[Marxism] Paraguay Pres. Lugo fires army chiefs, dismisses coup rumors

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Nov 4 20:57:31 MST 2009

I found the article that follows these comments on the New York Times
website. It disappeared entirely within minutes, before I could copy the
URL, which may indicate that it was too important a story to be fit to
print. Or maybe the problem was technical.

The elite in Peru attempted to get rid of Lugo more than a year ago, because
of a scandal over his sexual activities with adult women during his
episcopate (he was formerly a Catholic bishop). The urban and rural masses
in Paraguay (who know a thing or two about priests) took the revelations in
stride and he rode out the media furor and rightist protests.

Although Lugo may be right that the situation with the military is under
control, we have to be alert and ready to protest. A shift back toward
military rule is likely to start not in Venezuela or Bolivia but in
countries where relatively progressive governments are less securely
founded, have to chip away at the power of the oligarchy rather than make
sweeping changes, and are thus highly vulnerable. 

Zelaya in Honduras is an example. One reason I expect continued strong
resistance to restoring Zelaya in Honduras is that he would return to office
not totally powerless --despite the terms of the agreement which seek to
impose this -- but in a stronger political position because of the mass
mobilizations and mass organization that has taken place in the country
since the coup.

I think Zelaya was right to agree to this accord, which represents a modest
gain if it is carried out, but because it helps keep the regime on the
defensive if they don't carry out its terms which are extremely generous to
them. If they don't, I think they will find that -- despite their premature
celebrations that their stacked elections and repression now have
international sanction -- they are still in boiling water at home and
abroad. That can only change if the mass struggle is defeated or divided.

Hopefully, what has happened to the coup-makers in Honduras -- the
organization and mobilization of the masses rather than their crushindefeat
which was the plan, of course -- will deter would-be coup makers in
Paraguay. But given the character of these types and their links to powerful
imperialist sectors, there is no reason to assume this will be the case.
Fred Feldman

Published: November 4, 2009 
Filed at 9:44 p.m. ET

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) -- Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo fired his
military chiefs Wednesday, a day after denying he had worries about a coup
amid calls for his impeachment.

In a statement given to journalists at the presidential palace, Lugo named
new commanders for the army, air force and navy without explaining his
reasons. The new chiefs will assume their posts Thursday, said the statement
signed by the president.

There was no immediate reaction from the military or from the political
opposition, which controls Congress.

The new military commanders must be approved by the Senate, but Lugo had not
yet submitted a formal request.

The shuffling in the military command came only one day after Lugo, a
left-leaning former Roman Catholic bishop, publicly dismissed speculation
about a possible coup as he struggles with Congress over implementing
economic and social changes.

''I can assure you as commander in chief of the armed forces that,
institutionally, there is no danger of a military coup,'' he said Tuesday
when asked about coup rumors. ''There could be small military groups that
are connected to or could be used by the political class, but
institutionally, the military does not show any intent of reversing the
process of democratic consolidation.''

The rumors were apparently prompted by tanks seen headed from Paraguay's
Brazilian border toward the capital. It turned out the tanks were simply
returning after maintenance work in Brazil.

Since winning the presidency last year and ending 61 years of domination by
the conservative Colorado Party, Lugo has been trying to push reforms that
aim to benefit Paraguay's numerous poor.

He has criticized an elite class that ''sits comfortably in air-conditioned
offices,'' while the poor ''survive on just one meal a day if they are lucky
... without safe drinking water, surrounded by misery.''

Lugo's rivals have been searching for ways to force him about of office
before his term ends in August 2013.

Last week, a majority of lawmakers threatened to mount an impeachment trial
over comments he allegedly made in a poor neighborhood that some interpreted
as a call for class warfare. Lugo denied saying that.

Amid his troubles with the opposition, Lugo also drawn criticism from some
supporters who are becoming disillusioned by his failure to find ways of
using to overcome the opposition. 

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