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Paraguay's "Red Bishop" Takes Over

Fri 25th Apr 2008

On Monday the 21st of April 2008 a leftist former Bishop, Fernando Lugo, won the elections to the Paraguayan presidency. Lugo, dubbed by many as the “Red Bishop” or the “Bishop of the poor” ousted the 61 year ruling party - the Colorado Party. The Colorado Party’s reign in power was bourgeois democratic in its latter years and took the form of the military dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner prior to 1989, the year when he was deposed.

Lugo campaigned against the rampant corruption and mismanagement the country has faced in recent years, which has led to it becoming the second poorest nation in Latin America - second only to Bolivia. He rallied the poor and downtrodden of Paraguay with his desire for social change in Paraguay. He called for a sense of patriotism amongst his people, by stating; “I invite Paraguayans of all political types, even the ones who don't share our ideals, to help this country that was once great be great again” During the campaign Lugo also likened himself to a David fighting a monstrous Goliath, which would obviously be the Colorado Party.

It was only eight months ago that he began his merger to create his Patriotic Alliance for Change, consisting of leftist trade unions, Indians and peasant farmers, and even a bourgeois party (!) - the Authentic Radical Party! This is a classic popular front policy on the part of Lugo. A popular front is a union of bourgeois and workers’ parties that inevitably subordinates the working class to the requirements of the bosses. This is a move that, as self respecting Marxists, we must question and criticise. But there is huge enthusiasm for the newly elected government. So it is not our place to alienate ourselves from the workers’ and peasants’ movement of Paraguay; such a move would be absolutely foolish at best.

Lugo has gained such massive support by making promises to the masses of policies which seem fairly left wing to the masses of Paraguay - such as fighting against the notoriously rampant corruption that faces Paraguayan politics and righting the wrongs of the past fifty years of pro-capitalist economic policies. Lugo has however distanced himself from "radical" leftist leaders in Latin America such as Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales. As Marxists we understand that only with a socialist planned economy can the common people of Paraguay right the previous decades of economic mismanagement and policies the Paraguayan state has followed - which could be likened to setting the nation up for rape by foreign multinationals.

Lugo has been known to be a follower ‘liberation theology’, so it will be an interesting experience for us to observe, as such a party or political bloc has never run a nation before. We must be wary and warn the workers of Paraguay of the dangers of the popular front strategy, and criticise at the same time the policies and inadequacies of the popular front government currently run by Lugo.

Generally this is a step forward for the workers and peasants of Paraguay compared with the far right-wing governments of the Colorado party that have plagued Paraguay, and have been in power since 1954. Let’s hope that in the time to come the workers will realise that the only real method to solve the problems of the Paraguayan people will be through a united front policy comprised solely of the workers, small farmers and indigenous peoples of Paraguay united against big business, and through socialist economic planning.



This article first appeared on Socialist Appeal.
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