Friday, August 22, 2008

Lugo's first moves

Although ex-Bishop Lugo was elected President of Paraguay a few months ago, such is the way of the world he's only just been inaugurated. Today I've learned of his very first acts as President.

He's removed the head of the police, navy, army and air force and put in those he feels might be more comfortable with democracy. Top marks for ruthlessness - this is a good time to start weeding out the corrupt elements in the State and those who might, at a later stage, decide that the will of the people just isn't working out for them.

It's been a lesson hard learned but it has become very clear that those who'd seek to change society cannot simply leave the vested interests and the elites from the old times in place. For change to take place you need both structural change - and a change in personnel.

Of course this can be a dangerous move as the President of Mauritania found out two weeks ago when he tried to dismiss the top commanders in the army. They decided, upon reflection that democracy would best be served by having a President who didn't want to sack them and took over.

Whilst President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (pictured) is still being held by the new military rulers there is little chance, as things stand, of the coup being over thrown. There is a movement for the restoration of democracy - but the former regime was not well loved by the people, nor was it particularly a government for the people. So unlike when Chavez was overthrown in a coup way back in 2002 there is little chance that there will be a popular uprising supported by many of the lower ranking officers and troops.

But Lugo is in a different position. He has just been elected on a popular wave of enthusiasm and there would be nothing but outrage at a coup attempt at this stage in his Presidency, before his seat is even warm. In my view Lugo has made a bold and necessary first move. If he's to make fundamental changes he needs to ensure those that might jeopardise this are in no position to turn their dissatisfaction into something more tangible.

In fact, that's the fundamental difference between the process in Paraguay and in Mauritania. Paraguay is part of the Latin American leftist surge and those on the right who oppose democracy are too weak to respond at the currant time against a vibrant popular movement. In the tiny African state of Mauritania the military can drive the country back because those that they are ousting from the corridors of power were no friends of the people in the first place.


Rayyan said...

Brilliant post, Jim - I didn't know you followed Latin American politics too. Congratulations on the award, you very much deserve it, as this post shows.

Jim Jay said...

Rayyan - thanks - feel free to check out my other Latin American posts by clicking on the tag at the bottom of this post.