The Paraguayan Mirror
By: Raúl Zibechi
A State coup is an action from above to interrupt a political process. It’s not important who carries it out, nor the methods that are used. Coups in the style of the one that overthrew Salvador Allende fell into disuse, because of the high international cost that they have.
The State coup that separated Fernando Lugo from the presidency of Paraguay was inscribed inside of the new modality inaugurated with the overthrow of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, in June 2009, by the Supreme Court of Justice. It is a “new” type of coup that began to be implemented after the noisy failure of the old-style coup against Hugo Chávez on April 12, 2002. When the popular sectors learned to upset the classic coup, this new modality of “institutional coup” appears.”
In the last 20 years the only successful coups in the “old” style happened in Haiti: in 1991 General Raoul Cedrás overthrew Jean Bertrand Aristide, and something similar happened in 2004, but with the participation of troops from Canada, France and the United States. In 13 of the 15 cases in which a Latin American president was not able to finish his mandate it was not because popular pressure forced resignation.
The highlight is that the “method” of the dismissal by State organisms is identical in the cases in which it is done in favor of and against the popular sectors. In Ecuador, the Congress dismissed Abdalá Bucaram and Lucio Gutiérrez in the midst of popular uprisings. Therefore it is not useful to be focused on the forms, but rather on the processes. The new kind of coup can be repeated in any country in the region, since the dominant classes retook their offensive and placed themselves at the service of a Pentagon desirous of destabilization.
The fall of Lugo, like all political crises, bares the changes that are being produced in the region ever since Barack Obama defined the New Defense Strategy.
In the first place, the Curuguaty Massacre and the coup against Lugo were possible because of the alliance between agro-business, the property owning landholders of lands wrongly inhabited during the Stroessner dictatorship, the mafias of contraband and drug trafficking, with their ramifications in the media, the State and the churches. The regional tour by Secretary of the Pentagon (Defense), Leon Panetta, in April, seems to have been a “sign” that activated the right wing (La Jornada, 18/5/12).
The Pentagon has a long experience in the application of the “shock doctrine,” which passes for the destruction of entire nations to reconstruct them at the service of capital and the hegemonic power. US decadence makes that the only viable strategy may be domination without hegemony, which only needs military force; therefore, the “new strategy” installs coup violence at the center of the political scenario. In second place, the extractive economic model, situated in open sky mining, monocrops and infrastructure mega-projects, strengthens the dominant classes and empire, weakens the popular sectors, and puts at risk the movements and democratic freedoms.
The governments that have opted for deepening this model are alienating popular support and, at the same time, are giving life to their own gravediggers, like happened in Paraguay, where the exponential growth of soy cultivations did no more than strengthen the usurpers of lands and the murderers of campesinos.
In third place, Paraguay’s campesino movement traveled a path in half a century from which we can learn something for confronting the new scenario. The Agrarian Leagues (Ligas Agrarias) were created in the 1960s, impelled by the church communities, an impressive grass roots movement that changed the history of those from below. The Stroessner regime savagely repressed them in the middle of the 1970s. Over its ashes, the Paraguayan Campesino Movement was created in 1980. Up to here, the usual trajectory under dictatorships: organization-repression-regrouping.
In the 1990s, in democracy, the movement grows and gains visibility, but is fragmented. Even so, the struggle for land intensifies and the movement irrupts in the 1999 political crisis política over the assassination of Vice President Luis María Argaña, creating a transcendent political act like the Paraguayan March, which provoked the first defeat of the “democrat” heirs of the dictatorship. Lino Oviedo, the coup backer, flees to Argentina and Vice President Raúl Cubas gets asylum in Brazil.
In 2002 the unity of action by the campesino-popular sector in the Peoples Democratic Congress, where 60 organizations came together, impeded the privatization of state-owned businesses and stopped the approval of an anti-terrorist law. Despite divisions, the movements were capable of making “low-intensity democracy” ungovernable and defeating the neoliberal model.
That scenario created from below carpeted Lugo’s path to the presidency in 2008. The most important movements –not all– opted for creating parties; in other words, “institutes of the State financed by the budget” according to the happy assertion of Adolfo Gilly (La Jornada, 27/6/12). Division and atomization are deepened. After 2008, some of the best leaders were converted into officials and were installed in the capital, convinced that it is the path to acquiring more strength. Today, save a few exceptions, the movements suffer their greatest weakness in decades.
Half century of campesino movement, the principal anti-systemic movement of Paraguay, shows that there are no shortcuts that can substitute for class conflict; that international pressure alone cannot modify the relation of forces; that there are various kinds of defeats; that the defeat by repression is not as destructive as by institutionalization; that we can only stop the offensive of capital and of empire in the streets and plazas; and that the rest is a mirage, necessary for surviving, some say, but in the end a mirage.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated into English by Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, June 29, 2012