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The president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, ratified the decision of his country to support the inclusion of Venezuela in Mercosur after the bloc approved the suspension of Paraguay from the group.
According to press reports, Mujica said that “while it is true that the proposal was elaborated in the first place by Brazil, we three agree (the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), about Venezuela’s entry in the bloc”. The representative of Uruguay said “the political will involved in the case, far exceeds the possible legal impediments regarding the matter”.
Paraguay was suspended from the bloc after Fernando Lugo was deposed. The suspension led to the approval of Venezuela’s entry in the free-trade agreement. Before the events involving Lugo, Venezuela’s entry in Mercosur faced strong opposition by the Paraguayan Senate, while the lawmakers of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have long supported Venezuelan admission to the group.
Mercosur was formed in 1991 after signing of the so-called Treaty of Asuncion between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The special advisor for international affairs of the Presidency, Marco Aurelio Garcia, denied that Brazil has pressed Mercosur countries to force Venezuela’s entry as a permanent member on the bloc.
In an interview for radio “El Espectador”, however, the Uruguayan foreign minister, Luis Almagro, said that “nothing is decided” and that “the country has not given the last word” on the whole process. According to Almagro, the intervention of President Rousseff was “decisive” for Venezuela’s entry.
Almagro’s statements surprised the Brazilian Presidential Palace and made Marco Aurelio personally call the Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, to verify the story.
Marco Aurelio Garcia explained “the decision to include Venezuela on July 31st was part of a broad understanding that included President Mujica. “I want to make clear that on our part there was no imposition, no pressure. This is not the style of President Dilma or that of the Brazilian foreign policy”.
Garcia said that Venezuela withdrew from economic sanctions it had unilaterally taken against Paraguay to suspend oil supply to its Latin American neighbor. He denied, however, that the Chavez’s retreat was a condition to the entry of Venezuela in the bloc.
Paraguay’s political history is marked by advances and setbacks, and one of the longest dictatorships of the Americas, led by General Alfredo Stroessner. In 2008, the country elected the former bishop Fernando Lugo, who has promised agrarian reform and social improvement. With Lugo’s impeachment, the country lives amid a political climate of uncertainty with less than ten months left for the presidential elections.
Interestingly enough, according to the country’s constitution, the impeachment of the former Paraguayan leader does not make him ineligible; in other words if he wishes, Lugo could run for president in the upcoming election, because even though he was impeached, the former president preserved all his political rights, and therefore there are no legal limitations to his candidacy. On the other hand, Paraguayan law forbids re-election. Consequentially, Federico Franco, the new president cannot run for reelections.
On April 21st, 2013, all Paraguayan citizens 18 to 75 years old are required to vote. The population will choose the president, vice-president, governors and 17 out of the country’s 45 senators, besides 80 congressmen. However, Lugo’s impeachment and the new government of President Federico Franco generated a series of unanswered issues.
Unlike Brazil, where Fernando Collor’s impeachment in 1992 was a slow-paced, gradual-developed process monitored step-by-step by the population, Fernando Lugo’s impeachment happened suddenly, abruptly. Despite a number of tycoon farmers, opposition politicians and even Lugo sensing that “something was in the air,” one cannot deny the incredible efficiency regarding the whole process after the decision to depose Lugo was taken.
Among Paraguayan few foreign policy concerns, Brazil is undoubtedly the main one. The relationship with Brazil involves, for example, Itaipu, the corridor of Paranaguá, soybean production and the so-called brasiguaios (Paraguayan descendents of Brazilian farming immigrants), who exert significant economic and political influence. Seen as an imperialist country by one of Paraguay’s main newspaper, ABC Color, Brazil is working hard to change this stereotype, accepting, for instance, negotiating the tariffs paid for the Paraguayan excess energy supply from Itaipu. Piracy is definitely the downside that Brazil faces in its relationship with Paraguay. Without a clear solution for the problem, piracy has become important to Paraguay’s poor economy and a problem for the booming Brazilian economy.
Lugo had a great relationship with former President Lula, something which was promising to the relations between the two countries. However, Lugo did not make it clear to the Brazilian government that his domestic relationship with the major law and opinion makers in the country was extremely fragile.
There are several reasons for Friday’s impeachment. Some the most important are the following:
1. Lugo did not mange to build a decent coalition in Parliament. He lacked the political skills to neutralize enemies and reinforce his allies;
2. Despite having the very important the support of the rural workers, Lugo also needed the support of the country’s elites, which he did not have.
3. The dialogue and coordination between tycoon farmers and members of the Colorado Party had been occurring for a long time. Sources in the country point these two as responsible for deflagrating Lugo’s deposition;
4. The press was not favorable to Lugo and it constituted the most important vehicle of popular clamor;
5. Paraguay’s domestic policy is strongly influenced by tycoon farmers, the economic and cultural elites of the Asuncion, businessmen and people linked to piracy in Ciudad del Este. Lugo was in direct conflict with the first group, and failed to cultivate a relationship that could favor him with the other groups.
The aforementioned facts expose an unprecedented weakness a president in South America. If externally, Lugo’s impeachment process, was questioned by the foreign press and neighboring countries, domestically the population seems nonchalant, and in a political climate of anesthesia. However, once the anesthesia fades, the local political system could be the stage of new upheavals.
By the current scenario of Paraguayan politics, elections will polarize the dispute between traditional Colorado Party candidates – who opposed Lugo and were linked to Stroessner – and the Liberal Party. Some names are being presented as possible candidates for the presidency, but there are no official confirmations.
The Colorado Party’s possible candidates are Horicio Cartes, Zacarias Irún e Lilian Samaniego, the latter also the party’s president. The Liberal Party’s possible candidates are Blas Llano, who is a businessman, connected to the Franco government, and Efraim Alegre.
The Brazilian Minister of Mines and Energy, Edison Lobão said that the political changes in Paraguay will not change the energy cooperation agreement that involves the shared management of the Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant with Brazil. He said the Brazilian government does not fear retaliation from the neighboring country.
The dam, built and managed by Brazil and Paraguay, has 14,000 megawatts of installed power and corresponds to approximately 19% of energy consumed in Brazil and 91% of consumption in Paraguay.
The Itaipu Treaty signed in 1973, establishes that each country has the right to use half the energy generated by the plant. Because it uses only 5% of what it is entitled, Paraguay sells the rest of the asset to Brazil.
According to Lobão, Paraguay has no other possible buyers for their energy surplus, except Brazil. The minister also noted that the plant has an autonomous administration, with directors of the two countries.
The new president of Paraguay, Federico Franco, said recently that the government will honor all over the contracted responsibilities, including paying debts, supplying energy and maintaining good relations with all countries, including Brazil.
Franco nominated the engineer Franklin Boccia Anki to be the country’s new General-Director of Itaipu Paraguay, but the nomination must still be ratified by Congress.
In a swift and coordinated movement, the Paraguayan Congress approved Fernando Lugo’s impeachment with extreme ease and rapidness. The process was approved by the House of Representatives by 76 votes in favor and one against last Thursday (21), and the Senate by 39 in favor, 4 against and 2 abstentions on Friday (22).
Elected in 2008, ending a six-decade hegemony of the Colorado Party, Lugo was overthrown by an “express” impeachment process, which caused suspicion from many neighboring countries, exactly because of the hastiness of the impeachment’s pace.
Known for his historic leadership of social movements as a Catholic bishop, Lugo took over the presidency supported by a broad alliance. Despite been elected in 2008 with 41% of the votes, he ruled facing strong opposition in the House of Representatives and the Senate, counting only with the support of social movements, mainly from groups that advocated agrarian reform in the country. And even these social movements (landless groups and teachers’ associations) were unsatisfied and pressured the former president to speed-up poverty relief actions.
It is important to notice that the support of the vice-president at the time, Federico Franco, from the PLRA (Authentic Radical Liberal Party), was decisive in the decision to impeach the former president. Lugo and Franco would have allegedly decided to breakup their alliance recently.
The crisis that led to the downfall of Fernando Lugo reached its peak after the deaths of 11 farmers and 7 police officers in a confrontation last week in a farm called Curuguaty, located in the Department (State) of Canindeyú, near the border with Paraná, Brazil. The opposition blamed Lugo for the episode.
According to some opposition leaders, the armed group EPP (Paraguayan People’s Army) was involved in the actions against the police and received “disguised” support from Lugo. However, there is no evidence of the participation of the EPP in the conflict. The irregular occupation of the lands was led by the Liga Nacional de Carperos (literally meaning National Camped League).
The land dispute was intensified in recent months because many landless movement leaders were demanding the review of property titles owned by farmers – in many cases brasiguaios (Brazilian immigrants)- on grounds that the properties were distributed illegally during the military regime led by Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989).
Because the Paraguayan Constitution allows the president to be prosecuted for “poor performance of his function, crimes committed in the exercise of his duties or for common crimes,” the opposition, led by the Colorado Party, decided to act and overthrew Lugo.
At the time of his impeachment, Fernando Lugo’s popularity was down. According to researcher Enrique Taka Chase, since 2008, his approval fell from 58% to 38%.
With Lugo’s impeachment, the vice-president, Federico Franco, from the PLRA took over. Apparently, the new president will face a wave of internal protests, and international pressures. The Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), for example announced that it will cancel the fuel transfers made to Petropar, the Paraguayan state oil company.
If on one hand, Fernando Lugo’s impeachment will improve the relation between the country’s executive branch with the political system, since Federico Franco and his party, the PLRA will have a better dialogue with Congress, on the other hand, the situation of the new government with the international community will be, at least for now, tense.
Besides the internal protests of social movements linked to Lugo, the new government could face political isolation in South America because many countries in the region saw the episode as a “coup sponsored by the Colorado Party.”
In the region, one of the countries with the greatest interest in resolving the current political crisis in Paraguay is Brazil. Dilma Rousseff has special interest in Paraguay for the following reasons, among others:
1) The two countries hold the co-administration of Itaipu (Binational hydroelectric, largest power plant in the world). Political instability could pose a risk (with boycotts or threats) in the electricity supply to the entire southern and southeastern Brazil;
2) There are about 400,000 Brazilians or Brazilian descendants in the country, many of them farmers, who are being evicted by the courts on the grounds of irregularities with their property’s titles. In the current environment of dispute for agrarian reform, these lands could become the target government sponsored invasions.
3) Brazil is an important partner of Paraguay in Mercosur, exporting more than US$ 2.97 billion to the neighboring country in 2011, especially in products such as fertilizers and diesel oil, and imported US$ 716 million – corn and wheat are the main items.
4) The Friendship Bridge, which connects Foz do Iguaçu to Ciudad del Este, is an important transit route for people and products.
5) Paraguay is considered a strategic ally on issues such as piracy, drugs and weapons trafficking.
NEW MINISTERIAL TEAM
The new president of Paraguay, Federico Franco, maintained only two ministers from the Fernando Lugo administration: Enzo Cardozo (Agriculture) and Francisco Rivas (Industry).
The other ministers of the new Paraguayan government are: José Fernández (Foreign Affairs), Carmelo Caballero (Interior), Horacio Galeano Perrone (Education and Culture), Enrique Salyn Buzarquis (Public Works and Construction) and Mary Liz Garcia (National Defense), the first woman to occupy this position in the country. President Fernández also nominated Antonio Arbo (Health Care) and Maria Segovia (Justice and Labor).
Sources in Brasilia said that Brazil’s government will not recognize the impeachment of President Lugo. The government considers that legal and constitutional conditions of the process were run over and that democratic stability was broken.
The Paraguayan senators are in this very moment (06/22/2012 – 18:00 hours, Brasília local time) deciding the political future of Lugo. In order remove Lugo from office, the votes of 30 out of 45 senators are necessary. Only two senators are currently supporting Fernando Lugo. Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted favorably to the president’s impeachment by 76 votes in favor and only one against.
The Brazilian Energy Research Company (EPE) will take advantage of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) to show the world the benefits of the Brazilian energy matrix, especially in relation to its low carbon emissions.
During the conference, pamphlets will be distributed to the Heads of State and other government officials, as well as the remaining participants of the event showing, for example, that the country participates with less than 1.2% of world’s carbon dioxide emission, which reached 30 billion tons in 2009.
According to EPE, although Brazil is the sixth largest economy in the world, it ranks the 18th position when compared with other countries regarding the emissions of greenhouse gases originated from the production and use of energy.
EPE data also shows that for every kilowatt-hour produced in the country, 64 grams of carbon dioxide is released, while the world’s average is 500 grams. That’s because 88% of energy generated in Brazil comes from renewable sources such as hydroelectricity, wind and biomass. The global percentage is 19%.
Furthermore, the Energy Company points out that each Brazilian emits an average of 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide with the generation of electricity, while the world average is more than 4 tons. In the U.S., 16.9 tons of carbon dioxide per capita is produced due to power generation. To produce US$ 1 of gross domestic product (GDP) 0.16 pound of carbon dioxide is emitted in Brazil, which is half the world’s average of 0.33 pounds. In Russia, this number jumps to 0.73.
Today, thanks to ethanol, Brazil emits 33.3% less carbon dioxide than it would emit if the country only used fossil fuels to power vehicles. The goal is that with the increased use of ethanol in 2020 the reduction may reach 54%. The estimation of EPE is that by 2020, ethanol can serve more than half of the energy required to power the country’s light vehicle.
The Brazilian government decided to grant political asylum to Bolivian Senator Roger Pinto Molina, leader of the opposition in Congress. The congressman was already a refugee at the Brazilian embassy in La Paz since May 28th.
In a statement, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry affirmed it has granted asylum to Molina “in light of the rules and practices of Latin American international law and based on Article 4, Section 10 of the Federal Constitution.”
Molina made the request for political asylum last week. He claims to be persecuted by the government of Evo Morales, on the account of his role in defending human rights. However, Morales denies the charge. The senator said his wife, one of the couple’s three daughters and two granddaughters are in the Brazilian state of Acre and the other daughters and grandchildren, are still in Bolivia.
Former governor of Pando, in the Bolivian amazon border with Brazil, the senator is accused by authorities of irregularities. An article in the newspaper La Razon, from La Paz, reports that the senator faces at least 20 lawsuits in courts of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Sucre and Cobija, which refer mainly to charges of contempt, ilegal sale of public assets and corruption.
Last week, Bolivia’s government officials reacted to the Senator’s request for refuge. Brazil is awaiting for a response from the Bolivian government on the provision of a safe-conduct to Roger Pinto Molina so that he may be transported to Brazil.
The president of the Industries’ Federation of São Paulo (Fiesp), Paulo Skaf, denied that Brazil is applying protectionist measures against Argentina in response to the import restriction policies adopted by Buenos Aires.
Skaf explained that within the framework of the Brazil-Italy Economic Forum, Brazil is not considered a protectionist country and that it is “well known that Argentina has adopted protectionist attitudes” and if Brasilia takes measures in response, this cannot be regarded as protectionism.
The statement was made when the president of Fiesp was questioned about the entry of Argentine products in the list of non-automatic import licenses’ emission, in which case they could wait up to 60 days for their release within the norms of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Skaf pledged the authorities to work together to increase trade between Argentina and Brazil, which, he said, are friendly countries and neighbors.
The prime minister of China, Wen Jiabao, told president Dilma Rousseff in a telephone conversation, that the Chinese want to “broaden and deepen relations with Latin America.”
He also accepted Dilma’s invitation to attend the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), whose meetings occur in June (20-22) in Rio de Janeiro.
In the conversation, according to Jiabao, Dilma thanked China for the support regarding Rio +20 and added that she trusts the effort of the international community to seek a political consensus for the promotion of economic, social and environmental progress.
According to Wen Jiabao, the Rio +20 will be an opportunity for the world to send “clear, strong, positive signals” on the need to promote global sustainable development. The prime minister said China is willing to cooperate in this international process.
The Chinese prime minister and Dilma also talked about the impacts of the international economic crisis. Jiabao also said that strengthening cooperation between China and Brazil has “great significance and broad prospects.”
In 2009, China overtook the U.S, becoming Brazil’s main trading partner. In 2011, bilateral trade grew 35.2% reaching US$ 84.5 billion, with a balance of US$ 20.79 billion in favor of Brazil.