Paraguay leader embraces failed polcies of socialism

NY Times:

Fernando Lugo, “the bishop of the poor,” as he is known here, was sworn in Friday as president of Paraguay, promising to give land to the landless and to end entrenched corruption after six decades of one-party rule.

Despite his remarkable victory in April, the gray-bearded Mr. Lugo, a 57-year-old former Roman Catholic bishop, faces a challenging road in pursuing his agenda, knowing that the Colorado Party, which ruled Paraguay for 61 years, is still very much ingrained in politics here.

For 35 of those years, the party was dominated by one man, Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, a dictator blamed for many human rights atrocities. In the past five years it was represented by the departing president, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, who expanded an already bloated and inefficient government bureaucracy.

The election of Mr. Lugo, the ultimate outsider who spent 11 years as a priest living in the countryside working with peasant movements seeking land reform, was a dramatic break with the past for Paraguay, a landlocked country of six million that is hamstrung by inequality and rural poverty.

He was elected promising change on an ill-defined socialist platform and will now have to manage the soaring expectations of Paraguayans in what by law is a single five-year term.

Wearing a long-sleeve white shirt with no necktie or jacket, Mr. Lugo practically screamed his response on Friday while taking the oath to uphold the Constitution and Paraguay’s laws. “Yes, I swear!” he said to a raucous response.

In his 40-minute inauguration speech, he talked about the need to escape the legacy of decades of dictatorship that had “infiltrated” Paraguay’s culture. “Today marks the end of the elitist and secretive Paraguay, famous for its corruption,” Mr. Lugo told a huge crowd gathered outside Paraguay’s Congress.

He later added: “The change is not just an election question. The change in Paraguay is a cultural challenge, perhaps the most important in its history.”

His political skills still mostly untested, Mr. Lugo now faces the challenge of distinguishing his socialist goals from those of other populist leaders who have taken power in South America in recent years.

Some political analysts consider Mr. Lugo part of a wave of anti-free-market leftists that includes Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia, who have nationalized industries and redistributed wealth to the poor masses.

“This is a candidate that won the elections with almost no government program,” said José María Costa, a political columnist for Última Hora, a newspaper here. “It isn’t clear what his positions will be.”

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Anyone who embraces socialism is historically ignorant and lacks a sense of basic economics. If people are poor it is not because they lack land. You can give a poor person a thousand acres and he will still be a poor person who will continue to do the things that made him poor to begin with and the land will be less productive. Zimbabwe has proven this with its land reform which has turned it from a breadbasket to a basket case.

Chavez has not made Venezuela more productive as he squanders its oil windfall on socialism. The fact is that the command economy just does not work. It has been a failure everywhere it has been tried. Taking from the productive and giving to the unproductive is a recipe for failure on a spectacular level.

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