There perhaps are no politicians as different as Horacio Cartes, President of Paraguay and Fernando Lugo. Horacio Cartes was born to a family of privilege. From elite schools in Paraguay he moved to the Spartan College on Aeronautics and Technology in the US to then go back to him country and found a currency exchange. His businesses have reach over into every economic activity in Paraguay, giving him control over most markets. His life journey has been flawed with scandals, investigations and allegations of mastering the art of smuggling although he does not have a criminal record and has been acquitted of all the charges. Fernando Lugo is the son a persecuted political leader who had to flee Paraguay at a very tender age. Lugo went to Ecuador where he spent most of his early professional life as a missionary. His return to Paraguay in 1982 was short lived as he was expelled by the Stroessner regime. He then attended the Gregorian University in Rome where he got a degree in Sociology, By 1994 he was ordained Bishop of the Archdiocese of San pedro in Paraguay. He was elected president of Paraguay in 2008 when he headed a coalition of opposition parties that brought to an end the seamless control over power of the Colorado Party which had been in place since 1946. As President Lugo, lambasted the Paraguayan elite making its diverse representatives guilty of holding the country back and depriving its citizens from progress in order to protect their petty interests. These elite groups included Mr Cartes whose actions were denounced as “Those with bulky bank accounts, whose pictures appear in the newspapers’ social pages are holding Paraguay back”.
But as John Temple Palmerston posited there are no eternal allies, or perpetual enemies. Interests are eternal and perpetual. And the interests of Cartes and Lugo happen to coalesce around presidential reelection. After his failed attempt to get a constitutional amendment passed by congress to pave the road for reelection, Cartes realized he needs to build national consensus. Knowing that Lugo also wants reelection, Cartes had Lugo elected President of Congress with the votes of all those members of the Colorado Party that voted for the botched amendment last spring. With Lugo heading Congress and a potential Cartes loyalist at the Presidential Palace, Cartes sees the return route to the presidency at hand. To be sure, Cartes is supporting the candidacy of his Finance Minister as president. The question then arises Is reelection promoting stability or chaos in Latin America? Mexico seems to have done reasonably well with the no reelection rule. But Mexico has attached to no reelection yet another non-written practice which dates from the times of the Aztecs: there cannot be but one king. Former presidents in Mexico are decreed political death. They can enjoy riches; become successful entrepreneurs and even lead education institutions, but they are politically death. No other Latin American country enjoys this practice given that Aztecs only settled in Mexico and as a result former presidents are actively engaged in politics and of course, all continuously think of returning. In some cases, like in Venezuela reelection rules created a cap on generational succession for the presidency that ended short circuiting the political system. Indeed, by allowing reelection after two succeeding terms had elapsed, Venezuela created a hamster trap to future generations of politicians that aspired to become heads of state.
So this brings us back to Paraguay and its rather unusual political alliance to favor of reelection. The country seems to have staged a successful transition from dictatorship to democracy. And of course, the time is ripe for constitutional amendments that introduce more democracy into the nation that has had the best development track record over the past fifteen years. But whatever amendments are undertaken they should spring from a bottom-up approach to governance and not a hastily sealed alliance of two political leaders that have already accomplished their historical task.