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  •  Paraguay is in the middle of it (4.00)
    Reader vote today on ABC Color website (Asuncion newspaper):

    ¿Cree que Evo Morales hará un buen gobierno en Bolivia? (Do you think that Evo Morales will make a good leader for Bolivia?)

    • SÍ Votos: 51 42.86%

    • NO Votos: 68 57.14%
     Total de votos: 119

    At the risk of a long post, there has been some interesting discussion recently on the web/in the press, including in the letters to the editor in Asuncion.  (I have dates and references for the articles, but no links)

    1st article:  Oxford Analytica 03 October 2005

    PARAGUAY: Stronger ties sought with United States

    SUBJECT: Paraguayan relations with the United States and Mercosur.

    SIGNIFICANCE: US government denials that it intends to establish a permanent military base in Paraguay represent an attempt to quell fears by Brazil and Argentina that Paraguay is seeking stronger economic and political ties with the United States at the expense of its treaty obligations to Mercosur.

    ANALYSIS: US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld paid an official visit to Paraguay on August 16, after the Paraguayan Senate's June 28 approval of an increase in the frequency of US troop visits to Paraguay (see PARAGUAY/US: Military 'cooperation' raises tensions - August 12, 2005). US troops have been carrying our joint manoeuvres in Paraguay for several decades. However,under the new agreement, their presence will be increased to 13 missions - each up to 45 days -- between July 2004 and December 2006. As well as training for peace-keeping and anti-terrorism, medical missions will attend
    poor families. The average personnel size of each mission is around 20, suggesting a total of around 360 troops over the period.

    In his interview with President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, Rumsfeld sought Paraguayan support for US effort to portray Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba as destabilising elements in the region.  However, Paraguayan Defence Minister Roberto Gonzalez responded publicly that relations with both countries were normal:
        * a deal is under negotiation to import petroleum on preferential terms from Venezuela; and

        * Cuba continues to provide support in the health sector in the form of scholarships for Paraguayans to study medicine in Havana and Cuban doctors who work in the Paraguayan countryside.

    Military manoeuvres.

    Left-wing media sources then resurrected a story that the United States was planning to establish a military base at Mariscal Estigarribia in the Paraguayan Chaco. Growing geopolitical concerns in the region -- the prospect of a leftist regime in Bolivia under Evo Morales, reported terrorism training camps in the tri-border region around Ciudad del Este and the suggestion of FARC links with Paraguayan insurgents -- sparked speculation that the agreement may be a stepping stone to Mariscal Estigarribia becoming the fifth permanent US military base in Latin America.  The current four are at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba; Aruba-Curacao; Manta, Ecuador; and Comalpa, El Salvador; as yet there is none in the Southern Cone.

    Media speculation was heightened after Castiglioni [Paraguay VP] told the Argentine newspaper Clarin on September 11 that Paraguay was seeking a free trade agreement with the United States. The foreign ministers of Brazil and Argentina reacted immediately, stating bluntly that such a deal would be incompatible with Paraguayan membership of Mercosur. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim also took the opportunity to add that the Paraguayan government should clarify the terms of the US troop presence in Paraguay and show greater transparency in its bilateral negotiations with Washington.

    Mercosur concerns.

    Castiglioni's remarks may have been yet another gaffe, in which he had simply mistaken a 'free trade' agreement with a 'preferential trade' agreement. Subsequently, Duarte, Foreign Minister Leila Rachid and the US embassy stated categorically that the two countries were not negotiating a free trade agreement, and on September 21 Rachid denied that the presence of US troops in Paraguay was linked to any plans to sign a bilateral trade deal. She denied that Asuncion was considering withdrawing from Mercosur and reports that US troops has been granted immunity from prosecution, reiterating that Paraguay, as a member of Mercosur, is a signatory to the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court.

    Nevertheless, at least on the surface there is now a marked difference of opinion between Duarte and his vice-president with regard to Mercosur.  [snip]  His critical remarks received a favourable response among the Paraguayan public, which remains very hostile to Mercosur.

    Foreign relations.
    The latest spat must be seen in the wider context of changing Paraguayan relations with the United States and Brazil. Despite a US diplomatic offensive shortly after Duarte took office in August 2003, the Paraguayan government remained firm in its diplomatic support for Mercosur in general and Brazil in particular. It maintained its opposition to immunity from prosecution for US citizens and did not vote in favour of condemning human rights violations in Cuba.

    However, early 2005 saw a marked deterioration in relations with Brazil:

        * The diplomatic dispute originated when Brazil tightened measures to curb smuggling from Ciudad del Este by restricting the flow of traffic across the Friendship Bridge linking the two countries across the Parana River.

        * Paraguay responded by harassing the thousands of Brazilians who cross the border every day without work permits to work in Ciudad del Este.

        * Relations reached a low in mid-April when a Paraguayan congressman was detained for an hour by Brazilian customs officials in Foz de Yguazu.


    'Plan Paraguay'?
    Duarte visited Bogota in early March 2005 at the invitation of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who had offered cooperation in efforts to uncover alleged FARC activity in Paraguay, in particular relating to the kidnap and murder of the daughter of former President Raul Cubas (see PARAGUAY: Cubas case forces corruption crackdown - February 28, 2005).  During the visit, Duarte was impressed by the manner in which Bogota had successfully received trade preferences and economic aid in exchange for improved macroeconomic management and collaboration with Washington on the anti-narcotics front.

    Castiglioni made a little-reported visit to Washington in June to highlight the vastly improved macroeconomic management and concerted anti-corruption efforts of the Duarte administration, and asked for Paraguay to receive similar treatment to Colombia. This message, repeated by Duarte during the Rumsfeld visit seems to be bearing fruit, with a number of senior US officials visiting Paraguay in recent months. Although official US aid for 2005 totals only 10 million dollars, Paraguay is now seeking inclusion in the Millennium Challenge Fund, with a 200 million dollar bid for funding.

    CONCLUSION: The decline in US hegemony in the Southern Cone has helped to raise the geopolitical significance of Paraguay. For its part, Paraguay is undergoing a gradual shift in its foreign policy as it seeks to strengthen ties with the United States while at the same time using this as a bargaining counter to obtain financial concessions from its wealthier Mercosur partners. The shift is likely to continue in light of the clear interests pursued by both sides.

    2nd article:The Economist  1 October 2005
    Improbable allies - Paraguay and the United States

    A flirtation unsettles the neighbours

    LANDLOCKED in South America's sweaty heart, Paraguay achieved independence in 1811 but waited a century and a half for its first visit by a head of state from outside Latin America, Charles de Gaulle, in 1964. So it is not surprising that visiting dignitaries cause a stir. Donald Rumsfeld, the United States' defence secretary, caused more than that when he dropped by in August. The media in nearby Argentina and Brazil saw the visit as a prelude to a permanent American base in Paraguay and the country's withdrawal from Mercosur, a four-country trade block dominated by Brazil.

    That prompted Brazil to lay down the law. "Paraguay must understand that the choice is between Mercosur and other possible partners," declared Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister, last month.

    In fact, the United States may not be planning to turn Paraguay, a country of just 6m, into a strategic appendage. But Mr Rumsfeld's 18-hour "courtesy call" was not merely that. Both countries see in each other a potential partner in managing regional worries.

    For Paraguay, the main worry is Mercosur, and Brazil in particular. Althoug trade within Mercosur is supposed to be free, Paraguay complains that its neighbours strangle its exports in red tape. When convenient, Brazil ignores its Mercosur partners, for example by awarding China "market economy" status. Paraguay recognises Taiwan. Its Mercosur partners "proclaim integration but work very slowly toward achieving it," laments Luis Alberto
    Castiglioni, the vice-president.


    To the United States, Paraguay looks like a friend in a troubling region. It sits at the southern end of an arc of instability, a chain of weak democracies that are being undermined, the United States alleges, by Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Ch=E1vez. Paraguay's democracy is also shaky and its discontents profound. But the United States regards its president, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, as a serious reformer. An American official in Asuncion says he has made "good progress" in fighting illegal drugs and pirated goods and in blocking financing for terrorist groups-all of which flourish at the spot where Paraguay's border meets Brazil's and Argentina's.

    It is easy to imagine the United States wanting to counter instability in the neighbourhood with a military or intelligence presence. But Americans and Paraguayans alike scoff at claims of a base at Mariscal Estigarribia, close to the Bolivian border (the scene of a 1932-35 war). These claims caused particular alarm in Bolivia, which may soon elect an ally of Mr Chavez (see box on previous page). But, according to the United States, the only change in their low-key military relations is that Paraguay has approved several (small-scale) American exercises over the next 18 months all at once, rather than singly.

    Paraguay is hoping for $35m in extra aid from the United States' "Millennium Challenge Account", which rewards countries for fighting corruption and freeing enterprise. What Paraguay really craves is more access for its clothing, beef and organic sugar. Mr Castiglioni wants Mercosur to give Paraguay a "waiver" to negotiate trade agreements with the United States and other countries. Uruguay, another member of Mercosur, boosted exports to the United States without leaving the block. But Paraguayans are still unsure how much the United States is prepared to invest in their budding
    Letter in ABC Color, Asuncion:

    Soldados americanos en Paraguay
    Evelyn Ruíz Díaz Candia
    Publicada: 17/10/2005

    Escribo para que cuestionemos lo que está pasando en nuestro país. Los países del Cono Sur están pidiendo una explicación a Paraguay, pues la presencia de soldados norteamericanos en el país constituyen una amenaza para la soberanía, la democracia y la vigencia de los derechos humanos en toda la región.

    Pero es importante que nosotros mismos, como paraguayos, pidamos una explicación. Ellos tienen autorización para traer equipos bélicos pesados y el mayor interés en la región no es el terrorismo, ni ser solidarios con Paraguay. Ellos están interesados en ser la única súper potencia mundial. Nosotros tenemos recursos ecológicos, agua, carne, vegetación en abundancia y sabemos bien que en los próximos siglos ese será el motivo de guerras. Y ahora pregunto:

    1) ¿Cómo es posible que los Estados Unidos no tengan responsabilidad por los daños que causen a la salud o al medio ambiente, ni tampoco a los recursos de la población?

    La entrada fue aprobada por el Congreso Nacional, justo cuando el embajador estadounidense, John F. Keane, anunció una asistencia financiera para fortalecer la lucha contra la corrupción, lavado de dinero y terrorismo.

    1. ¿Qué hicieron los Estados Unidos desde julio hasta ahora?

    2. ¿Por qué los paraguayos están callados?

    3. ¿Dónde está el gobierno que no nos da ninguna explicación?

    I am writing so that we will question what is going on in our country.  The Southern Cone countries are asking Paraguay for an explanation, since the presence of North American soldiers in the country constitute a threat to the sovereignty, democracy, and enforcement of human rights in the whole region.

    But is important that we ourselves, as Paraguayans, ask for an explanation.  They have authorization to bring heavy attack teams and the main interest in the region is not terrorism, nor to be allies of Paraguay.  They are interested in being the only world superpower.  We have ecological resources, water, meat, vegetation in abundance and we know well that in the coming centuries thes will be the reasoin for wars.  And now I ask:

    1. How is it possible that the US has no responsibility for the damages it causes to health or environment, nor to the public's resources?  His arrival was applauded by the National Congress, when US Ambassador John F. Keane announced financial assistance to strengthen the struggle against corruption, money-laundering, and terrorism.

    2. What has the US done from July until now?
    3. Why are Paraguayans silent?
    4. Where is the govenment that has given us no explanation?

    We should all be keeping a closer eye on the situation in Latin America in general, and in South America in particular, with regard to the Bush administration's "global policiies".  Death squads, anyone?  That's been the history when the US gets directly and intimately involved in the countries and their militaries.

    Stop the politicization of crime!

    by tom 47 on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 11:09:50 AM PST

    •  Apologies for some duplication (none)
      of the information in the posts or the links.

      This whole thing hads been going on for some time, and Rummy's personal involvement gives me the fantods.  

      Thanks for the great post, Chris, and for the others at your site and Eur. Trib, etc.

      Lots to keep on top of.  Coca, drug enforcement, democratically-elected regimes the US administration doesn't like, arms, "secret" airbases in plain view:  Yikes!

      Stop the politicization of crime!

      by tom 47 on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 11:31:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One more datum for perspective: (none)
        Haiti, Bolivia, and Paraguay are the three poorest countries in the western hemisphere.  I think it is in that order.  Someone above cited the annnual per capita income in PY, and we are talking of the Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana of the Americas (in terms of being in a race for dead last).  And the US administration is playing that factor in all this.

        Stop the politicization of crime!

        by tom 47 on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 11:46:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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