Notes on the elections in Paraguay

Image: Yamil Manzur
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By ANDRÉ KAYSEL*

For the Paraguayan people, five more years of neoliberal policies, job insecurity, scrapped public services and, in case of waves of protest, repression will come.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have important emotional, cultural and political ties with Paraguay. In this sense, the resounding victory of the National Republican Association (ANR), or “Partido Colorado”, a traditional association of the Paraguayan right, is personally painful.

With almost all of the votes counted, Santiago Peña (ANR) obtained about 43% of the votes, against just over 27% of the votes for Efraín Alegre (PLRA/National Concentration) and 21% for Paraguayo Cubas (National Crusade). Participation was around 63%, relatively high by neighboring country standards.

In addition to winning the presidency, the Colorados still took 15 of the 17 departmental governments and made a majority in the legislature. In the Senate, for example, they had 24 seats, followed by the liberals with 12, by the National Crusade from Paraguayo Cubas, with 5 and only one chair for the old Guazu Front, with the re-election of Senator Esperanza Martinez, the others remaining for center/center-right forces, such as National Meeting, by the candidate for vice-president of Alegre, Soledad Nuñez.

To make a fine analysis of the results, I would need some information that I don't have, such as the geography of the vote. In any case, it seems possible to advance some preliminary conclusions:

(i) Even with the US siege of ex-president Horacio Cartez, political godfather of Santiago Peña and main financier of the Colorados, the electoral machine of the National Republican Association once again proved its enormous efficiency, capillarity and penetration throughout the country and in the most diverse sectors and classes of Paraguayan society. Just remember that, since 1947, they only ceased to be in power between 2008-2012, precisely during Fernando Lugo's term.

(ii) Although the traditional Liberal Party remains a second force, it suffered a major defeat. Here, it is worth highlighting the wear and tear of Efraín Alegre, candidate for the third time, who will probably be eclipsed as leader of his party and the opposition.

(iii) Paraguayo Cubas, which adopted the profile of “alt-right“, mixing it with a rescue of the old conservative nationalism of the Colorados, it establishes itself for the moment as a third force. In this sense, its popular electorate, which represents the anti-establishment vote, will have to be disputed in the future by whoever wants to defeat the National Republican Association.

(iv) The Paraguayan left, with traditionally fragile and fragmented organizational bases, paid a high price for its division last year, when a sector of the former Guazu Front did not want to follow the candidacy of concertation, preferring to support the ex-chancellor Euclides Azevedo, who was in a very distant fourth place. Furthermore, it reveals how much the left depended on the personal leadership of Fernando Lugo, removed from public life since last year, when he fell seriously ill.

Finally, the technocrat Santiago Peña, without his own power base in National Republican Association, will now have to prove himself at the head of a machine, as big as it is hungry for positions and money, divided between different currents and sectoral leaders. His godfather Horacio Cartez breathes a sigh of relief, as he now imagines being able to lean on his heir to protect himself from the DEA and the FBI.

The USA, for its part, despite the momentary frustration of its interference against Horacio Cartez, will certainly get along well with the neoliberal and yuppie Santiago Peña, who also generated jubilation in the regional right, as shown by the effusive congratulations of representatives of Cambiemos in Argentine. Finally, the Taiwanese embassy in Asuncion must also be celebrating, as it imagines being able to guarantee one of the few remaining diplomatic strongholds in the world for another five years.

For the Paraguayan people, five more years of neoliberal policies, job insecurity, scrapped public services and, in case of new waves of protest (such as those of March 2021), repression will come. Nothing they haven't known for decades. In any case, the defeat of National Concertation unfortunately, it is still a hard defeat for the generation that fought for the redemocratization of the country, which continues under the aegis of the party that supported Alfredo Stroessner.

André Kaysel Professor at the Department of Political Science at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).

Originally posted on the author's Facebook page.


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