Paraguay at the Crossroads: the Election and the Future of Democracy

Paraguay is in a critical moment in its life as a nation. The first serious opposition candidate that has a viable chance of winning the election, Fernando Lugo, is leading the polls over the official candidate Blanca Ovelar (from the same political party as dictator Stroessner, the Colorado or ANR) and a more traditional opposition candidate Lino Oviedo (a former member of the military who staged an unsuccessful coup a few years ago).

In 5 days, on the 20th, Paraguayans vote in an election as emotionally invested with hope for "change" as the U.S. election is shaping up to be. Of course, there are scare tactics galore encouraging the people to vote for Ovelar: the Taiwanese (major investors in both private and public works in Paraguay) have expressed concern over candidates who "favor" China (read: concern over Lugo's desire to normalize relations with China); many government employees have received instant raises in the past two weeks; supporters of the opposition have been jumped and beaten up.

What happens if Ovelar "wins" the election dirtily? What if the international observers (from Uruguay, OAS) cry foul? What if Oviedo backtracks on his hitherto strong unwillingness to team up with Ovelar and neatly win the election? Would the people take to the streets to protest?

What if Lugo wins? What if there's a peaceful transition from one ruling block to another? What if there's no coup attempt to countermand this? What if democracy and rule of law are shored up?

Though I want to be hopeful, I think the past is a useful guide and it's grim: corruption reigns. If somehow the ANR would concede the loss to Lugo, I can see the military rising up to dethrone him. And if the ANR "win," I fear the population still traumatized by the dictatorship and so used to oppression and violence and absolute impunity for the powerful will merely resign themselves to, once again, dashed hopes.

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2 Responses to Paraguay at the Crossroads: the Election and the Future of Democracy

Agbenyo said...

What happened to Oveiedo? Was he sent back to jail for the attempted coup or even to serve out the remainder of his 1998 sentence?

Nino said...

I think Oviedo served a big portion of his 10-year sentence, until last year when a judge ruled that he should be free again.


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