Monday, April 21, 2008

Paraguay: red menace on the rise

As predicted the Paraguayan election has been won by the charismatic, but all too modest, ex-"bishop of the poor" Lugo. This is very good news indeed.

Lugo, and his newly formed coalition, have ended the sixty one year government of the ruling party on the highest turnout in Paraguayan history. Lugo won around 41% of the vote, his main rival 31%, with the outrageous Lino Oviedo, who was only released from jail last year for plotting a coup, on 22 percent of the vote. There had been concern that there would be wide spread vote rigging (indeed there may have been) and, in particular, there seemed to be a large number of dead people who were keen to vote - but where electoral fraud took place it simply was not enough to deny Lugo victory.

Lugo finalised his coalition just eight months ago forged out of a vast array of trade unions, indigenous movements, landless peasants and the Authentic Radical Party, as well as smaller leftist groups. Key policy points include combating corruption and poverty whilst addressing comprehensive land reform and the sale of natural resources (mainly to Brazil).

Whilst Lugo wants to distance himself from more dogmatic or polarised versions of socialism his class analysis seems pretty clear. "In Paraguay there are only thieves and the victims of thieves." His style is certainly different to that of Hugo Chavez, and whilst he is as yet untested I personally welcome the absence of machismo and bluster from Paraguay's new President. He is keen to stress that he is independent of Latin America's other radical Presidents although his style, often in farmer's hat and sandals, is very reminiscent of Bolivia's jumper wearing Evo Morales.

The New Statesman describes the victory as "decency wins in Paraguay", and there is little doubt that there has been a shift towards democracy - which gives hope for the future despite potentially setting Paraguay on a collision course with the United States.

You can read Lugo's blog, if you can read Spanish, although it may be better to stick to the slightly more up to date official website.

Some interesting posts:

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