Lugo with one of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. It’s his habit of standing with the victims, not the perpetrators, of fascism that’s gaining this peace-loving padre so much bad press…Remember how, a little over a year ago, I blogged that the (then newly inaugurated) president of Paraguay was exercising prudence against the possibility of a military coup? Well, he’s taken things up a notch:
Me oh my. Don’t those generals come off all whiny and babyish? Why should they care how the public sees them, unless there might actually be some validity to the image? Paraguay’s military still has a strong fascist element. It also has a penchant for collaborating with the gringos, as I noted in earlier entries, and it would be foolish to deny it–especially in the boneheaded way the author of this piece–taken from a Taiwanese news site, of all places–puts it:
Paraguay’s new army, navy and air force chiefs were sworn in Thursday, a day after President Fernando Lugo fired top commanders amid a swirl of rumors about possibilities of a military coup.Lugo made no public comments about his military shake-up, but opponents said the timing of the moves–a day after Lugo denied rumors of a military plot to unseat him–was disrespectful to the military and could even be part of a plot to seize more power.“These fired chiefs will now be seen as coup-plotters in the eyes of the public,” complained retired Gen. Mario Soto, who commanded the military for Lugo’s predecessor Nicanor Duarte.Earlier in the week, Lugo responded to a reporter’s question by denying he faces any risk of a military coup, though he said there could be small groups in the military that are linked with politicians or that could be used for political purposes.Colorado Party politicians, who still dominate Congress despite losing the presidency to Lugo for first time in 61 years, suggested without offering evidence that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela could be guiding Lugo’s hand.“Lugo is pushing a Chavista plan that consists of creating chaos in the country, ordering a state of emergency and assuming all the powers,” suggested Sen. Juan Carlos Galaverna.Opponents of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya made similar allegations before his country’s military shot up his house and sent him into exile in June, prompting a still-unresolved constitutional standoff.
Um, one doesn’t need airplanes to launch a military coup against a sitting, elected president–see Chavecito, see Mel Zelaya. The case of Salvador Allende was exceptionally dramatic; he died not of the airborne bombing of the Moneda palace, but of a gunshot to the head. In reality, all you need for a coup to succeed are rifles that work and men enough to fire them, and the Paraguayan army surely has plenty of those.The oh-so-worried “military figures and politicians” in the final paragraph are unnamed, and that too is hinky (not to mention shitty reporting). Maybe that’s because the “concern” is grossly misplaced. Nobody in any neighboring country is making noises about invading Paraguay. In fact, international relations in South America, with the exception of Peru and Colombia (both governed, badly, by right-wingers), are going very smoothly. Lugo is on good terms with all his fellow leftist presidents. No, if Lugo has anyone to fear, it’s the very people he moved to eliminate–the generals he inherited from predecessors. These guys trained in the Stroessner era, which ended only 20 years ago. Many are graduates of the School of the Assassins (under whatever name it currently skulks about). Paraguay is still a very precarious civilian democracy. If Lugo, their first-ever leftist president, has information that these officers are plotting against him, he is perfectly within his rights to remove and replace them. In fact, he can do it even if there is no plot. That IS part of a civilian commander-in-chief’s job, last time I looked. And given what he’s got to deal with, in terms of oligarchs and vendepatria media barons stirring up unrest and looking to the military to “save” them from the socialist taxman, I’d say it’s only prudent for him to take preventive action.In other words: Lugo 1, AP “journalists” 0.PS: Oh look, they’re backpedalling already. Too funny!
But Paraguay’s military is hardly the powerful force it was under Gen. Alfredo Stroessner’s long dictatorship, which ended in 1989.Retired Gen. Luis Benitez told The Associated Press recently that the air force is now just a symbolic force, with no functioning war planes, and that the other armed forces also lack fighting power.The armed forces’ budget has steadily shrunk in recent years, and its arsenal is now largely obsolete. The 1992 constitution declared that Paraguay renounces war.The posture worries some military figures and politicians in Paraguay because most of the country’s neighbors are upgrading their weaponry.