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As US drug policy loosens, Dutch laws tighten


Increasingly over the past three decades, The Netherlands has become a haven for controversial policies on social issues — prostitution, physician-assisted euthanasia and, of course, drug legalization.Netherlands Flag Icon

Just this week, the Dutch made global headlines by firing an employee of its central bank who failed to report that she was moonlighting as a sex worker.

But even as states like Washington and Colorado experiment with legal marijuana regimes, and as the US justice department falls back from the aggressive prosecution of a ‘war on drugs’ that for decades swelled the US prison population with non-violent drug offenders, it’s the Dutch who are now second-thinking the permissive regulatory approach that transformed Amsterdam into a pleasure capital, where locals and tourists alike could indulge in vices prohibited elsewhere in the world. The bold steps toward full legalization in Washington and Colorado, however, are bringing marijuana into the mainstream. Seattle, Denver and Boulder are now the laboratories for the world’s most progressive drug reforms, not Amsterdam.

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RELATED: Jamaican government targets legalizing ganja by September [June 2014]

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Dutch liberalization, which dates back to the 1970s when officials embraced a policy of gedoogbeleid (tolerance) for soft drug use, was always an experiment in half-steps. Selling small quantities at Dutch ‘coffee shops’ or growing cannabis for personal use were decriminalized, but the wholesale trade in marijuana remained illegal. That kept the weed trade firmly in the ‘gray market’ — neither fully prohibited nor fully welcomed.

Though Amsterdam’s tourism industry resisted attempts to restrict marijuana use to Dutch citizens alone, it hasn’t stopped Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte’s government from introducing new restrictions that make it more difficult for non-nationals to smoke weed in The Netherlands. Since 2011, new laws give municipalities a wide berth to establish just how permissive they’d like to be. That means that while Amsterdam has largely resisted the crackdown, other cities, especially border towns like Maastricht, have embraced the tighter restrictions with enthusiasm. New police powers took effect last month allowing officials to prosecute those who facilitate the widespread cultivation of marijuana, such as ‘grow shops’ that sell the the equipment necessary to grow marijuana plants.

The result? A greater role for organized crime in the marijuana trade:

The result: Coffee shops are increasingly buying buds from criminal organizations willing to absorb the risk of prosecution by growing large amounts of cannabis in shipping containers buried underground, with little regard for quality or mold abatement. “It’s amazing how bad the quality has become,” says Bergman. “And the price is up. It’s what we’ve all predicted.”

It’s an ironic result for a party like Rutte’s Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), one of the most successful economic liberal parties in all of Europe. Rutte’s predecessor, the Christian democratic Jan Peter Balkenende, was even more hostile to marijuana, and he pushed for legislation that would require all coffee shop visitors to acquire a ‘weed pass.’ Though that didn’t happen, subsequent Dutch governments have chipped away at drug liberalization, and the number of coffee shops in Amsterdam alone fell in the last decade by about one-third.

Nevertheless, the Dutch lessons were palpable. The most enduring lesson for US policymakers was the distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs. By taking a more permissive attitude to soft drugs like marijuana, Dutch officials could devote more resources to reducing the trade in harder drugs like heroin. While the United States took a tougher approach to hard-core drug users in the 1990s, The Netherlands treated heroin use, for example, as a public health issue instead of a crime problem. Twenty years later, with heroin use once again on the rise globally, it’s the United States that is taking the Dutch approach to addiction at every level of government — from US attorney general Eric Holder, who has pushed to end long, mandatory sentences for drug offenses, to Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, who’s made heroin treatment a pillar of his state government.

Uruguay election results: Vazquez easily wins runoff


It wasn’t unexpected, but former president Tabaré Vázquez easily won Uruguay’s presidential runoff late Sunday, extending control by the the leftist Frente Amplio (Broad Front) for at least another five years.uruguay

Vázquez, who made national history by leading his party to victory in the 2004 election, was succeeded by José Mujica (pictured above, right, with Vázquez, left), who has become in five years one the world’s most beloved presidents — for his extremely simple, austere personal style, for his honesty and folksiness, and sometimes even for his policies, which have included social reforms like liberalizing Uruguay’s abortion laws, enacting same-sex marriage equality and legalizing marijuana use.


Those reforms, in addition to a plan to host a handful of prisoners from the US prison facility at Guantánamo Bay, will be secure under Vázquez’s second term.

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RELATEDVázquez charges into second round of Uruguayan vote

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Both Vázquez and Mujica have benefited from an incredibly strong economy, which has propelled Uruguayan GDP per capita higher than in any other South American country, and that was an obvious factor in Vázquez’s victory against Luis Lacalle Pou, the attractive, young candidate of the more conservative Partido Nacional (National Party), or the ‘blancos,’ one of the two traditional Uruguayan parties.

So what to expect from the next five years? Vázquez, now firmly in legacy-moulding terrain, will hope to consolidate the gains of the past decade, including the economic and social reforms of both his prior administration and the Mujica government.

That also entails working to keep the Uruguayan economy strong, notwithstanding a Brazilian slowdown and increasing economic chaos in neighboring Argentina, which will choose a successor to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner later in 2015. It also means keeping the Frente Amplio brand strong for the inevitable day when it will lose an election, which means maintaining Uruguay’s relatively corruption-free reputation. Also expect Vázquez to move slightly more to the center than Mujica, who was always more popular personally than many of his signature policies, including the marijuana reform.

Mujica, after all, will still play an important role in Uruguayan politics as one of his party’s senators in the Cámara de Senadores (Chamber of Senators).

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RELATED: Meet José Mujica, the Uruguayan president who’s on the path to legalizing marijuana

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But there was always a sense that while Mujica’s charisma far outshone Vázquez’s charms, it was Vázquez who was the better executive, and in his first term, he expanding spending on health care and poverty and restructured the tax code, balancing the social welfare concerns of his leftist base and the interests of the country’s business community. Continue reading Uruguay election results: Vazquez easily wins runoff

Meet José Mujica, the Uruguayan president who’s on the path to legalizing marijuana


Although Uruguay’s austere president José Mujica grows chrysanthemums with his wife in his humble home outside Montevideo in his spare time, that’s not the kind of flower power that’s catapulted him to global headlines this week.uruguay

Instead, he’s moved forward, surpassing a key hurdle in making Uruguay, the Southern Cone nation of 3.3 million, the first country in the world to decriminalize and regulate the sale and purchase of marijuana when the lower house of Uruguay’s parliament, the Cámara de Representantes (Chamber of Representatives) passed a legalization bill by a narrow 50-46 margin late Wednesday, which will allow the bill to sail smoothly through the upper house and to enactment.

Far from transforming Uruguay into a drug haven, however, Simon Romero, writing for The New York Times, explains the highly regulated nature of what will become the Uruguayan marijuana market, which would place strict limits on the growth, use and sale of the drug:

Under the bill, which could become law as early as this month, people would be allowed to grow marijuana in their homes, limited to six plants per household. They would also be permitted to form cooperatives allowed to cultivate 99 plants. In addition, private companies could grow marijuana under the bill, though their harvests could be bought only by the government, which would market the drug in licensed pharmacies.

To buy marijuana in pharmacies, Uruguayans would be required to enter their names into a federal registry, which is intended to remain confidential, and would be limited to buying 40 grams per month. And in a move to prevent foreign tourists from flocking to Uruguay to smoke marijuana, the legislation would restrict legal purchases to Uruguayans. Marijuana use is already largely tolerated by the Uruguayan authorities.

As remarkable as it seems, and despite international criticism of the Uruguayan measure, it was only a matter of time before a Latin American country takes the step to legalize the drug.  Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina, neither of whom are exactly left-wing ideologues have both made strident calls for marijuana legalization, and other Latin American leaders, such as former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, have called into question the longstanding U.S. anti-drug policy that’s launched a 40-year ‘War on Drugs’ that turned out to become more a war on Latin America, wreaking havoc and escalating violence from México to Perú.  Even within the United States, public opinion is turning away from criminalization — California’s ‘medical’ marijuana industry is booming and voters in Washington and Colorado elected in November 2012 to legalize marijuana in those states.


What’s even more remarkable is the rise of the Uruguayan president who’s likely to be the first to make it happen.  In a region with sometimes eccentric leaders, the 78-year old Mujica — or as he’s affectionately known among Uruguayos, ‘Pepe’ — stands out.

A former leftist guerrilla in the Tupamaros movement, Mujica spent much of Uruguay’s military government that spanned the 1970s and early 1980s in prison.  As Romero writes in a profile of Mujica for The Times earlier this year, prison life was about as grim as imaginable for the one-time rebel fighter:

He spent 14 years in prison, including more than a decade in solitary confinement, often in a hole in the ground. During that time, he would go more than a year without bathing, and his companions, he said, were a tiny frog and rats with whom he shared crumbs of bread.

The sometimes violent tactics of the Tupamaros, which drew its inspiration from Fidel Castro’s Cuban guerrilla effort, weren’t without controversy.  But though he rarely discusses those days, his wife, Lucía Topolansky, is also a former Tupamaro, and while he has long since eschewed the more radical elements of his past, he has retained a strikingly humble approach to material wealth.  Mujica, who drives himself in a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, has been labeled by the BBC to label him as ‘the world’s poorest president’:

President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife’s farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.  The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers.  This austere lifestyle – and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity – has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world.

As president, he has presided over a strong economy, though the GDP growth rate has fallen from 8.9% in 2010 to 5.7% in 2011 and an estimated 3.5% in 2012 — a slowing growth rate, yes, but one that’s consistently overperformed Brazil’s GDP growth in the past three years, one that is now overperforming the increasingly troubled Argentine economy, and one that would make the United States or the European Union feel like it’s experiencing an economic boom.  Mujica has been an aggressive champion of freer trade, and for expanding Mercosur, the South American free trade bloc.  He’s also a proponent of wind and other forms of renewable energy, and he’s a tireless booster of Uruguay exports, half of which are agricultural products, notably beef and grain products.

But his real legacy, even before the push for marijuana legalization, has been on social policy.  Yesterday, for example, Uruguay’s same-sex marriage act took effect after the Chamber of Deputies passed the law on an 81-6 vote last December.  He’s also signed legislation legalizing abortion restrictions.  But while those measures had broad popular appeals, polls have shown that up to two-thirds of Uruguayan voters are wary of legalizing marijuana.

As Uruguayan presidents cannot run for consecutive terms in office, much of Mujica’s devil-may-care approach to controversial issues, especially drug legalization, lies in the fact that he’s not running for reelection.  But it’s also in keeping with his honest, everyman persona, which has afforded him broad popularity, even among his critics. That popularity has made it easier for Mujica to champion unpopular issues, just as it has made it easier to deflect the loquacious president’s gaffes, such as when he was caught on tape disparaging both Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, former president Néstor Kirchner: ‘esta vieja es peor que el tuerto,‘ which roughly translates to ‘the old woman is worse than the cross-eyed one.’

But unlike the Kirchners, who have hewn a relatively populist neo-Peronista course for Argentina, which remains shut out of global capital markets, and unlike other leftists like the late Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Mujica has been firmly on the lulista left, and like former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, he’s spent his political career moving from leftist roots — even more radical than Lula’s trade union roots in Brazil — to the political center.  Continue reading Meet José Mujica, the Uruguayan president who’s on the path to legalizing marijuana

Cartes wins Paraguayan presidency — but what comes next?


Horacio Cartes handily won the Paraguayan presidency Sunday, returning the Partido Colorado to power after former president Fernando Lugo interrupted a 61-year hold on the presidency in 2008.paraguay flag icon new

Cartes (pictured above), one of Paraguay’s wealthiest businessmen, was chosen as the Colorado nominee for his relatively novelty to politics — and it’s true that as a former tobacco magnate, his ties to the old-guard Colorado leadership aren’t incredibly strong, and Cartes didn’t even join the party of former strongman Alfredo Stroessner until 2009, after the election of the leftist Lugo.

Cartes’s election ends an odd gray zone for Paraguay following the rapid-fire impeachment and removal of Lugo from the presidency in June 2012, ostensibly over his administration’s handling of a raid on rural squatters that left 17 people dead, but stemming in large party from mutual hostility from both parties in the Paraguayan political elite that had very little use for Lugo’s administration.

So what comes next for Paraguay?

First and foremost, expect Mercosur, the South American free trade bloc, to reinstate Paraguay’s membership — likely in exchange for Paraguayan acquiescence to the accession of Venezuela, which Mercosur accomplished immediately after Paraguay’s suspension (in light of the fact that Paraguay’s Congress had been holding up Venezuelan membership).

It’s hard to know what to expect from Cartes’s domestic policy priorities, given the vague campaign that he ran, but Cartes will head the most right-wing government in South America — on a continent with various shades of leftism, Cartes remains far to the right of moderate Chilean president Sebastián Piñera (who looks to be succeeded by the moderately leftist former president Michelle Bachelet in November) or the surprisingly dovish Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.  With few natural ideological allies in the region, that could give Paraguay some tough times ahead in respect of trade and foreign policy.  We know Cartes is no fan of gay rights or gay marriage after claiming in an interview that he’d rather be shot in the testicles than have a gay son.

Before the election, the Colorados and the other longstanding Paraguayan party, the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA, the Authentic Liberal Radical Party) controlled around two-thirds of the seats in both the Paraguayan Congress’s upper house, the 45-member Cámara de Senadores (Chamber of Senators) and the lower house, the 80-member Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies).

That’s likely to be the case after the election, though the Colorados will control slightly more and the Liberals will control slightly less.  Lugo’s new coalition of leftist parties, the Frente Guasú looks set to have won around 10% in the senatorial elections and will win around five senatorial seats, including one for Lugo himself — somewhat of a success, but certainly not a breakthrough in giving Paraguayans a strong leftist voice in governance for the next five years.

Given that both the Colorados and the Liberals are right-of-center parties, given that the Colorados will not control a majority of seats in either house of Paraguay’s Congress, and given that there were few policy differences between Cartes and his Liberal rival Efraín Alegre, it seems likely that the Colorados and Liberals will likely work together to push through a mutually acceptable agenda.

Cartes clearly has a mandate for the ever-amorphous concept of ‘change,’ winning the presidency with 45.80% to just 36.94% for Alegre.  But the best-case scenario might perhaps be continuity of the moderate reforms that outgoing president Federico Franco, a Liberal, pushed in his 10 months in charge — the implementation of Paraguay’s first income tax and at least some steady moves toward land reform and social welfare programs in one of Latin America’s poorest countries.

Although Paraguay has just 6.5 million people, it’s one of the world’s largest soy exporters — it exports some beef and corn products too, but the landlocked nation lacks the natural resource wealth, a large manufacturing or industrial base or the access to ports or major rivers that many of its neighbors boast.  So economic reform and poverty will remain a key challenge for Cartes.

The worst-case scenario is that Cartes, who is widely rumored to have links to narco-traffickers and to have made his fortune as much in smuggling as anything else, will preside over a country of unfettered corruption that transforms Paraguay into a crony capitalist state and, perhaps, a new safe haven for narcotics in South America.  Despite the small gains Franco made toward alleviating policy through welfare, tax and land reform, those gains could easily be reversed without Cartes’s commitment to see through the full realization of those reforms.

The best candidate for Paraguay’s presidency isn’t on the ballot


When Fernando Lugo took office five years ago, it was with fanfare that Paraguay would have its first leftist president in decades — no one expected Lugo’s term to end without Lugo himself and with the once-disgraced Colorado Party set to return to power. paraguay flag icon new

Instead, his vice president Federico Franco (pictured above) took over the Paraguayan presidency last June when the Paraguayan Congress overwhelmingly voted to removed Fernando Lugo as president.  Franco has pushed through a handful of reforms in the past 10 months — he’s passed the country’s first-ever income tax, and as The Economist noted last autumn, he’s already putting the planned proceeds to use:

Rather than breaking up big farms, he has speeded up the granting of land titles to rural squatters and bought up private holdings to sell on easy terms to those who lack plots.  Víctor Rivarola, the social-action minister, says he hopes to double the number of households receiving conditional cash transfers within a year.  A law passed in September will dedicate around $40m a year of revenues from the Itaipú dam, which Paraguay shares with Brazil, to promoting information technology in schools.  The government is working on a plan to extend nationwide a One Laptop Per Child scheme now run in the town of Caacupé by Paraguay Educates, an NGO.

It’s a decent record, especially given that Franco took office amid international criticism at the speed by which Lugo was unceremoniously dumped from the presidency.  Even if the reforms lack the ambition that Lugo brought to the presidency, and even if Lugo has disclaimed his successor’s performance, Franco’s reforms more than bear Lugo’s imprint, and it’s hard to believe Paraguay would have made even that progress without the Lugo revolution.

Franco is not without critics, of course, who attack him for allowing Monsanto and Rio Tinto back into the country, business as usual, despite Lugo’s resistance to global corporations.  Lugo himself dismissed Franco’s short-lived transitional administration in an interview with Ed Stocker for Monocle earlier this month:

In Paraguay it’s important to understand where the power is, and Federico Franco doesn’t hold that power. He’s just responding to the interests and initiatives of multinationals and financial capital.

He also worsened already-fraught relations with Venezuela when he immediately called the death of Hugo Chávez a ‘miracle‘, and Mercosur continues to maintain Paraguay’s suspension from its membership, despite the fact that the ‘parliamentary coup’ against Lugo was technically valid under the country’s constitutional and laws.

But as Paraguayans go to the polls today to select a new president, Franco won’t be on the ballot — as the incumbent, even for just a short period, he’s not eligible to run for reelection.  That’s a shame, given that his successful election would go a long way, if belatedly, on putting a popular mandate on Lugo’s removal and the past ten months of Paraguayan government.

Given the frontrunners in the election, however, it’s an even bigger shame.

Race to the bottom

Franco leads the center-right Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA, the Authentic Liberal Radical Party), which is supporting a Liberal senator, Efraín Alegre (pictured below), for president.  Alegre, however, has been damaged recently after allegedly directing the government to buy land from the Parguayan parliamentary speaker, Jorge Oveido Matto, in exchange for the support of presidential candidate Lino Oviedo Sánchez, the nephew of Lino Oviedo Silva, himself a controversial candidate until his death in a helicopter crash in February.  Jorge Oviedo Matto resigned his role earlier this week.


Some background is in order. Lino Oviedo (the elder) was the leader of a the Unión Nacional de Ciudadanos Éticos (UNACE, National Union of Ethical Citizens), though like many powerful Paraguayans, his ethics were far from pristine.  As chief of the army in 1996, he attempted to oust his boss, then-president Juan Carlos Wasmosy in a coup.  Though it failed, and Oviedo himself ended up in prison, he was the popular leader to win the governing Colorado Party nomination for president in 1998.  His running mate Raúl Cubas ultimately won the nomination after Oviedo was convicted for his 1996 coup attempt, and Cubas released Oviedo from prison shortly thereafter.  The Cubas-Oviedo administration collapsed with the assassination of Luis María Argaña in 1999, and Oviedo fled the country.  He returned in 2002 to found the UNACE and won over 22% in the previous 2008 election.  That makes the Liberal-UNACE alliance tainted by much more than the express corruption charges.

Meanwhile, the frontrunner for much of the race has been Horacio Cartes (pictured below), a businessman running under the Asociación Nacional Republicana – Partido Colorado (ANR-PC, National Republican Association — Colorado Party).  The Colorados were famously in power for 61 years without interruption, 35 of which under the cruel military regime of Alfredo Stroessner (from 1954 to 1989).


Unlike in México, where the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party) held power for 71 years before a 12-year stint out of power that saw democratic, legal and other institutions take firm root in Mexican governance and politics, there’s no reason to believe that Paraguay or the Colorados have undergone much of a transformation.

Cartes himself carries additional baggage — he’s widely suspected of having deep ties to narco-trafficking, not least because of a leaked 2010 U.S. State Department cable linking Cartes to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency action in Paraguay: Continue reading The best candidate for Paraguay’s presidency isn’t on the ballot

As Lugo fades, Paraguay enters diplomatic purgatory

It’s been almost three weeks since Paraguay’s congress voted to impeach and oust its president, Fernando Lugo.

The whole affair has been odd from the beginning, given that it came just 10 months before the next presidential election, and it has left regional trade blocs like Mercosur and the Organization of American States in an awkward position.

On the one hand, the impeachment was conducted in accordance with Paraguayan law — this wasn’t a military coup, but an overwhelming vote duly taken by its congress. And the vote wasn’t even close — it garnered support from not just the Partido Colorado, which Lugo defeated in 2008 to end 61 continuous years of Colorado rule, but also from the center-right Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (the “Authentic Liberal Radical Party” or PLRA) to which Lugo’s vice president, one-time ally and, now, Paraguay’s new president, Federico Franco, belonged.

On the other hand, it’s easy to find a lot amiss with the affair — debate lasted for just two hours before the final vote, hardly the kind of constitutional due process you would expect from such a weighty matter as impeachment.  For that matter, the cause for impeachment wasn’t abuse of power, corruption, nothing more scandalous than “poor performance.” It’s an ominous sign for a country just establishing democratic norms, and it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.

From the outset, more conservative regimes saw the move as constitutionally permissible; more leftist regimes immediately saw a soft coup.

So Mercosur, bolstered by center-left Brazil and Argentina (each of which has a special distaste for extraconstitutional regime change) immediate moved to suspend Paraguay through at least next April’s presidential election.  In a further slap, Mercosur has fast-tracked the accession of Venezuela, whose president Hugo Chavez has been a particularly vocal supporter of Lugo, into the trading bloc.

Meanwhile, the OAS has taken a more tentative approach — its secretary-general José Miguel Insulza has said a suspension would only cause more difficulty for ParaguayContinue reading As Lugo fades, Paraguay enters diplomatic purgatory

Lugo’s impeachment in Paraguay a setback for the South American left

Paraguay is an oft-forgotten, landlocked country in the heart of South America with just 6.5 million people and one of the lowest GDP per capita on the continent (it’s half of Peru’s and just one-third of Venezuela’s), and it has only a very shaky foundation in democratic institutions. 

So it was with some alarm on Friday that its president Fernando Lugo was impeached and removed from office four years into his term on the basis of “poor performance” after a botched police raid resulted in 17 deaths last week:

Speaking on national television on Thursday, Mr Lugo said he would not resign, but “face the consequences” of the trial. He accused his opponents of carrying out an “express coup d’etat”.

But the Paraguayan chamber of deputies voted rapidly and overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment, and the Paraguayan senate followed with a move to remove Lugo on Friday.

Lugo’s vice president, Federico Franco, has now assumed the presidency and has announced he will serve out the rest of Lugo’s term until the April 2013 presidential election, although Mercosur has not recognized Franco’s takeover and other Latin American leaders have rejected Lugo’s impeachment as a coup d’etat.  The United States has urged caution, but the key question for Paraguay is whether the Organization of American States and the Union of South American Nations will take a united front against the impeachment — and Franco is taking efforts to keep the impeachment from turning into an international crisis.

Lugo’s removal gained nearly unanimous support in the Paraguayan Congress, from not only the opposition Partido Colorado, but also from the center-right Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (the “Authentic Liberal Radical Party” or PLRA) of Lugo’s vice president, a one-time ally.  Nonetheless, both Dionisio Borda, the finance minister, and Jorge Corvalán, the president of Paraguay’s central bank resigned on Saturday.

Given that the most vociferous criticism of the impeachment is coming from countries with more leftist governments, including Ecuador, Argentina and the Dominican Republic, it seems more likely that Latin American officials will split on the basis of ideological differences — more leftist officials will be much more likely to view the impeachment as a coup and more right-wing officials will view the impeachment as legitimate.

Lugo ran for election four years ago chiefly on a platform of redistributing land to Paraguayan peasants, so it is ironic that his impeachment stems directly from a botched eviction of landless tenants by police that resulted in 17 deaths.

His election in April 2008 sent shockwaves throughout Latin America and in a country that has often seemed trapped in a 19th century political dynamic  — the name of the Colorado Party, the ruling party of strongman Alfredo Stroessner, who governed the country from 1954 to 1989, even harkens back to the colorado-blanco dynamic of the dramatic 19th century fights between rural, conservative landowners and urban, liberal reformers that split much of Latin America throughout the region’s first century of post-colonial independence.  The Colorado party, still adjusting to Paraguay’s nascent democracy, had been in power for 61 years in 2008 when Lugo won the presidential election. Continue reading Lugo’s impeachment in Paraguay a setback for the South American left