The Islamic Post Blog

Paraguay’s Duarte Fails to Get Ahead of the Game by Khalida
July 25, 2008, 7:30 pm
Filed under: July Volume II - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Noora Ahmad, Islamic Post Staff Writer

The end of June found outgoing Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos offering to resign early in order to take a seat in the Paraguayan Senate when the newly elected legislators were sworn in.
CNN reported that while Duarte was barred from running for a second five-year presidential term, he instead ran for and won a seat in Paraguay’s Senate in April. Duarte’s dilemma centered on the fact that new senators were due to be sworn in on July 1, six weeks before his term of office as Paraguay’s President was over.
Although ultimately the president’s request was rejected, his move speaks to the reactionary trend that legislators in left-leaning Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela have taken. In those countries, opposition members, who have usually hailed from wealthy provinces sympathetic to outgoing regimes, have firmly established themselves in the legislative bodies, and are violently resisting change.  President-elect Fernando Lugo is seen by most as being part of the new leftist turn in Latin American politics.
However, in the case of Paraguay, even some of Duarte’s own Colorado Party members, in addition to the opposition, opposed his bid, arguing the constitution does not allow the president to hold another position. In a decisive move, the Paraguayan Senate illustrated their majority opinion by not showing up to vote on the issue, effectively denying Duarte the quorum needed to approve his resignation.
This is the first time an outgoing president has been so openly hasty to secure his influence in the next administration while yet in office; the reason for doing so remains unclear.  Duarte’s maneuvering appears to have further shaken the fragile alliance between political parties that President-elect Fernando Lugo has been attempting to patch together.  Lugo’s success is contingent upon the durability of the Alianza Patriótica para el Cambio (APC), the center-left coalition formed under the Partido Liberal Radical Autentico (PLRA)’s leadership involving ten smaller parties. Prominent Senator Alfredo Luis Jaeggli’s resignation from the PLRA signals the deteriorating health of the coalition.
The discord that Duarte’s actions have precipitated will not help the new Paraguayan president and his coalition in his bid for strong reforms for his country.  In a report by  the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Research Associate Jessica Bryant summarizes the fragile state of  the present situation: “ Lugo’s election was historic. By defeating the Partido Colorado, the country’s firmly entrenched hegemonic power, he became Paraguay’s first opposition leader to be elected in more than sixty years. His reform agenda seeks to combat the country’s crippling poverty, a situation contributed to by Paraguay’s institutionalized mechanism of corruption based on drugs and contraband. Even in the best of circumstances, these objectives would be difficult to achieve.”


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