Tag Archives: elections

Paraguay: Voting Away Freedom

Dictatorship and socio-economic bias have left Latin America home to some of the most corrupt nations in the world. Despite the continent’s recent relative success in economic development and securing regional trade agreements, 20th century political scourges still haunt many Latin American nations and Paraguay is no exception. For 35 years the nation endured a period in which popular peaceful dissent was met with the strong-arm of the military. Extralegal arrests and humans rights abuses were commonplace, and the housing of Nazi war criminals was an accepted practice. Paraguayan President Horatio Cartes’ renewed bid last week for re-election risks forfeiting the strides made towards real democracy over the past decade and may force the government back into political crisis.

While Paraguay’s political future remains in doubt, the facts surrounding the events of the 31 March are not in dispute. A majority group from the Senate and a hand-full of opposition senators met secretly to cast a majority vote to put into motion the first steps necessary to amend the Paraguayan constitution. The amendment would enable President Cartes to seek a second term in contravention of the single-term limit originally imposed to bolster Paraguay’s democratic processes. The proposition could further entrench Cartes’ Colorado Party that has enjoyed a majority in the legislature for 66 of the last 70 years.  After 35 years of despotic rule by dictator Alfredo Stroessner, the people of Paraguay were outraged by this legislative “coup d’etat” which sparked a protest at the Congressional building in Asunción.

In the melee that followed, a large portion of the building was gutted by fire and Rodrigo Quintana, the leader of the Liberal Party’s youth branch, had been shot dead. The details surrounding the incident are dubious, if not damning. Quintana was shot and killed in a violent police raid on the Liberal Party’s Youth Branch political headquarters. Security footage shows Quintana running away from the police.  After absorbing the deadly shot, an officer now identified as agent Gustavo Florentin approached and stepped on his body. Florentin has since been fired, along with the interior minister and Paraguay’s police commander, Crispulo Sotelo. While these dismissals direct blame towards the police for an inability to protect Congress and the public, the truth is this action by President Cartes was more preventative than altruistic. The calculated move precludes the possible violent reaction from an already agitated opposition but the risk of repeated violence endures until negotiations surrounding the amendment begin and until transparent government investigation of the police raid lifts the perception of impunity.

paraguay protest
Protestors peaceful after a previous night’s clashes left Congress in flames. Photo credit: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/04/paraguay-delays-election-vote-fresh-protests-170404053715500.html

A Vote Against Confidence

The Colorado party will likely argue that the vote was an inadvertent procedural violation of legislative etiquette. The opposition, along with the neighbors and trade partners, will view the covert legislative action as a power grab and a sure indicator that a corrupt polity is leading the small land-locked country backward in already uncertain economic times. A procedural violation can be dealt with within the democratic process, but a substantive and willful disregard for democratic governance spells a disastrous outcome.

To understand the level of risk being taken and the importance of the upcoming events, one needs only to look at who responds and what is said. Immediately after the violence, President Cartes downplayed the events in a letter to the people of Paraguay. In the third paragraph he writes: “Democracy is not conquered or defended with violence and you can be sure this government will continue to put its best effort into maintaining order in the republic…we must not allow a few barbarians to destroy the peace, tranquility and general well-being of the Paraguayan people.” His cavalier statement was met with disdain by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which quickly issued a pointed cautionary statement calling on political leaders “to avoid inciting violence and seek dialogue.” Although innocuous at first glance, the OHCHR statement avoids addressing the protestors or their actions and instead directly engages political leaders for “inciting violence”.

Paraguay protest
President Horacio Cartes tweeted this photo of a letter drafted in response to the protests of 31 March.

The Paraguayan Congress remains shut down while fire inspectors assess the damage. With a populace fighting widespread corruption of government officials, broken promises for rebuilt infrastructure, and frustration over lack of progress, even Asuncion’s own mayoral race was lost to the opposition party. Pope Francis of neighboring Argentina has called for immediate dialogue between opposing parties and President Cartes has heeded the advice, recommending to the lower house (presumably pro-amendment) to delay until the factions could discuss a way forward for the initiative. Opposition leader Efrain Alegre objected, pending a comprehensive investigation into the events surrounding Quintana’s death. The bipartisan call to delay the vote, originally scheduled for April 4th, further obscures the path forward and and tensions continue to rise. Further delay could unravel an uneasy peace maintained since Cartes assumed the Presidency in 2013.

Despite all evidence pointing to the impossibility of withdrawing the proposal and annulling the clandestine senate vote, there is still a chance that diplomacy and influence from neighboring countries could prevail. Since President Cartes’ election, Paraguay has experienced a surge in economic growth, making it one of South America’s fastest growing economies. This glimmer of hope would lead one to believe that the Colorado party should abandon the measure and seek a strong replacement for Cartes in 2018, restoring peace and trust in a nation still racked with fear of a return to despotism. The unfortunate truth is that the prospect of political gain and notoriety is alluring, and the risk to the political certainty of the country is high. The most promising course of action towards maintaining peace would be for Cartes to go against the majority, adhere to the current constitution, and eliminate himself as a candidate in the next election. This also appears the most unlikely scenario, as it would put an end to the right-wing preeminence that the Coloradan majority has enjoyed for decades.

Point of Inflection

In the absence of immediate and powerful diplomatic intervention or reversal by Congress, Paraguay faces a crossroads in which violence and freedom could become interdependent. The lower house will, if allowed to vote, pass the measure and send the constitutional amendment to the President for approval. If the recent violence following the initial vote is any clue to how the opposition will react, the ensuing fear and anger will undoubtedly thrust this tiny nation into a state of complete chaos. The ingredients exist for a violent implosion: a new police commander, a new interior minister, complete right-wing control without term limits, and a populace that has tasted freedom and democracy even if only for a brief period of time.

The upcoming weeks are crucial for determining the future prospect of peace and economic growth, both for Paraguay and for greater Latin America. Absent any legislative reversal on the initiative, the nation is on a collision course. The tragic and too-familiar possibility of a counter-revolutionary dictator rising from the ashes is greater now than at any point since Stroessner’s final days in 1989.

Major Kirby “Fuel” Sanford is a U.S. Air Force F-16 Instructor Pilot with combat experience in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is currently a master’s student in Buenos Aires, Argentina as part of the George and Carol Olmsted Scholar Program. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Government, or the Olmsted Foundation.

Onward and Upward: Looking Back on 2016

Here at The Affiliate Network, wrapping up 2016 means looking back on the year to examine the issues that mattered most to the world, keeping in mind our goal to inform our readers, foster debate about the substance of global issues, and promote the expertise of our Affiliates.

With such a tumultuous year, our Affiliates had plenty to discuss about the year’s events. We published 13 pieces by contributors from around the world, each Affiliate lending their own unique perspective on issues in international policy, security, and diplomacy.

Human Security vs. National Security

The conflicts of 2016 continue to highlight the human cost of war and underscore the increasingly uncomfortable reality that some governments prioritize national security over the safety and wellbeing of their constituents. The fight against Daesh is a good example, leaving a trail of civilian victims in its wake and begging the question how the rest of the world can help the helpless in this terrible conflict. The atrocities in Syria and Iraq – as well as the resultant flight of tens of thousands of refugees to Western Europe – will be increasingly difficult to ignore.

Unfortunately, discussions of immigration in Europe often segue into concerns over terrorism. The year was marked by a rise in terror attacks across the globe, particularly in Europe. The Brussels Airport bombing in particular represented a decision point for the western world in the fight against terror. Stemming from this event and growing questions of interregional border security, Europe grapples with the realities of an increasingly complex security situation. Rein Westra underscores the importance of adapting to this circumstance in Securing Trade and Transportation.

As Navisio Global’s CEO, Lino Miani, highlights in a series of articles on the fight against Daesh, humanitarian concerns and terrorism in Europe are only one aspect of the challenges in the Middle East. In Making Mosul Great Again and The Gate, Lino describes the unfathomable strategic importance of two individual cities in Syria and Iraq as Russia, Turkey, the United States, Iran, and NATO wage what some believe is a proxy struggle for influence in the Middle East.

Nationalism & Populism in 2016

The presidential election in the United States captured attention the world over, but it was not the only political transition in the news. In Let’s Change, Jon Nielsen wrote about the end of the Kirchners and Peronism in Argentina. Though Argentina may be ending its tradition of power transfer from husband to widow, Mugabe’s Heart explores how long-time president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, may be following the same playbook as the Kirchners.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down as a result of a failed campaign to keep the United Kingdom in the EU

Elections were not the only political events captivating audiences in 2016. In the United Kingdom, the referendum to leave the European Union, also known as “Brexit”, dominated headlines and may have inspired similar movements throughout Europe. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned after Italians rejected a constitutional change to the legislative balance of power, resulting in increased instability within the broader Eurozone. Elsewhere, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey narrowly avoided falling victim to his country’s latest military coup and has since consolidated power through purges and repression. President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil was impeached on corruption charges and President Nicholas Maduro of Venezuela is leading the resource-rich Bolivarian state into poverty and despair as he clings to power.

A Fractured Future?

The coming year will put to work the lofty campaign promises of those who won elections in the past year and focus our attention on additional ones the world over. France, Germany, Chile, South Korea and India will all hold presidential elections in 2017. Many of our readers are alarmed that trends of nationalism and populism will shape the character of the EU and the western world for the next several years but some of our Affiliates offer voices of calm in the storm. Portuguese diplomat and former United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative, Victor Angelo, offers a contrarian perspective into the implications of the historic Brexit referendum in The Sky is not Falling on the European Union. Victor Perez-Sañudo makes a similar case from a law enforcement perspective in With or Without the EU. Nick Avila then follows up with an intelligent debrief into what Brexit truly means for the European Union and the European identity in The Spark to Redefine “Europe”.

Brexit aside, multilateral institutions continue to play an important role in international relations and security. Jon Nielsen identified important implications to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in A New Weapon in the South Atlantic. On the Pacific side of the world, overlapping claims to the South China Sea caused intermittent escalation of tensions. Lino Miani examines the complex dynamic between ASEAN and China using lessons from the conflict in Ukraine in Beyond Crimea.

The concept of international cooperation is reliant on a level of shared values and understanding within the international system but fear and distrust seem to be on the rise and misunderstandings abound. The east-west cultural divide rests at the foundation of many security issues that predominate. In Tangled Conflict, Caleb Ling points out there are still many misconceptions about unrest and conflict in the Kingdom and Mike Kendall highlights the often dangerous rhetoric used to describe China’s rise to power in Social Media’s Chinese Boogeyman.

The Affiliate Network would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday, and we look forward to providing you the same quality of analysis in 2017 that we did in 2016. To our readers: a sincere “thank you” for all of your likes, shares and comments. The Affiliate Network team hope that like us, your holiday will be rich with constructive policy discussion at the family dinner table.

Patrick Parrish

Patrick Parrish is the Blogmaster of The Affiliate Network.  He is a U.S. Air Force Officer and Olmsted Scholar currently serving in Santiago, Chile.

Let’s Change: Argentine Voters Speak

In the first run-off election in the history of Argentina, the people’s voice demonstrated a drastic change for the future of Argentina and potentially the international community.

On 9 August 2015, all seemed certain that Frente Para La Victoria (FPV) candidate Daniel Scioli was destined to continue the current 12-year reign of the Peronist Party in Argentina. However, after the presidential primary elections were held the assurance that Argentina would continue marching under the same political party rapidly disintegrated with every passing day. As the days and months grew nearer to the presidential elections on 25 October 2015, the voice of the Argentine voters echoed one unified idea: change. The people of Argentina rallied behind a new hope and a new image of an improved future. The face of that future rested in the ideas, initiatives, and spirit of one man that led not only a young political party, but a significant social movement. That man was Mauricio Macri.

Top: Presidential Elections, 9 August 2015 Bottom: Presidential Elections, 25 October 2015
Top: Presidential Elections, 9 August 2015
Bottom: Presidential Elections, 25 October 2015

A Rising Opposition

Macri was the face of the political opposition, “Cambiemos,” (Lets Change) and rightfully so as he started the party just eight years ago when he ran for and was elected mayor of the City of Buenos Aires. Many would describe Macri as a well-connected businessman whose party was considered by so many as having a long shot to win the elections and lacking the political influence to govern the country. However, with every passing election in 2015, “Cambiemos” demonstrated the power of a socially connected and driven movement.

First, Horacio Larreta maintained the influence of the Cambiemos party within the city of Buenos Aires when he was elected mayor on 19 July 2015. A few months later during the primary elections, Maria Vidal defeated Anibel Fernandez (FPV) to claim the governorship of the Province of Buenos Aires. So as the first national run-off election approached on 22 November 2015, the strength and the support for the Cambiemos movement should not have come as a surprise to the FPV Party. However, even with the energy behind the Cambiemos Party and Macri’s continual climb, he was substantially aided by three significant flaws made by Scioli, the FPV Party, and the current government.

The Lead up to the Election

The first of those errors occurred immediately following the primary elections in August 2015 when the Province of Buenos Aires suffered a significant natural disaster. In the two weeks that followed the primary elections, the Province of Buenos Aires received more than 14 inches of rain causing water levels in some areas to raise more than 30 inches and forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 residents. The storm was one of the worst in history. As the storms started, then Governor of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli, departed for Italy to receive treatment on his prosthetic arm while leaving little to no plan to resolve the dire situation. So as Scioli remained in Italy, the floods continued to worsen and Macri remained as the strongest voice of support to aid those in need and provide a plan to assist with the situation.

The second event that continued to deflate Scioli’s campaign occurred on 5 October 2015 during the first-ever presidential debate. The debate consisted of all Presidential candidates except Scioli who elected not to participate. In the events leading up to the debate, Scioli stated that nothing good comes from a debate. A portion of that comment proved to be true, but the reality was that nothing good came for Scioli. As Scioli watched from a distance, the other five candidates used the forum to promote their ideas and highlight the flaws of the current frontrunner, Scioli, resulting in a significant drop in polls for Scioli the following week.

Results of the run-off election showed Macri defeated Scioli and signaled a change in Argentine Politics.
Results of the run-off election showed Macri defeated Scioli and signaled a change in Argentine Politics.

The third and most powerful of the issues that led to Scioli’s defeat was his relationship, or better said, lack of relationship, with the FPV Party and the current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. With every passing day after the primary elections, Scioli attempted to separate himself from the criticisms of the Kirchner government in order to obtain more of the votes needed to achieve 45% of the popular vote and avoid a runoff election. However, in doing so, he continued to lose the confidence and support of his party, so much so that President Kirchner would not publicly endorse her support for him as a candidate, an endorsement she did with many other FPV candidates. Furthermore, a week before the runoff election, President Kirchner affirmed that if Scioli was to lose, his decline was not a fault of her or the FPV Party, but that of the actions of Scioli. And as predicted by many, Scioli was defeated. Scioli started as a candidate who presented a grand idea for the future of Argentina, but ultimately lacked the plan, conformity, and energy to continue the reign of the FPV party.

Daniel Scioli’s collapse was fast and essentially unstoppable after the first initial polls in July when he garnered close to 50% of the vote with more than 10 presidential candidates. However, at the end of November when there were only two candidates, he was unable to achieve 50% of the vote to secure the presidency. Thus, Scioli fell to Macri in the runoff election by close to 4% of the popular.

The future of change now rests with President Macri.
The future of change now rests with President Macri.

Moving Forward

The defeat of the FPV Party and the victory of the Cambiemos Party signal a new future in the domestic and international relations of Argentina. As President Macri donned the presidential sash and grabbed hold of the presidential scepter, he takes office with grand ideas to improve the international relations of Argentina most notably with the United States and European leaders. Furthermore, President Macri vows to improve the security situation surrounding the increased drug trade in Argentina as well as improve critical infrastructure along major routes throughout the country. Lastly, among many issues that Macri strives to improve, he looks to take strong and swift action to improve the rapidly devaluating peso that has plagued the people of Argentina for the past two years.

Many of Macri’s right-wing ideas demonstrate a significant shift in the mentality and actions of the future government of Argentina. The question that remains is whether that shift will provide that “change” that Argentines voted for during the country’s first runoff election. Nevertheless, one can expect to see a different domestic and international Argentina in the years to come.


CPT Jonathan Nielsen is a U.S. Army Infantry Officer with combat experience in multiple countries in the Middle East and extensive multinational training experience with various NATO partners.  He is currently attending the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires as part of the George and Carol Olmsted Scholar Program. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Government, or the Olmsted Foundation.