Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Try Not To Connect These Particular Dots

Back on August 1, we talked about the War of the Triple Alliance, a war that lated from 1864-1870 that pitted Paraguay against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and nearly resulted in Paraguay ceasing to exist. It survived as a buffer state for Brazil and Argentina.

Paraguay suffered through that due to a dictator named Francisco Solano Lopez. A century later, they would suffer through another, a man by the name of Alfredo Stroessner. Stroessner's policies did lead to economic prosperity, but it came at a high, high cost of lost freedoms, elections rigged even when they didn't have to be, and routine torture. His chief torturer's favorite technique was to immerse his subjects in a bath of human excrement, and as an inducement to talk, he would ram a cattle prod up their butts. One man was torn in half with a chainsaw while Stroessner listened on the phone.

Sorry if you were trying to eat lunch.

Stroessner was forced out in a coup in 1989. Since then, the country has struggled to rid itself of Stroessner's legacy while hanging onto his economy. They've been less than successful. As a result of all this, they've had a persistent population problem. Namely, they can't hang onto it. Their people keep leaving, despairing of opportunities at home, and head primarily for Argentina, Spain and the United States. Without their presence, and the presence of those who fled during Stroessner's rule, the brain drain leaves Paraguay facing longer odds of being able to move forward.

This is why, on Sunday, voters approved by a wide margin a proposal to allow expats to vote. 80% of the voters approved it, though it should be noted that turnout was a microscopic 12.5%. (Normally, voting is mandatory in Paraguay; however, this vote was not.) The proposal, though, still faces approval by the Paraguayan legislature, which has bitterly opposed the current administration, led by Fernando Lugo, has tried to do. So even though the vote has come down in favor, the effort's fate remains uncertain.

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