Paraguay: presidential elections with signs of deeper polarization

The general elections left much to talk about and analyze. It allows us revolutionaries to confirm some hypotheses that at least from Alternativa Socialista we had drawn up. At the same time, it allows us to adjust some variables that reflect the emergence of new actors, polarization and a panorama of greater tensions for what is to come.

By Nicolás Germanier and Juan Pablo Benítez, Alternativa Socialista (ISL-Paraguay) leadership.

The victory of Santiago Peña and Cartes, generated a moral collapse in the main bourgeois opposition of the country: that is to say, the train of the so-called Concertación led by the liberals and which took reformism as its last subordinate wagon: Maoism, Stalinism and even with the call to “critically” vote the PT, the Paraguayan section of the LIT. Naturally, at the end of the day, the moral collapse hit hard: “5 more years of misery and who knows how much it will last”, “on our way to hell”, “this was the best election of the ANR”. Among so many dark scenarios, only the militancy of Alternativa Socialista was protected against any of them and remained to a certain extent, expectant and above all of them without demoralization. We believe that this is due to the non-electoralist orientation of our analysis in this specific situation due to the revolutionary Marxist character that we have in general to interpret what is happening. This allowed us not to join the train that derailed long before these elections were defined. We hope our analysis will be a contribution to hold our heads high and that it will be useful to rebuild the revolutionary left that is clearly missing in our country.

Let’s start with the numbers that the general voting showes placing the 5 most voted of the 13 presidential candidates who were competing and a comparison with 2018, the previous presidential election:

Elections 2018Elections 2023
Amount of enabled voters: 4.269.816Amount of enabled voters: 4.801.816
New enabled voters: 900.000New enabled voters: 541.000
Voters that participated: 2.595.465Voters that participated: 3.021.180
Mario Abdo (ANR): 1.206.067 votes.Santiago Peña (Horacio Cartes) ANR: 1.291 votes.
Efrain, Leo Rubín, liberals: 1.115.000 votes.Efrain Núñez (Liberals/Concertación): 830.000 votes
Green Party: 80.000 votes.Paraguayo Cubas: 692.000 votes.
No.Ecludis Acevedo: 41.000 votes.
Blank ballots: 34.000.Blank ballots: 67.000.

What does the legislative composition of both chambers look like?

In the Senate and regarding Deputies the ANR achieved its own majority. In the Senate progressivism represented by Frente Guasu lost 5 benches and was displaced by Cruzada Nacional (Cubas). The two candidates of the Frente Guasu barely got in in both chambers.

What these numbers tell us is that the ANR did not grow in votes, it was only maintained thanks to its structure throughout the country and the high level of control of the state apparatus, including the TSJE.

What did grow and in a significant way is the anti- ANR vote, which became a clear majority for the first time since Lugo’s victory in 2008, totaling 1,563,000 votes, measures that show a total repudiation towards the ANR and the traditional parties, as well as the blank ballots, which could be included in the previous category. The “angry vote” channeled by Cubas is the most remarkable feature of this process.

The debacle of the “liberal-progressive” opposition: the failure of the “lesser evil” of the Stalinist Left

Another main element we draw from these elections is the total collapse of the liberal-progressive opposition to which the entire Stalinist left was tied: it is of great importance as a conclusion for the left vanguard, especially the young one in Paraguay.

It is not that it was just another “election”, where the “ANR” once again “won with fraud”: here there was a big, important, angry vote which found its channel in Payo Cubas. Evidently there was a search for a different alternative to the traditional partidocracy, and the assembly of the CP and Maoism as “last wagons” of a traditional liberal-bourgeois candidacy, failed miserably.

The liberal-progressive front collapsed and in that element lies the opportunity for a whole sector of activism that accompanied that experience to rethink a new path based on self-criticism and thus add to the regroupment of a truly anti-capitalist, socialist and revolutionary left.

Why did the orientation of the CP and Maoism on political unity with the bourgeois opposition fail?

We have to draw important conclusions: this collapse was centrally due to having surrendered years of struggle and accumulation to the formulas of conciliation with the “progressive” bourgeoisie by giving in programmatically since a program to break with the capitalist and semicolonial model of Paraguay was not raised. Broad swathes of the masses are seeking and are willing to fight with their lives for a program that ensures such basic rights as land for those who work for it, health, education and a future.

The responsibility for this political fiasco, which demoralizes valuable activists, falls on the leaderships of the organizations that claim to be “Marxist”. We call on the rank and file to break the siege of containment imposed by the frozen leaderships of the parliamentary bureaucracy of reformism or by the CCs of Stalinism or Maoism that manipulate to go after representatives of interests alien to the working class, the youth and the poor peasantry, such as Efraín Alegre. From Alternativa Socialista we once again urge the best of the youth militancy of these organizations to overcome these political leaderships and come together to put up a Left Front to fight for the government of those who have never governed our country: the workers, the youth and the poor peasants. Let us reorganize the forces of the revolutionary left in Paraguay, we are on time. The doors of our young organization are open for that orientation.

The only revolutionary way is anti-capitalism and the streets organized in struggle for socialism

The new emerging figure of the controversial Paraguayo Cubas is a phenomenon to be analyzed without falling into simplistic characterizations. The 692,000 votes are anti ANR and anti PLRA, that is to say votes against the traditional parties and is a clear expression of distrust towards the regime that is degraded in its institutions. That is the meaning of the search for this sector of the mass movement. Now then: this character is not a revolutionary leader, although he knows how to use and channel the masses’ desire for rebellion. Thus, for example, on May 1st there were important demonstrations of protests all over the country, called by Cubas in a confused manner. For their part, on that international day of the working class, as “always” the bureaucracies of the trade union confederations called for attendance at 6 o’clock in the morning so that practically nobody would attend. They are accomplices in leaving free space for this adventurer. They should be punished by their rank and file! The authentic mobilizations were called by this new referent and leader of the anti-ANR opposition, Paraguayo Cubas, who knew how to read the collapse of the Liberal-Stalinist-Maoist force and ignored the elections as a long-term electoral maneuver, achieving roadblocks, burning of tires and destruction of the colored advertising billboards. And although the waters have calmed down and the acceptance of the results is beginning to settle down, this shows a clear forecast of the period to come.

The Paraguay to come

We see the scenario over which Santiago Peña will have to govern: a country in crisis and where the social majority hates the ANR. That is why Peña’s speech in front of the ANR was calling for national unity, since the discontent is much more notorious than what was seen in Mario Abdo in 2018, who a year into his government already had 70% of popular rejection, then he went through the pandemic and it was during 2021 that the glorious March broke out demanding the “Out with everyone” and installed in the conscience of millions the “ANR never again”.

Payo Cubas is an eternal opportunist of colorado origin, professional adventurer of traditional party projects from the most rightist to the most lukewarm, conciliatory and populist possible; this is demonstrated by his political career jumping from the ANR to trying to take advantage of holes in the Frente Guasú at the time.

Payo is playing to get as much juice as possible from the collapse of the Liberals and their leftist vans, and at the same time, to remain as the main opponent for what is to come, which he may be able to achieve. We believe that the accusations of fraud are just a campaign, not a flag of real struggle.

Paraguayo Cubas will be our next enemy. In the debate of denying its pseudo-revolutionary or progressive character, and for that there are two approaches that we want to outline to have a more comprehensive analysis.

On the one hand, in the international arena, different characters continue to appear as outsiders of traditional politics or at least pretending not to be part of the same scheme. For example, the formula of the “anti-corruption” discourse in the style of Nayib Bukele in El Salvador and also the anti-political caste formula in the style of Milei in Argentina, adding to the unpredictable political program that Payo Cubas manages, which fluctuates between super right-wing measures and others that are aligned with the disappointment of the working people with the traditional parties and bourgeois institutions in decomposition. This “individual savior” feature makes this adventurous character a Bonapartist, reactionary and authoritarian danger, apart from supporting his fellow rapists and harassers like Mbururu (vox populi in Paraguay).

There was also a slight increase in the blank ballot, which will have to be counted in the definitive scrutiny. But, the truth is that not even by adding the blank ballots and the votes of Euclides Acevedo, an old social-democratic character, could a strong anti-ANR political pole be constituted. Acevedo, a candidacy supported even by leftist sectors of other countries, did not present any real alternative plan and his lackluster campaign marginalized him to a merely testimonial and purely electoral role.

Therefore, it has been demonstrated that the path followed for years by the Frente Guasú and the liberals is not the path for the class struggle and now it is clear that neither is it for the electoral terrain where they are supposed to be “stronger”. Without a clear anti-capitalist program, without transitional measures, without independence from the local bourgeoisie and the landowners who own the country, there is no way to build a real alternative.

Revolution is the only way

The only way to achieve the “ANR Never Again” is to strengthen the mobilization of all the sectors in struggle with a conscious organization as its leader. One that fights and prepares for the revolution and the frontal confrontation against the repressive forces. We cannot let Payo Cubas summon and call for such a confrontation and we limit ourselves to “voting rightfully”. It is time to draw conclusions: people are open to hearing proposals and showed that there are reserves of strength to support a political project that confronts traditional politics. They shouted it in the streets of Paraguay in their own way on May 1st after the elections. We must put an end to the lukewarm variants in the left: it is time to be revolutionaries, dreamers and very brave.

A favorable stage is opening for a determined left because of all the starting obstacles that the ANR has to govern. For that reason, Alternativa Socialista, Paraguayan section of the ISL, plays its part in contributing to be a factor that resists the hurricane winds of right-wing conciliation and to act as an axis of reorganization and revolution for the left of the country.

We insist once again: our doors are open for that task. There is a surplus of reformist right and left in Paraguay. It is time for more and better revolutionary left.