FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Paraguay’s Bitter Harvest

by BENJAMIN DANGL

In a July 22nd speech marking the one month anniversary of the parliamentary coup that overthrow left-leaning Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, the former leader denounced that a motivating interest among the coup-plotters was a sought-after deal between Paraguay and the Montreal-based mining company, Rio Tinto Alcan.

“Those who pushed for the coup are those who want to solidify the negotiations with the multinational Rio Tinto Alcan, betraying the energetic sovereignty and interests of our country,” Lugo told supporters.

Such an accusation represents the widespread discontent among Paraguayan people toward current negotiations between Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) and the government of Federico Franco, Lugo’s right wing replacement.

It also points toward the Franco administration’s larger strategy to open up Paraguay to multinational corporate exploitation, from Rio Tinto Alcan to Monsanto.

The RTA deal for a $4 billion dollar aluminum plant on the shores of the Paraná River had been stalled by the Lugo administration due to concerns over the plant’s environmental impact, as well as how much the company would pay for electricity from Paraguay’s Itaipú and Yacyretá hydroelectric

power plants.

Yet shortly after taking office, Franco fast-tracked the RTA negotiations, pressuring his new Minister of Industry and Commerce to swiftly move forward with the deal. Civil society protests ensued and, as Lugo’s comments about the RTA deal suggest, the issue has become a rallying point for justice amidst post-coup Paraguay’s political and social crisis.

The views of Paraguayan engineer Ricardo Canese reflect the main concerns of citizens opposing the deal. In an article from the Paraguayan social research institute BASE-IS, Canese explained that the proposed deal with RTA would disproportionately benefit the company in that the government – through the taxation of the Paraguayan people – would be subsidizing a massive amount of RTA’s energy over a period of 30 years.

Canese further criticized the fact that the taxpayers would be spending $700 million dollars in infrastructure to allow the company to install their operations in the country. And while RTA pledges to create 1,250 jobs, the company would annually use the same amount of electricity that 9.6 million people use during the same period.

Because of the controversial terms that Franco is pushing for with RTA, Lugo believes that the contract will be discontinued once a democratic government returns to power; new elections are slated to take place in April of next year. In one interview, Lugo said, “I strongly doubt that the Paraguayan people will be respecting such a license that gives a single company the right to the electricity for a price as low as they have been talking about. This whole deal is very questionable.”

In addition to Franco’s work with RTA, his administration has also allowed Monsanto an expanded presence in Paraguay. Such a move will worsen the existing crisis in the countryside, an area ravaged by soy plantations and pesticides, and where just 2% of landowners control 80% of the land.

In the lead-up to the coup, Lugo and his administration resisted the use of Monsanto’s GMO cotton seeds in the country. Yet just after taking power, the Franco administration threw government critics of the plan out of office, and moved ahead to approve the use of the controversial seeds in the country.

These two relationships with multinational corporations clearly show where the interests of the Franco administration lie. They also demonstrate that, while the Lugo administration failed to fully implement its plans for land reform, justice and expanded rights in Paraguay, the Franco administration, in just one month in office, has already proven to be closer ally of corporate globalization.

As Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano said in an interview regarding the coup in Paraguay, the Lugo government tried “to bring about changes that were aimed at making the country more independent and just, but this was an unpardonable sin for the power brokers.”

Benjamin Dangl’s latest book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press) is on contemporary Latin American social movements and their relationships with the region’s new leftist governments. He is editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America. Email BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com.

SAVE BLACK MESA:

The Poster That Ignited the Radical Environmental Movement, signed by photographer Marc Gaede, available now at the CounterPunch Online Auction!


 

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: https://twitter.com/bendangl Email: BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail