June 28, 2008

Paraguay President-Elect Says 21st Century Socialism “Pragmatic”

Text of report by prominent Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color website on 19 June

[Interview with Paraguayan President-elect Fernando Lugo by special correspondent to Venezuela Nancy Espinola on 17 June 2008: "Lugo to demand results in 100 days"]

Venezuela: [Paraguayan President-elect] Fernando Lugo reasserts that Paraguay will not copy from any ideological model during his administration. He has said that his ministers will have 100 days before he assesses the results. Lugo finishes touring Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela today [ 19 June]. In an interview granted to this special correspondent,he justified the appointment of politicians in ministerial posts and said that technicians will be appointed as deputy ministers to advise their ministers.

[ABC Digital] You started a tour to countries known for their leftist ideology last Saturday [ 14 June]. Does this mean that you will follow the same path?

[Lugo] We take two things into account [to plan] these visits: first, the official invitation; and second, the order in which we were congratulated. The countries we visited are in the first place in this region. On the very night of our victory [ 20 April], the first country to congratulate me was the United States. In second place came: [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez and [Ecuadoran President Rafael] Correa, and [Bolivian President] Evo [Morales] - who was flying to the United States - phoned, congratulated me, and the invitation was left open.

[ABC Digital] But it turns out that these are countries with leftist governments with which you identified during your campaign.

[Lugo] In Paraguay, the word left has become controversial. I did not mention the word left yesterday (Monday [16 June]), not even once, but the headline in an Asuncion newspaper says that I agree with it and will fight together with leftist governments. I have repeatedly said during my campaign that if we understand leftwing in its original sense, it means that people originate the real change. If this is so, then we will certainly go with those from the left. But if the leftwing identifies with violent groups, something we are not, then we will not support it. This is why we talk about change. Change is what Paraguayans demand the most. Throughout our campaign we have also repeated several times that Paraguay should follow its own political process, different from those of the countries in the region and the continent. Although we cannot deny that we agree on poverty, corruption, and the consolidation of democracy, it is the type of democracy that we all need. It is in this sense that Paraguay joins this trend because there is a change in its political orientation after more than 60 years.

[ABC Digital] When Correa talked about you in Ecuador he mentioned Latin America's turn to 21st century socialism.

[Lugo] I never uttered those words either. This is an issue for a debate. We should not be afraid of debate, afraid of discussion either. Paraguay needs way too much training in dialogue, in the discussion on a number of issues. I believe this is something that will help us consolidate democracy.

[ABC Digital] But you adhere to the 21st century socialism that they suggest.

[Lugo] I want to know whether we are certain of what we mean by "21st century socialism." There is nothing in common between 21st century socialism and 19th century socialism. Today's is not a dogmatic socialism where ideology predominates, but a pragmatic socialism that takes into account the great demands of the most unprotected and forgotten sectors of society. In other words, it seeks social equity, the social justice that the church's social doctrine also defends. This issue lacks a complete definition. It is a topic under discussion, something that has to be elaborated upon, something that has to be built, and something that each country has to see. Socialism is equity, socialism is social justice, and socialism is the quest for equal opportunities.

[ABC Digital] What issues did you discuss with Bolivian President Evo Morales?

[Lugo] There were two meetings: one with the president and another with the vice president. First of all, we talked about Paraguay purchasing Bolivian natural gas. As we all know, Argentina currently buys Bolivian gas and re-sells it to Paraguay. They assured us that Bolivia has enough gas to supply the whole region - whether it be for Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay - for a long time. This was our first topic. They are working on technological processes to exploit gas and to have a distribution system. They said that it would probably be more practical to work on some kind of virtual gas distribution. By virtual distribution they simply mean to take gas to Paraguay in big trucks to redistribute it. It would probably be the fastest way. The other thing to do would be to build a gas pipeline or a gas transmission system for our country but that would be much slower and would take some time to negotiate.

[ABC Digital] But does this possibility exist?

[Lugo] There is a great possibility. Bolivia expressed its will, its wish for this gas redistribution to take place without intermediaries, because this does not always benefit those at the ultimate destination: Paraguay in this case.

[ABC Digital] You have always said that you want to be closer to Bolivia. Did you discuss any other bilateral issue besides gas?

[Lugo] They (Bolivia) have several projects for Paraguay. They talked about a bi-national city in Chaco. This is an old idea that has been discussed: to build a bi-national city on the border between the Paraguayan and Bolivian Chaco. It could be a city where free transit - not only of products, but also of people - could be allowed. We are talking about the Infante Rivarola region. The topic has been under discussion for several years and I have to admit that I was not aware of it.

[ABC Digital] What brought you to Ecuador besides your visit to Guaranda and Echandia? What can Paraguay receive from Ecuador?

[Lugo] We seek a rapprochement because Paraguay and Ecuador see each other as very distant countries many times. I believe that we could attain this rapprochement when UNASUR [Union of South American Nations] becomes a reality.

[ABC Digital] Before starting this tour, you announced your cabinet, which several sectors criticized and which elicited scepticism because you appointed politicians instead of technicians who know the ministries' needs. What can you say about this?

[Lugo] I think that government is a political thing and that it is very difficult for a technician to be a good manager. I believe that managers should head the ministries. But there are deputy ministries and [I] will appoint technicians there. Technicians will be there to support the politicians' administrative direction. It will be the big challenge: for politicians to learn how to give advice. We will demand results and they will stem from the technical orientation that deputy ministers will give at each ministry.

[ABC Digital] How long will your ministers have to begin showingresults?

[Lugo] There is always a 100-day term. We will see how it goes after that. Citizens remain on the alert and will probably demand real changes that can be implemented in our country.

Originally published by ABC Color website, Asuncion, in Spanish 19 Jun 08.

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