Instead of dealing with land problems, the government’s attention will be on keeping social conflict from growing in the cities, for which they’ll invent new ways to criminalize the urban poor by creating job sources that do not lead to work security, but rather to things like encouraging the maquiladora sector and deregulating the workplace. The issues of land and farmworker resistance will be treated in the same way they have for decades; that is, through persecution and repression.
This article, written by a Paraguayan researcher and originally published in Spanish by Rebelión, provides analysis on what the election of Horacio Cartes will mean for Paraguay.
Horacio Cartes was elected president of Paraguay at 56 years of age, on the 13th of April 2013, which was also the first day he exercised his right to vote; he had never participated in an election before. The model country of the new president is the United States, according to a statement made on a major radio station days before the general elections.
After being asked by a journalist which would be a model country to imitate, Cartes answered, “I really like the States, I grew up largely with the United States, my late father worked a lot with the Cessna airplane company, it’s where my brothers and I all got to study. It’s a country where everything works…it’s a country where if you make a mistake, you pay the price, everything works, the courts work, it’s a country where after great crises, it’s able to make a comeback.”
The Colorado Party has always counted on the United States for support in governing Paraguay, and this new 2013-2018 period isn’t likely to be an exception. This time, however, Washington politicians are demanding that certain changes be made to the party, which while strong and having a large electoral apparatus is still very traditional, mired in patronage and cushy jobs, as well as high levels of corruption; the Colorado Party will have to reform itself in order to comply with the demands of transnational powers, and get used to keeping itself in line with the needs of the business and commercial agricultural sector, which is coincidentally the same sector Horacio Cartes comes from.
American analyst Peter Heiken gives his comments on the question: “Has the Colorado Party changed or not? It’s time for the party to begin to modernize itself and Paraguay so that it does not fall back into its traditional hierarchism, demagoguery and patronage.” At the same time, Heiken underlines that good relations between the United States and the new government in Paraguay can be maintained. Referring to the period when Lugo was removed from power, he recalls: “Paraguay was kicked out of Unasur and Mercosur, and was left rather isolated in South America, but the United States was one of the countries that recognized Paraguay, and for that reason it remained a member of the OAS. I believe that Paraguay has appreciated how the United States maintained its relationship. So there’s no reason that a good relationship should not continue.”
In other words, it could be said that the United States did not question the parliamentary coup, and has given sufficient support to the de facto powers that have taken over the republic’s presidency since June 2012.
For whom is Cartes governing, with the Colorado Party?
With the parliamentary coup, forces on the right have managed to create a destabilizing climate in the county and the region, dividing weak leftist parties and neutralizing social movements, abruptly regaining power over the government and preventing any notion of risk contrary to their interests, eliminating the smallest possibility of a progressive restructuring.
Cartes’s government will ensure that Paraguay maintains its position as the fourth largest producer of soy in the world; commercial agricultural leaders foresee five million tons of plant-based oil products being exported in 2013. Meanwhile, livestock producers have announced that in the first quarter of this year, they have earned $308 million (USD) for meat exports, making it likely meat exports will reach more than$1 billion (USD) over the rest of the year. The Colorado party is behind making the guarantees to ensure projected numbers materialize, as they’ll be applying the necessary measures to protect the privileges of commercial landowners and businesses.
It’s not difficult to foresee that some of these measures will entail the criminalization of people’s social movements, particularly farmworkers, and that the fight for land and agrarian reform will not be focal points of the new government. The Colorado party has always been against the interests of poor farmworkers and has had a frightful history of persecuting, punishing, arresting, and assassinating social leaders.
The beginning of a period of change and the “modernization” that Washington is demanding will create a favorable environment for foreign investment, maintaining low tax pressures that encourage international business w,hile decreasing corruption and increasing state revenue.
Instead of dealing with land problems, the government’s attention will be on keeping social conflict from growing in the cities, for which they’ll invent new ways to criminalize the urban poor by creating job sources that do not lead to work security, but rather to things like encouraging the maquiladora sector and deregulating the workplace. The issues of land and farmworker resistance will be treated in the same they way have for decades; that is, through persecution and repression.
Social policies will not be greatly altered, evidenced by agreements with international organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the World Bank (WB), basing themselves mainly on Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs), which have already demonstrated their effectiveness in co-opting social leaders, decreasing the organizational autonomy of impoverished communities, and creating an efficient recipe for putting social revolt to sleep.
A modern state cannot remain independent of regional blocs, which is why Mr. Cartes is so concerned about returning to Mercosur, even though it’s questionable whether his role will be exclusively devoted to representing Paraguayan business interest groups and acting as a branch office, or as a mouthpiece for the United States in the regional integration process.
Another priority will be the possibility of establishing a relationship with the Pacific Alliance, about which the head of the Industrial Union of Paraguay (UIP) has already advanced several suggestions to the new president. Eduardo Felippo “admitted being fearful of Venezuela while Fernando Lugo was in power,” but clarified that, “with Horacio Cartes as president, I’m not afraid of Venezuela.” He indicated that the best recommendation now would be for Paraguay to place its own conditions on returning to Mercosur. As for what those conditions might be, he cited, “those that would permit alliances with the Pacific and Mexico as possible points.”
The structural changes that the country urgently needs will have to come as the result of aggressive fights on the part of social movements, requiring maturity, the ability to react ,and coherence among the left and progressive parties that for the first time will have a privileged spot on the benches of the Paraguayan Congress.