Good News and Bad for Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo

By Gaudin, Andres | NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, October 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Good News and Bad for Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo


Gaudin, Andres, NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs


A routine medical check-up led to the unexpected news that Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which had affected three areas in his body. The news affected the political dynamics of a country whose progressive government has been kept in check by the rightist opposition that does not hide its clear intentions of destabilizing the government to the point where it falls.

Lugo, who took office in August 2008 without the support of a party structure that would ensure the governing coalition a degree of power in the legislature, suffered--and still suffers--from ongoing opposition threats to impeach him. Among his enemies was--and is--Vice President Federico Franco, a young, ambitious leader of the Partido Liberal Revolucionario Autentico (PLRA), the main player in the Alianza Patriotica para el Cambio (APC), the heterogeneous grouping that brought Lugo to power.

However, when the medical report confirmed the terrible finding, the president appeared politically very active, with events that favored him and an until-then-unknown negotiating ability that resulted in "friendly encounters" with those who want to see him out of the Casa de Gobierno.

For diverse media analysts, Lugo made important concessions to obtain a certain relief from the tightened screws with which the right had immobilized him.

Pro-administration group forms, vice president weakened

Lugo celebrated two bits of good news before Aug. 6 when the doctors made their diagnosis. First, some 20 small political parties and social organizations had formed the Frente Guasu ("great" in Guarani, one of the country's two official languages) to compete in the Nov. 7 municipal elections in support of official policies.

When Lugo took office, within the APC he had the backing only of campesino organizations, which have been gradually distancing themselves from the administration, disillusioned that not even the first steps have been taken toward the promised agrarian reform.

The Frente Guasu (FG) emerges, and that is good for Lugo. Ricardo Canese, a FG founder and candidate for mayor of the capital Asuncion, said, "What we are trying to do is capture the largest possible number of municipal governments to generate a structure capable of achieving greater power nationally, with our sights on the 2013 legislative and presidential elections."

The second piece of good news was that Vice President Franco was the big loser in the PLRA's internal elections, coming in third in the vote for party president. The winner was Sen. Blas Llano, the only legislator who unconditionally supports the administration. That is also good for the president.

As political analyst and head of the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Line Bareiro Bobadilla told ANSA news agency, "You can say that Llano won, but it was Lugo who really came out strengthened."

Lugo makes concessions to opposition

At the same time, while regaining more consistent political support, Lugo began to negotiate with the opposition, that is, with the right. Some of his decisions were disconcerting for his supporters. First, he promoted an "anti-kidnapping law" and then an "anti-terrorist law," which brought opposition from progressive sectors who feared that it would become a repressive tool in the service of the large landowners.

The anti-kidnapping law, pushed despite the opinion of jurists, politicians, and people who have been kidnapped or been affected by kidnappings, authorizes the government to freeze the bank accounts of kidnappers, their relatives, and their accomplices or business associates.

The law's advocates insist that it will cripple criminals' ability to extort money. Its detractors say that it will give free rein to repressive forces and that it is nothing more than part of a two-pronged strategy mounted by the right to eventually force passage of the anti-terrorist law, the real objective of those extreme sectors. …

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Good News and Bad for Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo
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