that perhaps there may have been a few articles about all of this in the international news circuit, maybe a footnote on the scrolling-tape under the MSNBC news screen. The broader issue, particularly that of the landless peasants (Campesinos sin Tierra as they are known in Paraguay), addresses a much greater concern and has originated out of similar movements in Brazil and Uruguay. The reality in this country is that 2% of the population owns 80% of the land. There are thousands of disenfranchised peoples who lack almost everything, including the land upon which to derive a menial subsistence-producing existence. Most of these people live in destitute poverty without steady work and without the means to feed themselves or their families. This situation is a result of both political corruption and global neo-liberalist fervor famous for the rising number of international ‘land-grabs’.

From Paraguay,
little hupo

1 comment:

  1. Sounds a little like the USA, 1% own everything and 99% pay for it. Thanks for writing about this, we forget that many countries are fighting for existence on different scales.

    Love Mom