[News] Paraguay: House of Cartes

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 25 13:50:02 EDT 2013

    *Paraguay: House of Cartes *

Written by Dawn Paley
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 16:44

There's a new President in Latin America, and his name isn't Nicolás 
Maduro. The election that brought him to power was called by an 
illegitimate regime following a coup d'etat, and his name isn't Porfirio 
Lobo. He's a wealthy, conservative businessman, and his name isn't 
Sebastián Piñera. His party ruled for over 60 years, and his name isn't 
Enrique Peña Nieto.

Horacio Cartes is his name, and he was elected President of Paraguay on 
April 21. His party, the conservative Colorado (ANR-PC) party, governed 
Paraguay for 61 years. During 35 of those years, from 1954-1989, 
dictator Alfredo Stroessner was the party's leader.

Cartes represents rich new blood in the sagging veins of the old party. 
According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, even though voting is mandatory 
in Paraguay, Cartes had never once voted before running for president, 
and only recently joined the party. "What Cartes brought to the party 
was the soundness of his immense fortune, built on the tobacco industry, 
and his experience as a shareholder in 25 companies with 3,500 
employees," reported 
the Spanish daily on the day of his election.

School of the Americas Watch, which sent a delegation to observe the 
elections, expressed concern 
at Cartes' sympathy for the dictatorship, his public disdain for queer 
people, and his seemingly totalitarian aspirations.

Cartes' link to drug traffickers was reported in the New York Times 
and his implication in money laundering has been amply documented. 
"Through the utilization of a [Drug Enforcement Administration] [Buenos 
Aires Country Office] cooperating source and other DEA undercover 
personnel, agents have infiltrated CARTES' money laundering enterprise, 
an organization believed to launder large quantities of United States 
currency generated through illegal means, including through the sale of 
narcotics, from the [Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil] 
to the United States," according to a State Department cable leaked 
<http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/01/10BUENOSAIRES5.html> by Wikileaks. 
  As if that wasn't enough, a recent report by the International 
Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed 
that a bank owned by Cartes opened a secret locale in the offshore 
tax-haven of the Cook Islands.

Various acts of corruption were documented in the run-up to and on the 
day of the election. Though the Organization for American States 
the elections as peaceful and transparent, their observers noted 
incidents of vote-buying and coercion on election day, as well as the 
use of questionable polls in the lead up to the election. The major 
leading up to the elections was the government's purchase of lands 
linked to family members of the head of Paraguay's national congress, a 
member of the National Union of Ethical Citizens (UNACE), who promised 
votes for the then-ruling Liberal party in return.

But the most controversial thing about Cartes' election may be that it 
came after the parliamentary coup that took place in Paraguay on June 
22, 2012, when former President Fernando Lugo was removed from the 
presidency <http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4535> following the 
massacre of 11 peasants and six police officers in the Curuguaty region. 
Five peasants are in prison and seven under house arrest without trial 
for the massacre, which is widely believed to have been carried out by 
professional hit men. The Paraguayan Human Rights Coordinator called 
the massacre "the conflict which began the most important political 
crisis in the last 20 years of Paraguayan history."

After his removal on June 22, Lugo, a progressive former bishop and 
leader of an independent party, was replaced by Federico Franco of the 
Liberal Party. The US and Canada immediately recognized Franco's 
government as legitimate, while South American trade block MERCOSUR 
(Argentina, Bolivia [membership in process], Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, 
Venezuela) suspended 
Paraguay following the coup.

"We've just had elections that were called and convened by a de facto 
government, where the right wing carried out an illegal parliamentary 
coup, dismissing a legitimate government," said Abel Irala, a researcher 
with the Paraguay Peace and Justice Service (Serpaj), in an interview 
with Upside Down World from Asunción, Paraguay. "That's the root of 
these elections."

Following the June coup, mobilizations took place throughout Paraguay, 
but demonstrators quickly ran out of steam. "Street demonstrations and 
protests got smaller and smaller because of electoral context," said 
Irala. "The Paraguayan left made a bet on playing by the rules of 
elecciones golpistas (pro-coup elections), the left put most of their 
energy into the electoral process, which became a priority... social 
struggles and mobilizations were abandoned."

Irala explained that the Paraguayan left has long had a close 
relationship with progressive political parties, which in this case may 
have worked to its demise. Regardless, campesino movements and land 
defense struggles continue in an increasingly repressive environment.

"Since 2004 we've been living through a period of the criminalization of 
social struggles," said Irala. "Every time there's new elements, first 
repression for repression's sake, then there was another strategy which 
consisted of the accusation of campesinos, in one year more than 1000 
campesinos were accused... From there we've passed to a new tactic, 
which is selective assassination 
Since the June 2012 coup, three peasant leaders have been murdered, all 
of them shot down by gunmen on motorcycles using assault rifles.

Land conflicts are likely to continue in Paraguay. Cartes has expressed 
his support of a development model based on the extractive industries 
and said he'd like his country to be more like the United States. In 
addition to struggles against unfair land distribution fuelled by 
industrial farming and large scale ranching, protests against Canadian 
aluminium giant Alcan are ongoing 
and oil discoveries in the Chaco region, announced 
in November, could provoke resistance from land based communities.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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