Paraguay votes today - could a left turn scuttle Bush's military (and personal) plans?
paraguay is still shaking off the lingering aftereffects of the 35-year dictatorship of alfredo stroessner* who ruled the country with an iron hand from 1954 to 1989... since then, paraguay has been presided over exclusively by presidents from stroessner's colorado party up until, perhaps, today... we'll have the results of today's election, hopefully, by late tonight, paraguay time... (see my previous posts about the bush administration and paraguay here...)
Paraguay votes Sunday in a landmark presidential election in which a woman is competing for the first time but polls indicate the favorite is a suspended Catholic bishop.
Voters will also select a new congress in the relatively new democracy, which emerged from a 35-year military dictatorship in 1989 and elected its first civilian president in 1993.
The winner of the presidential poll will replace outgoing President Nicanor Duarte who constitutionally cannot seek re-election after serving a five-year term.
Fernando Lugo, a 56-year-old former bishop suspended by the Vatican for his bid to take over from Duarte, is seen as the frontrunner.
"We are going to win," a confident Lugo told reporters Friday.
Lugo represents the opposition Patriotic Alliance for Change, and is an avowed admirer of Latin American leftwing firebrands Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia and their programs to empower the poor.
However the race has been close, with opponents Blanca Ovelar, 51, a former education minister, and Lino Oviedo, 64, a retired army chief who helped stage a coup, mounting a serious challenge.
The latest polls show Lugo is favored by 34 percent of voters, while Ovelar has 28.5 percent and Oviedo 29 percent. There is no runoff vote.
Ovelar, the anointed candidate for the conservative Colorado Party which has ruled Paraguay for the past six decades, this week asked voters to show her the same consideration as her male counterparts.
"If I lose the election, I will accept the result. But I ask for the same openness and the same objectivity as the other candidates," she said.
Oviedo, who helped overthrow dictator Alfredo Stroessner in 1989 and who has spent much of the past decade in and out of military prisons, told AFP he was optimistic of a "triumph."
Oviedo was released from his last stint behind bars last September by a court that found he had been the victim of political persecution, leaving him able to pursue his long-held ambition of becoming head-of-state.
Political analyst Francisco Capli said that despite the closeness of the race, Lugo was likely to cling to his advantage.
"Lugo has had a five point lead over the others for three months," Capli said. "He could win."
if lugo wins, it will mean the entire "south cone" of latin america - argentina, bolivia, brazil, chile, paraguay, and uruguay - will have shifted to center-left leadership over the past ten years... in fact, it's really only colombia and ecuador - and not so much ecuador - in the entire continent (which excludes the mixed bag of central america, the caribbean, and mexico, AND those other countries ON the continent that no one ever seems to mention or know anything about, suriname, french guiana, and guyana) that remain in the u.s. camp... i won't conceal my delight over this turn of events... a left turn in paraguay might even mean that u.s. troops will be shown the door and the bush family's hopes for a sanctuary in paraguay** could be dashed...
* [Stroessner's] regime is also blamed for torture, kidnappings and corruption, of which the "terror archives", discovered in 1992 in Lambaré suburb of Asunción, gave proof; he did not dispute charges of corruption at some levels in his government. Corruption even extended to the highest echelons of the government, including Stroessner himself; estimates of the Stroessner family fortune run as high as $300 million. He did become more tolerant of opposition as the years passed, but there was no change in the regime's basic character.
Furthermore, Stroessner's Paraguay became a haven for Nazi war criminals, non communist peaceful opposition was crushed and the indigenous population was persecuted including forcibly assimilating the Ache population, a policy which ended in bloodshed, sexual slavery and servitude.
Paraguayans remain divided on Stroessner and his controversial legacy. Most feel a strong sense of distaste toward him, perceiving him as a widely corrupt, authoritarian dictator. Those who defend his legacy cite the political stability and economic progress that prevailed under his rule, despite the gross violations to human rights that his regime promoted and encovered, such as the infamous Operation Condor.
** now, about u.s. troops and that planned bush family "sanctuary"...
from august of last year...
Controversy is raging in Paraguay, where the US military is conducting secretive operations. 500 US troops arrived in the country on July 1st with planes, weapons and ammunition. Eyewitness reports prove that an airbase exists in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, which is 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia and may be utilized by the US military. Officials in Paraguay claim the military operations are routine humanitarian efforts and deny that any plans are underway for a US base. Yet human rights groups in the area are deeply worried.
White House officials are using rhetoric about terrorist threats in the tri-border region (where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet) in order to build their case for military operations, in many ways reminiscent to the build up to the invasion of Iraq.
The tri-border area is home to the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world's largest reserves of water. Near the Estigarribia airbase are Bolivia's natural gas reserves, the second largest in Latin America. Political analysts believe US operations in Paraguay are part of a preventative war to control these natural resources and suppress social uprisings in Bolivia.
The land grab project of U.S. President George W. Bush in Chaco, Paraguay, has generated considerable discomfort both politically and environmentally.
The news circulating the continent about plans to buy 98,840 acres of land in Chaco, Paraguay, near the Triple Frontier (Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay) is the talk of the town in these countries.
Although official sources have not confirmed the information that is already public, the land is reportedly located in Paso de Patria, near Bolivian gas reserves and the Guarani indigenous water region, within the Triple Border.
things continue to look gloomy for george... if he loses his safe haven in paraguay, goodness knows, he might just have to face those dreaded war crimes charges... Submit To Propeller