President Obama who aided the oligarchs in Honduras in their coup deposing the democratically-elected President there, added another notch this past week providing a hand to the Power Elite in Paraguay (Ecuador beware lest you get too uppity!)
SHAMUS COOKE www.counterpunch.org (June 25, 2012)
The recent coup against Paraguay’s democratically elected president isnot only a blow to democracy, but an attack against the working and poorpopulation that supported and elected President Fernando Lugo, whom theysee as a bulwark against the wealthy elite who’ve dominated the countryfor decades.
The U.S. mainstream media and politicians are not calling the events inParaguay a coup, since the president is being “legally impeached” by theelite-dominated Paraguayan Congress. But as economist Mark Weisbrotexplained in the Guardian:
“The Congress of Paraguay is trying to oust the president, Fernando Lugo,by means of an impeachment proceeding for which he was given less than 24hours to prepare and only two hours to present a defense. It appears thata decision to convict him has already been written…The main trigger forthe impeachment is an armed clash between peasants fighting for landrights with police…But this violent confrontation is merely a pretext, asit is clear that the president had no responsibility for what happened.Nor have Lugo’s opponents presented any evidence for their charges intoday’s ‘trial.’ President Lugo proposed an investigation into theincident; the opposition was not interested, preferring their riggedjudicial proceedings.”
What was the real reason the right-wing Paraguay Senate wanted to expeltheir democratically elected president? Another article by the Guardianmakes this clear:
“The president was also tried on four other charges: that he improperlyallowed leftist parties to hold a political meeting in an army base in2009; that he allowed about 3,000 squatters [landless peasants] toillegally invade a large Brazilian-owned soybean farm; that hisgovernment failed to capture members of a [leftist] guerrilla group, theParaguayan People’s Army… and that he signed an international [leftist]protocol without properly submitting it to congress forapproval.”
The article adds that the president’s former political allies were“…upset after he gave a majority of cabinet ministry posts to leftistallies, and handed a minority to the moderates…The political split hadbecome sharply clear as Lugo publicly acknowledged recently that he wouldsupport leftist candidates in future elections.”
It’s obvious that the President’s real crimes are that he chose to allyhimself more closely with Paraguay’s left, which in reality means theworking and poor masses of the country, who, like other Latin Americancountries, choose socialism as their form of politicalexpression.
Although Paraguay’s elite lost control of the presidency when Lugo waselected, they used their stranglehold over the Senate to reverse thegains made by Paraguay’s poor. This is similar to the situation in Egypt:when the old regime of the wealthy elite lost their president/dictator,they used their control of the judiciary in an attempt to reverse thegains of the revolution.
Is it fair to blame the Obama administration for the recent coup inParaguay? Yes, but it takes an introductory lesson on U.S. – LatinAmerican relations to understand why. Paraguay’s right wing – a tinywealthy elite – has a long-standing relationship with the United States,which has backed dictatorships for decades in the country – a commonpattern in most Latin American countries.
The United States promotes the interests of the wealthy of thesemostly-poor countries, and in turn, these elite-run countries areobedient to the pro-corporate foreign policy of the United States (TheOpen Veins of Latin America is an excellent book that outlines thehistory).
Paraguay’s elite is incapable of acting so boldly without firstconsulting the United States, since neighboring countries areoverwhelmingly hostile to such an act because they fear a U.S.-backedcoup in their own countries.
Paraguay’s elite has only the military for internal support, which fordecades has been funded and trained by the United States. President Lugodid not fully sever the U.S. military’s links to his country. Accordingto Wikipedia, ”The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) provides technicalassistance and training to help modernize and professionalize the[Paraguay]military…”
In short, it is not remotely possible for Paraguay’s elite to act withoutassurance from the United States that it would continue to receive U.S.political and financial support; the elite now needs a steady flow ofguns and tanks to defend itself from the poor of Paraguay.
The Latin American countries surrounding Paraguay denounced the events asthey unfolded and made an emergency trip to the country in an attempt tostop them. What was the Obama administration’s response? Business Weekexplains:
“As Paraguay’s Senate conducted the impeachment trial, the U.S. StateDepartment had said that it was watching the situation closely.”
“We understand that Paraguay’s Senate has voted to impeach PresidentLugo,” said Darla Jordan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department’sBureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs…“We urge all Paraguayans to actpeacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay’sdemocratic principles.”
Obama might as well have said: “We support the right-wing coup againstthe elected president of Paraguay.” Watching a crime against democracyhappen – even if it is “watched closely” – and failing to denounce itmakes one complicit in the act. The State Department’s carefully craftedwords are meant to give implicit support to the new illegal regime inParaguay.
Obama acted as he did because Lugo turned left, away from corporateinterests, towards Paraguay’s poor. Lugo had also more closely alignedhimself with regional governments which had worked towards economicindependence from the United States. Most importantly perhaps is that, in2009, President Lugo forbid the building of a planned U.S. military basein Paraguay.
What was the response of Paraguay’s working and poor people to their newdictatorship? They amassed outside of the Congress and were attacked byriot police and water cannons. It is unlikely that they will sit on theirhands during this episode, since President Lugo had raised their hopes ofhaving a more humane existence.
President Lugo has unfortunately given his opponents an advantage byaccepting the rulings that he himself called a coup, allowing himself tobe replaced by a Senate-appointed president. But Paraguay’s working andpoor people will act with more boldness, in line with the socialmovements across Latin America that have struck heavy blows against thepower of their wealthy elite.
President Obama’s devious actions towards Paraguay reaffirm which side ofthe wealth divide he stands on. His first coup in Honduras sparked theoutrage of the entire hemisphere; this one will confirm to LatinAmericans that neither Republicans nor Democrats care anything aboutdemocracy.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer forWorkers Action(www.workerscompass.org)