The bishop of democracy
Aug 7th 2008
From The Economist print edition
A welcome for another left-wing leader; but expect the pendulum to start swinging to the right
APART from featuring in a couple of novels by Graham Greene, Paraguay has rarely attracted the attention of outsiders. It is a poor, sweltering, landlocked tract of South America with only 6m people, many of Amerindian descent. But it enjoys a sad distinction. For the past 61 years it has been in the grip of the world’s longest-ruling party, the Colorados, first under the kleptocratic dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner and then under his only slightly less grasping civilian acolytes.
除了在Graham Greene的几本小说中出现之外，巴拉圭很少引起外人的注意。它是南美洲一个贫穷、炎热的内陆国家，仅有600万人口，其中许多是美洲印第安人后裔。但是它有着一个令人伤心的不同之处。过去61年里，它都受着这个世界上统治时间最长的政党Colorados的控制，首先是在Alfredo Stroessne将军的海盗式的独裁统治下，然后是在他稍微缓和点的文职助手们的控制下。
It is not surprising that it took a man who might have walked off the pages of a Greene novel to end Colorado misrule. Fernando Lugo, who takes office on August 15th, was at the time he won the presidential election in April still technically a Catholic bishop (the Vatican has since accepted his resignation). He is a bearded, sandal-wearing liberation theologian, a campaigner for the poor and for land reform (see article). He is also a political novice who heads a disparate coalition whose span extends from the centre to the hard left.
Mr Lugo takes his place in a cohort of left-wing leaders who have come to power in Latin America in the past few years. So expect much comment in the next few days to the effect that the region is moving irrevocably and uniformly towards socialism and away from the influence of-or if you prefer, domination by-the United States.
The reality is more complex. First, the centre-right still holds sway in some places, such as Mexico, Colombia and Peru. And, second, the differences between the region’s left-wing leaders are more important than the similarities. Although neither leader says so publicly, there is little in common between Hugo Chávez’s autocratic military socialism in Venezuela and the pragmatic social democracy of Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Mr Lugo’s brand of leftism might well be closer to Lula’s than to that of Mr Chávez, but he will be his own man.
现实要复杂得多。首先，中右翼仍在许多地方占据主导地位，比如墨西哥、哥伦比亚和秘鲁。其次，该地区左翼领导人之间的差异比他们的相似之处要重要得多。尽管没有领导人公开这么说，雨果•查韦斯在委内瑞拉实行的军事独裁社会主义和巴西的Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva实施的实用主义的社会民主制度之间没有什么共同之处。Lugo先生的左翼名声离Lula更近，而离查韦斯先生更远，但他是自由的，不受别人控制。
There are some common threads in the stories of how these left-wing leaders have come to power. They include widespread poverty, deep inequalities of income and the economic difficulties that the region suffered a decade ago (which, though partly due to external events, eroded faith in the centre-right leaders then in office). Yet the left would be mistaken in imagining that it has a permanent lease on power.
Kicking the bums out
That is because another factor behind the recent success of the Latin American left is the fresh vigour of democracy in a region where dictatorship was once common. Democracy cuts many ways politically: Latin American voters, like those elsewhere, will punish governments that disappoint.
The past few years of rapid economic growth have helped incumbent governments of all sorts. The next period looks tougher. To make matters worse for the incumbents of the left, the two issues now uppermost in Latin American minds are inflation and crime, which both tend to move votes to the right. That gives the centre-right an opportunity to regain ground-though the conservatives will need to arm themselves with credible policies both to reduce poverty and to promote equality of opportunity.
The political tide may turn in elections next year for president in Chile and for Congress in Argentina. So welcome Mr Lugo, because Paraguay desperately needs change and a democracy worth the name. But expect Latin America’s political pendulum to start swinging.