Socialist Argentina Helping People in Fascist Paraguay, by Andre Vltchek

Source: Telesur

One of the mightiest South American waterways – Rio Paraguay – is forming a national frontier between Argentina and Paraguay, two countries with similar cultures but diametrically different political systems.

Argentina is socialist, with free medical care and mostly free education. It has a progressive government. It sent its creditors, the World Bank and IMF, packing. It defaulted its debt, which was accumulated during the right-wing and pro-Western governments (Greece should study and follow Argentina’s model). It is increasingly close to other socialist Latin American countries, and also to non-Western powers like Russia and China.

Paraguay is a divided country. Even according to the BBC, fewer than 2 percent of the landowners are said to control 70 percent of its arable land. Other sources put the number to 75 percent and higher. Periodically, indigenous people demand their land back, and periodically, they get murdered.

Paraguay used to be the second poorest country in South America, right after Bolivia. But with enormous positive changes taking place in Bolivia during the last decade, Paraguay is now hitting the continent’s rock bottom.

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The elites backed by the U.S. had orchestrated a “constitutional coup” and ousted President Fernando Lugo, a progressive liberation theologian. It happened on June 22, 2012. The country’s short romance with socialism ended. Fascism returned. Paraguay fell back to its terrible historic role: once again it became a place that hosts the U.S. military bases, which promotes Western imperialism; a place from where all of South America is being spied on and manipulated.

Paraguay is, after all, where the deadly Operation Condor was launched from, and where the “Archives of Terror” were unveiled.

There is great misery all over Paraguay. Slums come right to the back walls of the monumental government buildings and banks. Hospitals are huge, but hopelessly inefficient and overcrowded. Broken roads and narrow sidewalks lead to malls and skyscrapers of Asuncion. There is hardly any public transportation. Floods are devastating entire communities.

Flooded slums in Asuncion
Flooded slums in Asuncion

Across Paraguay River, the small Argentinie town Clorinda is unpretentious, good-natured and endlessly touching. Its leafy streets are wide. Its main square had been converted into one huge playground, used by both children and adults. Sidewalks are wide and food is honest and good. It is very egalitarian, and much richer than that flashy and socially divided Paraguayan capital just across the river. It has lesser than 50,000 inhabitants, but it is fully self-sufficient.

Before I managed to cross the river on makeshift barge, few Paraguayan truck drivers were chasing me, stones in their hands, for my attempt to photograph the port. Apparently, almost next to the customs post, corruption, contraband, and black market have been thriving.

But in Clorinda, at the Argentinian side, it had been peaceful and quite.

My contact, Carlos, was waiting for me. My passport got stamped and we began driving toward the city. Just two minutes from the border post I spotted wooden structure, on the shore of a swamp.

“It is new school for Paraguayan children,” explained Carlos. “As you saw, parts of Asuncion are terribly inundated. Many poor people there lost their belongings, but also their ability to send children to school.”

I could not comprehend what he was saying:

“But how can this school help poor Paraguayan kids?”

“Well, the Paraguayan parents bring their children here, to Argentina. There are several schools that opened in the border area.”

“You mean, they are taking care of foreign children, here?”

In front of my eyes I still had those crushed refugees from Africa, who have been harassed in Italy, Malta and Greece; refugees from unfortunate countries that were destabilized and destroyed by the European Union and by the Empire. These people could count on no support, no sympathy! Their ships were towed away. Some were prevented to land. Those who managed to land, ended up in despicable camps.

And here, in Argentina…
Clorinda Centre - Made for people

Clorinda Centre – Made for people

“Children are children,” replied Carlos.

“Is it how most of Argentines see it?” I asked.

“How else?” he said, firmly.

Few minutes later we arrived at Clorinda’s public Hospital named Dr. Cruz Felipe Arnedo, the final destination of my short journey.

I went straight to the administration office, and was welcomed there by Sra. Miriam. I introduced myself and went straight to the point:

“Is it really true that hundreds of Paraguayan citizens are crossing the border to Argentina, in order to get free medical care in local hospitals?”

“Yes,” replied Sra. Miriam. “But I think there are thousands, not hundreds…”

“And they are all treated for free?”

“Of course.”

Earlier, I asked my friend in Asuncion, a doctor, what happens if the case is complicated? What if it is a cancer? Would Argentines still be willing to help? He explained, that smaller hospitals like that in Clorinda simply transfer seriously ill patients to much bigger and better equipped medical centers like those in Formosa. Free of charge? “Naturally,” I was told “They really mean it in Argentina … They are convinced that education and health are basic human rights.”

While I was talking to Sra. Miriam, a doctor came in, carrying steaming cup of coffee.

I was impressed, moved to tears. But I still could not believe what I was hearing:

“I understand that Argentina has free medical care … But people who cross the river are not Argentinian citizens, they are Paraguayans.”

The doctor looked at me with his mocking, tired but very kind eyes. He put one hand on my shoulder:

“To me, they are not Paraguayans or Argentines. They are people who feel pain, and who need my help. They are patients and I am their doctor.”

“And this is Latin American socialism,” I thought. “And to hell with anyone who tries to undermine it!”

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and Fighting Against Western Imperialism. Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western TerrorismPoint of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his websiteor his Twitter.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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8 thoughts on “Socialist Argentina Helping People in Fascist Paraguay, by Andre Vltchek”

  1. Sorry, but this article seems extremely biased to me. Living part time in Paraguay since 2008 and traveling in nearly all SA countries, we felt worst in Argentina. In no other country we were loaded with huge penalties for no ohter reason than to drive a Paraguay registered car (and obviously being two Gringos). Many of our impressions from Argentina were negative. Dirty people demanding “propina” (tip) for nothing, incredible damaged (nevertheless expensive) “taxi” cars from Clorinda (a faceless Chaco border Settlement) to the Paraguayan border. Nowhere in South America we had to pay bribes to policemen, except in Argentine. For us in German language now “Arschentina” (Arsch = ass). We heard much more of those stories from other expats, all regarding Argentina. Uruguay is quite the opposite, no police at all visible in the whole country, but also Brazil or Bolivia with many policemen were uncomplicated and free of bribe. The same goes to Paraguay, where we traveled thousands of km through the whole country. No problem in PY even when state of emergency caused by pretended “leftist” EPP Killers, where police and military indeed checked our documents, but let us drive peacefully. And concerning economics, PY is the SA country with the highest increase of GDP and the most stable currency.
    Despite this biased perception, some of the issues mentioned are true: US spybase PY, recently unneccesary governmental debts from US Banks (GS, MS) with following increased tax (but at a very low level).
    One of the reasons for wealth in PY are legions of Mennonites with extreme labour orientation and high welfare attitudes, especially in the Chaco region.
    The claimed slums behind governmental buildings in Asuncion are mostly history now, instead there is a nice “costanera” with sandy beaches to take a bath in the Rio Paraguay.
    There is one huge lack in PY: no real sightseeing spot. But abundant wildlife (especially birds) and still some primary forests. People are surprisingly friendly and open. We never felt in danger, not even in the “darkest” spots of Asuncion. Maybe we just were lucky.

    1. We did not see how your comments actually helped the conversation. Subjective views on places and locations does not change facts on the ground.

      No one claims any nation is perfect or that any government or people perfect. We are all on the same planet and we all are working for a better world. Andre sees the world as a place of suffering where good prevails still,and so it becomes reality. There is much more good than bad in the world and that is what is changing the tide.

  2. Up to now I was in the naive belief that the Saker fora would be something special, where different opinions could be found and discussed. But now I found out, that the censorship is the same as in the mainstream media, shame on you. Probably this comment also will not be published; at least my original contribution (which was censored and is not visible to the visitors) remains hidden.
    You wrote: “We did not see how your comments actually helped the conversation. Subjective views on places and locations does not change facts on the ground.” It seems that you have a perception of your readership as crude and premature und not being able to consider different angles of view. All facts on the ground are seen from different angles by different people. Only the Pope (an Argentinean who just visited Paraguay) knows the real truth.
    I will forward our conversation to the Saker. I need your help for this. Unfortunately I did not store my original (censored) comment, so please send back a copy to me. Thanks!

    1. We do not publish comments that we feel degrade the conversation with little more than slur.

      Though, believe it or not, but your response has made this moderator think otherwise on this occasion. Your comments appear in full above.

      You still lay a charge against Andre of being “biased” with absolutely no credibility than an anecdotal view of your journey in South America.

      Please do try to understand what is being said here.

      Also, the Saker has ZERO control on this blog. We are editorially independent. So do not think that swayed the decision here.

  3. Thanks a lot to the moderator for publishing my original contribution in full length. I never wanted to insult or offend Andre. The German translation of “biased” is far from insulting, it is just a criticism that someone seems to have a kind of coloured sunglasses. You cannot call Paraguay “fascist”. I know very well the definition of fascism, and Andre should know it, too. I really don’t want to defend the mostly corrupt politicians of Paraguay; they are creeping deep into the US bowel, where they meet the Ukrainian and Polish politicians (and many others). But as an individual (maybe especially coming from Europe), living in Paraguay does not differ much from living in Argentina or in Chile. PY is one of the few countries (like Russia), that allows its citizens to be armed, at least at home. Where else do you have this freedom? Hasn’t this freedom helped saving DPR and LPR? Most other governments are extremely afraid of armed citizens.

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