A Careful Teeter-Totter: The outcome of Lugo's visit to the USA & the Cumbre Iberoamericana

Fernando Lugo (r) speaks with Juan Carlos I of Spain (l). Photo via Ultima Hora.

After spending two days in the United States, Fernando Lugo traveled to El Salvador a day before the XVIII Cumbre Iberamericana kicked off. Thus he was able to spend a bit more time meeting with the heads of state who were already there, like the King of Spain. (Remember, it was during the last cumbre that the number #1 Spanish-language ringtone was inaugurated when Juan Carlos I snapped at an interrupting Hugo Chavez, "¿Por qué no te callas?" launching a flurry of internet-creativity. Reyggeaton version (a pun) below.)

This week, Lugo has consolidated his international reputation.

President Bush says, "And Mr. President, it gives me great comfort to know that you're the person with whom we can work." Which quickly makes headlines in Paraguay as "Usted es la persona con la cual podemos trabajar." This is then followed a few days by a US-initiated suggestion that Paraguay and Uruguay form a strategic alliance, given Lugo's "technical ability" and "democratic role model" within the region. And Christopher McMullen (the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs), in making this announcement, adds, "Estamos entusiasmados por trabajar con el Gobierno paraguayo después de 61 años de administraciones coloradas. Hay una oportunidad para el cambio." ("We are excited about working with the government of Paraguay after 61 years of Colorado rule. There's an opportunity for change.")

And images like this have arisen from the week:

These images, of Lugo being saluted by El Salvador's military, warmly shaking hands with the president of the United States, chatting on the couch with Brazil's Lula (after having communicated a strong critique of that country's militarization at its Paraguayan border), are extremely destabilizing.

Destabilizing to more traditional oligarchic groups, that is. Lugo's high international profile and the implicit and explicit critique of Paraguay's traditional rulers that signifies has led to a flurry of infighting here that seeks to diminish Lugo's legitimacy. The entrenched political parties, enriched via graft and endangered via an exploding Itaipu-based corruption scandal that might actually go to trial one day, are a bit threatened by a president who doesn't need them to rule. And so, anxieties abound:

Galaverna dice que Lugo pretende humillar a Franco y que lo consigue. ([Senator, Colorado party] Galaverna says Lugo seeks to humiliate [Vice-president, Liberal party] Franco and that he's succeeding.)

ANR cuestiona "anarquía del gobierno". (ANR [a.k.a. Colorado party] questions "the anarchy within the government")

Franco: "A lo mejor él hubiese querido que otro sea su vice". (Franco [vice-president of Paraguay, Liberal party]: "Perhaps he would have wanted a different vice-president.")

Federico "confirma" problemas de comunicación con Lugo. (Federico [Franco] "confirms" that he has communication problems with Lugo.)

And, as promised:

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