Initial Impressions: Cautious Hope

Asunción is surprisingly quiet tonight-- the nearly full moon is softened by the low hanging clouds that diffuse the white light of the moon and blend it with the warm lights of the city. The heavy rainstorms have kept many cars off the streets that have just begun to dry for the first time in days.

Tomorrow's forecast promises better weather in time for the polls. The whole city seems to be in eager anticipation, but uncertain of what to expect. An unprecedented number of foreign observers have descended on Paraguay, to ensure the fairness of the election process and I think this gives Paraguay a bit of hope. Andres Pastrana, former president of Colombia, and the chief representative of IFES (International Foundation for Election Systems) has issued a very strong call for fairness and acceptance of the official results, whatever they may be, on the part of the government. This is part of a very deliberate "democracy building" plan.

On the plane and in the taxi, the Paraguayans with whom I've spoken (civilians and military personnel) have uttered guarded comments about tomorrow, making general remarks about "hoping the politicians come through on their promises," whoever the winner may be. No one has been willing to say who they think will win or who they wish to win, claiming to be apolitical while opining on policy with little prompting (the urgent need to renegotiate injurious water energy treaties with Brazil and Argentina, for example). Is this ambivalence a remnant of decades of dictatorship? The chief issue "facing Paraguayans," according to those I've spoken to today: health.

Tomorrow, I expect I'll see a more open display of political positioning rather than the sophisticated oblique moves from today. I'll be visiting TEKOJOJA ("life" in Guaraní) in Asunción-- one of the key organizations that launched Lugo's campaign and has mobilized the country behind him. There I'll speak with Dr. Marilin Rehnfelth, a Paraguayan anthropologist who has been with the movement from the beginning.

And, finally, here I am in Santiago, waiting to take the flight to Asunción:

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