Fernando Lugo's First 100 Days.

Verdict: Effective abroad, but severely challenged at home.

Solution? Judicial reform. I think his top priority actually needs to be a change in the judiciary. The court system is filled with political appointees of the 6 decade Colorado reign, which means that they have profited from and abetted the corrupt administration of a torturing dictatorship, graft-practicing politicians, personalist politics coopting rural campesino and indigenous groups, swindling water engineers, dishonest international business interests.

Lugo entered office in an unprecedented election where, despite coup threats and electoral fraud, an opposition candidate won the highest office of the land for the first time in 6 decades. Expectations were extremely high on August 15th when he took office, to the dismay of the political economic establishment, which had benefited from a relatively unchallenged and unchanged system of routine graft and legal impunity. My basic assessment of his presidency is thus:

1) 100 days is not very much time to make substantial changes anywhere and, given the level of hope attached to Lugo's presidency, there's bound to be disappointment and disaffection.

2) "The head has changed, but the body remains the same." The power of the executive to implement change is continually challenged by a political system still dominated by traditional elites. New legislation and politices are countered, somewhat effectively, at every turn.

3) A changing politics. Nevertheless, traditional elites do feel threatened by Lugo and what he represents and so are fighting publicly to retain their hold on power structures. The open escalation of conflict within political parties, the daily attempts to destabilize the governing coalition from within evidence this.

So, for a more detailed assessment:

International Posture: Lugo has successfully consolidated his international reputation as a legitimate and respected sovereign. His multiple trips to the United States, his meetings with heads of states throughout the region, the pledges of financial support and investment from governments and private foundations all signal an international confidence that this is "someone with whom we can work." The early rumors of a coup plot in the works drew a resounding and immediate disapproval from governments in the region, effectively eliminating that as an option and demonstrating that there's been a significant shift in the political options of the western hemisphere. "The Cold War is over," responded former US Ambassador James Cason when asked about the United States' opinion about the election of a left-leaning president in Paraguay.

This international stature is a threat at home and several politicians have grumbled that Lugo should travel less.

Rural Crisis: Paraguay is one of the least urbanized countries in the western hemisphere and plagued with a land distribution problem that's extreme, even for Latin America. The situation of the rural farmer (the peasant or the campesino) is at a boiling point, as a glance at any Paraguayan daily shows. The unequal rule of law is at the heart of these struggles.

Campesino groups are calling for the enforcement of existing environmental laws that prohibit the spraying of pesticides onto non-farm land, which has induced miscarriages, birth defects, and death among campesinos and for enforcement of land tenure laws that were intended to keep land in Paraguayan hands. The prime culprits are the sojeros, the large-scale soy producers (many of them from Brazil) who, with the aid of abetting Paraguayan officials, force farmers off their lands or takeover Indian lands and who have at their recourse wealth but lack political representation (in one way they're very empowered, in another they feel disenfranchised). For their part, urban residents, large land-holders, and Brazilians living in Paraguay are troubled by the heightening protests that block the streets and by land occupations where campesinos perch themselves on properties they wanted expropriated.

Last week, Lugo decided to form a "mesa" for agrarian reform.

Water Sovereignty (ItaipĂș and Yacyreta): Paraguay is a net electricity exporter with two large hydroelectric plants at border points with Brazil and Argentina. Due to a number of factors (the enumeration of which will be part of my dissertation), it receives less than a fair share of the wealth produced by these two dams. Lugo made the renegotiation of injurious water treaties and the honest administration of these binational agencies core to his campaign. To that end, he appointed two new general directors to implement internal changes and to bring Brazil and Argentina to the negotiating table.

But Brazil isn't too eager to let go of such a favorable energy agreement (it pays Paraguay $2 to $3 per mWh... about $50 below market price). And construction on Yacyreta still isn't finished (though the initial agreement was signed in the 1920s). Meanwhile, both agencies are rife with rumors of Paraguayan corruption (financing the ANR political campaign, burning documents, functionaries pocketing money).

Partisan bickering: See everything everyday in all of Paraguay for more details. Political party : Paraguay :: Race : United States. Perhaps even (Race : United States)^2.

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