“Not even dressed as Father Christmas can president Hugo Chavez make Venezuela become a member of Mercosur”, according to a 2009 Wikileaks cable quoting Paraguay’s Foreign Affairs minister Hector Lacognata during an informal talk with US ambassador in Asuncion Liliana Ayalde.
Another cable describes the delayed vote to incorporate Venezuela to Mercosur, in the Paraguayan Senate as a “hot potato” while Minister Lacognata in private questions President Chavez and argues that Unasur (Union of South American nations) is a “loss of time”.
Lacognata also complains about the limited influence of his post given the fragmented government coalition and ‘fragmented’ foreign policy of the administration or President Fernando Lugo.
The minister also confessed to ambassador Ayalde his frustration because of the opinion people have of President Lugo who on occasions seems intent in following on the steps of the Venezuelan leader Chavez.
Although Brazil might vote for the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur, “that’s not going to happen here (in Paraguay) even if Chavez dresses as Father Christmas”, reads the ‘sensitive’ cable dated 10 December 2009 wired by Ambassador Ayalde five days later to the State Department with copy to all US embassies in Mercosur member countries and in Venezuela.
The Paraguayan congress still has pending the vote on Venezuela’s incorporation in spite of the constant pressures from Argentina and Brazil.
Regarding Colombia, Lacognata criticized Chavez efforts to join all regional players on his personal agenda, with a common enemy the United States, but the Paraguayan official also underlined that the Venezuelan leader is increasingly isolated.
As to Honduras, Paraguay will monitor how President Lobo runs the country and if he is able to win confidence from all sectors of that country. Paraguay’s position is “not stone carved” but even so is very much concerned about “the record of getting rid of a government nobody liked”
At the same meeting Lacognata talked about the image of President Lugo who is seen as “ambivalent and not clear enough” and who allows others to clarify official policy.
“I consider myself a Socialist but this does not ‘sell’ in Paraguay, currently. Socialism is ‘romantic’ and reality is something completely different” Lacognata is quoted.
He underlined that the country’s foreign policy was above all pragmatic, but he was not sure how to help change the perception people had of the Lugo administration.
Lacognata complained bitterly that the greatest challenge for the government is the partisan unprofessional Paraguayan media that is constantly exploiting negativity and the negative side of things.
He admitted to ambassador Ayalde all his children wanted to leave the country because of this constant bombardment of ‘negativism’.
Even before these Wikileaks were exposed and released by the Paraguayan media, Minister Lacognata was holding on the post on request from President Lugo because some time ago he had asked to be relieved.
He was ferociously attacked in Congress and in the media for having a second job as advisor to the Itaipú dam administration, an organization rich in resources and feather jobs for the political establishment.
Under Paraguayan law allegedly he can’t hold a second job while in government pay-roll, even if it is a political post.