Santiago Peña of the right-wing National Republican Association-Colorado Party (ANR-PC) alliance assumed the presidency of Paraguay on August 15 amid protests demanding pro-working class reforms and justice. (Photo: PCP/Twitter)
Conservative economist Santiago Peña of the right-wing National Republican Association-Colorado Party (ANR-PC) alliance assumed the presidency of Paraguay on August 15 for the period 2023-2028. As Peña was sworn in as the new president before the Congress, trade unions, social organizations and progressive political parties mobilized in the streets of the capital Asunción demanding pro-working class reforms.
During his inauguration speech, 44-year-old Peña called on the people who voted for him, those who didn’t vote for him and the opposition leaders to contribute to “building consensus for the common good.” He thanked his party and the party’s president and former president Horacio Cartes for the support given despite “differences.”
Peña vowed to work to build an “inclusive, equitable, and united society, where every citizen has the opportunity to prosper.” He said that his government would promote “participatory governance, involving citizens in decision-making and creating policies that respond to their needs.” He explained that the government would adopt a “territorial approach in public policies to promote equitable and sustainable development throughout the country.” He also stated that they would promote the “decentralization of public services, bringing them closer to the communities and strengthening local management.” He assured that he would establish “bridges for dialogue and cooperation with all political and social sectors to reach agreements that benefit the country.”
As the new president made all these promises, hundreds of citizens rejected the neoliberal economic policies promoted and implemented by the Colorado Party during the past eight decades of its government. They condemned the growing issues of drug trafficking, corruption, and inflation as well as attacks on workers’ rights in the country.
The Accion Sindical Clasista movement warned that Peña, like his mentor Horacio Cartes (2013-2018) whose rule was tainted by corruption allegations and marked by the strengthening of neoliberalism, would likely continue to respond to the interests of the oligarchies in the country. The movement assured however, that the workers would continue to struggle tirelessly. “Since we were born as an organization, we have accompanied complaints of exploitation, humiliation, and injustices against workers. We are sure that the Peña government will continue to protect the employers. We don’t have many options other than fighting,” said the movement.
Under the banner of “The Other August 15,” hundreds of people gathered at the Plaza Italia and marched through the main streets demanding fair wages, respect for workers rights, and dignified retirement. They also demanded improvements in the public healthcare, education and food systems to guarantee equal opportunities.
Senator Esperanza Martínez from the Guasú Front explained that social organizations took to the streets to alert the Peña government that they are ready to fight for their rights. “We are going to defend ourselves from the abusive visions of this government. We already have seen a takeover of the three branches of government; a policy of privatization of healthcare is coming; the reduction of social ministries is coming and the plan to use that money to pay the public debt is there,” said the legislator.
Protesters also held banners demanding justice and safe return of 14-year-old Carmen Elizabeth Oviedo Villalba, also known as Lichita, who was illegally detained by the Joint Task Force (FTC) of the Paraguayan army on November 30, 2020, in the forest region of the Yby Yaú city. Lichita has disappeared since then
For his part, the general secretary of the Paraguayan Communist Party (PCP), Najeeb Amado, emphasized that “the rights of workers of this country have been violated” and for this reason, “the unity of all sectors is important to turn the situation around.”
Likewise, the PCP assured that “this government of Cartist/Stronist continuity will face combative people in the streets,” and that “the combativity and rebelliousness of the working youth will be the engine of this period of old resistances, new struggles and conquests for a country for the working class.”