PARAGUAY — One year after taking power, “Leftist” President Fernando Lugo’s promises have proven to be empty. Liberation can only come when the latifundistas (large agricultural capitalists) are expropriated, imperialists are expelled, industrial capitalists overthrown, and workers seize power through revolution with communist goals of equality and collectivity.
Since he led no revolution and workers did not take power, Lugo, like all capitalist politicians, maneuvers among the U.S. and European imperialists, the Bolivarian Bloc, and the Brazilian ruling class to try to cut deals for the Paraguayan capitalists and landowners. These deals have all deepened the exploitation and oppression of workers in Paraguay.
He has made health care free in public health centers, begun to develop limited social programs for children, and attempted to cut a better deal with Brazil over the price it pays for energy from the jointly-operated Itaipu Hydroelectric plant. But these reforms pale next to the severe exploitation workers face in Paraguay.
Soy, Sesame and Capitalist Poison
Paraguay is the 6th largest producer of soy in the world. The players in the sesame and soy game in Paraguay are the small rural farmers, Paraguayan and Brazilian Agribusiness, large landowners (Latifundistas — 2% of the population owns 70% of the land!), and major U.S. companies including Monsanto, Cargill and Syngeta.
The agrochemical and biotech companies are helping the latifundistas force peasants off their land by legal tricks and poisoning crops. How? The majority of the soy produced in Paraguay is based on Monsanto Corporation’s transgenic seeds that are genetically modified for resistance to the herbicide glyphosate. Massive spraying of glyphosate kills everything else, including small farmers’ crops. Lugo’s solution? Ban such spraying 100 yards from waterways, wetlands, roads and populated areas. But this barely touches the problem of the small farmers, and may even be reversed given the power of the latifundistas and their imperialist allies. In 2008, the soy production rate was twice what it was in 1998. The major effect of the soy planting is that it has effectively displaced thousands of rural farmers who plant subsistence crops. Activists have begun to occupy big farms and have mobilized in the streets of Asuncion to fight against the expansion of soybean plantations.
Corruption, Courts, Cops
The Paraguayan Supreme Court judges were appointed over decades by the Colorado party (the fascist party that had historic ties to Hitler) and is both corrupt and powerful. The judges refuse justice to workers. For instance, they have been deaf to the appeals and demonstrations of workers seeking justice in the Ycua Bolanos case. This involved a fire at a supermarket whose owners (Coloradoans) ordered their security guards to lock the doors, killing over 350 people. President Lugo has opposed the appointment of another Coloradoan, Lovera Canete, to the court, but has declared he will not veto the right-wing Senate’s appointment of him.
Even more shocking, however, to Lugo supporters, has been Lugo’s decision to allow fascist Sabino Augusto Montanaro to re-enter Paraguay. Montanaro fled when the Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship fell in 1989 because he feared retribution due to the torture and murders he ordered of Political Military Organization (OPM) fighters, Paraguayan Communist Party members, and their allies. In fact, Montanaro was directly responsible for the assassination of the guerilla column Mcal Lopez. Lugo puts out the welcome mat for this fascist trash? Not the mark of a friend of the working class!
The Way Forward
Workers in Paraguay have a long way to go in the class struggle. Lugo misleads workers into the arms of latifundistas, capitalists, and imperialists, weakening the resistance to exploitation in the same way that Obama’s popularity is misleading many workers into supporting imperialist war in Afghanistan.
Instead of supporting these phony leftists and building false hopes that sooner or later demoralize our class, we must build a revolutionary communist movement for change based on workers’ power, rather than on wishful thinking that a charismatic leader will deliver when the state apparatus is firmly in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Joining with PLP members around the world would be an important step in this process in Paraguay. J
The Face of Poverty
• 2,156,312 Paraguayan workers (36%) live in poverty, of which 1,172,274 (19%) are living in extreme poverty. Four out of every 10 Paraguayans are poor.
• 40% of the poor receive 11% of the total resources produced in the country while 41% of the resources are concentrated among the 10% richest.
• 15 of every 100 Paraguayans survive on less then 1 U.S. Dollar a day and 30 out of 100 survive on 2$ a day.
• 78% of Paraguayans have no type of health care — 4,741,046 people
• Unemployment affects 8.7% of the population
• Underemployment affects 26.5% of the population — more than 760,000 people receive minimum wage.
• 133,000 women are illiterate and 15% are from the countryside.