October 3, 2005

CHOOSE ME:

Paraguay and the United States: Improbable allies? (The Economist, October 2005)

Landlocked in South America's sweaty heart, Paraguay achieved independence in 1811 but waited a century and a half for its first visit by a head of state from outside Latin America, Charles de Gaulle, in 1964. So it is not surprising that visiting dignitaries cause a stir. Donald Rumsfeld, the United States' defence secretary, caused more than that when he dropped by in August. The media in nearby Argentina and Brazil saw the visit as a prelude to a permanent American base in Paraguay and the country's withdrawal from Mercosur, a four-country trade block dominated by Brazil. That prompted Brazil to lay down the law. “Paraguay must understand that the choice is between Mercosur and other possible partners,” declared Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister, last month.

In fact, the United States may not be planning to turn Paraguay, a country of just 6m, into a strategic appendage. But Mr Rumsfeld's 18-hour “courtesy call” was not merely that. Both countries see in each other a potential partner in managing regional worries.

For Paraguay, the main worry is Mercosur, and Brazil in particular. Although trade within Mercosur is supposed to be free, Paraguay complains that its neighbours strangle its exports in red tape. When convenient, Brazil ignores its Mercosur partners, for example by awarding China “market economy” status. Paraguay recognises Taiwan. Its Mercosur partners “proclaim integration but work very slowly toward achieving it,” laments Luis Alberto Castiglioni, the vice-president.

The 300,000 Brazilians who have settled in Paraguay own many of its most productive farms. But they speak Portuguese, prefer samba to local music, and their children attend Brazilian schools. One day, some Paraguayans fear, Brazil's flag will follow its culture. “Our sovereignty is threatened by Brazil, not by the United States,” says Carlos Mateo Balmelli, a senator from the opposition Liberals.


The key though is to lock Brazil into a relationship with the rest of the Axis of Good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 3, 2005 8:10 PM
Comments

--The 300,000 Brazilians who have settled in Paraguay own many of its most productive farms. But they speak Portuguese, prefer samba to local music, and their children attend Brazilian schools. One day, some Paraguayans fear, Brazil's flag will follow its culture. Our sovereignty is threatened by Brazil, not by the United States, says Carlos Mateo...."

I love it.

Paraguay sounds like Canuckistan South being pushed around by the EU and their fishing tempests.

Posted by: Sandy P at October 4, 2005 11:37 AM

When I lived there in '68-'70, "smuggling" was considered the major Paraguayan industry. And the talk of the fears of Brazilian Imperialism sounds about right, and not just for historic reasons, too. From what I've heard, the purpose of Mercosur is to expand Brazil's huge tariff barriers and protectionist policies to envelop its neighbors.

As for Brazilian farms, as a poor country, Paraguay always welcomed the establishment of "colonies" by Koreans, Germans, Mennonites (the ones I remember) to aid in the development of in its hinterlands, with the understanding that they'd become assimilated and patriotic Paraguayans, so it seems multi-culturalism isn't just a Western problem, either.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 4, 2005 11:44 AM
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