Mercosur controversy, Cartes main challenge when he takes office on Thursday
Most presidents and top authorities that will attend the inauguration of Paraguayan president-elect Horacio Cartes on Thursday morning arrived in Asunción on Wednesday and most of them have already held private meetings with the future leader of the country.
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Chile’s Sebastian Piñera, Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez, the heir to the Spanish throne Felipe Prince of Asturias were among the leaders received by Cartes at his home, according to the incoming president protocol office.
Earlier in the week Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou with a 100-strong delegation arrived in Asunción. Paraguay is one of the few countries that still retain full diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (Taipei).
Cristina Fernandez on arriving late Wednesday evening in Asunción congratulated the Paraguayan people for the election of “a new president in democratic elections” and announced she was bringing a copy of the decree by which the Argentine government returns to Paraguay furniture belonging to Mariscal Francisco Solano Lopez who ruled in the second half of the XIXth century and is revered as one of the great figures of Paraguayan history.
“This is a historic reparation of a tragic event, the Triple Alliance war (1865/1870) of which we are not proud”, said Cristina Fernandez.
In that war Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay joined to fight and defeat an aggressive Mariscal Solano Lopez, but the conflict turned out into a major slaughter, wiping out most of the Paraguayan male population,
The war, its consequences, Mariscal Solano Lopez, the resistance of the population against the powerful neighbours are very much present for Paraguayans and a source of strong nationalism and pride to our days.
Uruguayan president Jose Mujica is scheduled to arrive 07:30 Thursday morning on time for the ceremony. Peruvian president Ollanta Humala is also expected on early Thursday.
The European Union is represented the Development Commissar Andris Piebalgs.
The big absentees are Ecuador Rafael Correa and Bolivia’s Evo Morales who are not going to Cartes inauguration in solidarity with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, (who also holds the rotating chair of Mercosur), but was not invited.
Horacio Cartes, 57, a successful businessman had no formal experience with politics but was known to belong to the hegemonic Colorado Party that supported him in winning comfortably last April’s presidential election.
His cabinet to be sworn in on Thursday includes experienced officials and technocrats in Foreign Affairs, Finance and the Central bank while the ministry of Interior has been trusted to a former prosecutor from the main opposition party.
Cartes takes off with a working majority in Congress, a considerable budget deficit albeit with the fastest growing economy in the region this year (12%) based on an efficient agriculture but also with a serious political controversy with its neighbours and Mercosur members.
In effect Paraguay was suspended from Mercosur in July last year following the removal of Fernando Lugo and his replacement by President Federico Franco. Although the event was done following the Paraguayan constitution impeachment procedure and with an ample vote in the Senate, --and Lugo’s acceptance of the result--, Mercosur considered the whole affairs a congressional coup and sanctioned Paraguay.
Furthermore Mercosur taking advantage of the situation approved the incorporation of Venezuela as full member, pending from 2006 and rejected by the Paraguayan Senate, even when the charter of the group demands full attendance of all members and unanimous support for such cases.
Mercosur said the suspension would be lifted once a new president is democratically elected, and in the last summit held in Montevideo made it effective as of tomorrow 15 August.
However outgoing President Franco and Cartes have stated that Paraguay is in no rush to return to the group until there is evidence of respect from Mercosur to Paraguay’s dignity, rule of the law, international law and Mercosur institutions.
To make things even more complicated, Mercosur handed the rotating chair to Venezuela for the second half of 2013, which Paraguay does not recognize as legitimate full member.
Thus the non invitation to Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro to the inauguration plus the fact that the former Foreign minister was caught on video in July 2012 trying to convince the Paraguayan armed forces chiefs of staff to send the troops out to the streets in support of former president Fernando Lugo.
The Paraguayan Senate later specifically voted against the incorporation of Venezuela and declared Maduro person non grata for his interference in Paraguay’s internal affairs. Brazil has been pressing insistently on the return of Paraguay to speed negotiations for a trade agreement of Mercosur with the European Union.