Saturday, April 1, 2017

#BurnBabyBurn: protesters torch Paraguay's capitol building

The issue is one that has come up time and again in Latin America: the re-election of public officials, especially the President. Now it is Paraguay's turn.

Every flame breaks another chain so burn, baby burn.
From the 1950s until 1992, that country was governed by General Alfredo Stroessner. He took power in a coup and through spurious elections that the OAS never had a problem with, stayed in power for 35 years. 

In 2008, as part of the Latin American "pink tide," Fernando Lugo, a somewhat progressive former Catholic Bishop, was elected president, only to be overthrown by a 2012 parliamentary coup. He was literally charged, impeached, convicted and thrown out of office in less than 24 hours.

Diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks showed right-wingers had been consulting with the U.S. embassy for years about this plot. A 2009 dispatch from the embassy to Foggy Bottom foretold what actually happened as a "dream scenario" of the right:
Find a 'cause celebre' to champion so as to change the current political equation, break the political deadlock in Congress, impeach Lugo and regain ... political relevance.... [The] dream scenario involves legally impeaching Lugo, even if on spurious grounds.
Horacio Corales, of the "Colorados," Stroessner's former party, took over the presidency in 2013 following elections held to legitimize the coup. But now he wants to be re-elected to another five year term so he needs to eliminate the constitutional ban adopted after Stroessner was driven from power.

A clandestine Senate session this week that narrowly okayed the amendment detonated an explosion of rage. And when government forces attacked the crowds, the people seized the capitol building and torched it. 

Complicating the picture, at least as seen from as far away as I am, is that apparently the Lugo supporters backed the amendment so he can run again while some right-wing opponents joined progressives in these protest that wound up offering up in a sacrificial rite the local temple of what has to be biggest con of all times, an American, French, or British style parliament. 

More than half a century ago, Fred Stanton, a revolutionary socialist and singer-songwriter penned a little ditty he titled "Burn, baby burn," after a slogan the mainstream press attributed to participants in the Black urban rebellions of those days.
Several more verses follow this first one in the PDF file.
I don't think it has ever been recorded (except in my memory and perhaps that of a few others who heard it in those tumultuous days) but it was published
(under his pen name) in Broadside magazine, which promoted and spread the protest song movement. And it is now on the Internet.

The verse that sums it all up is the last one that I've copy pasted on the left, but of course, you have to add the chorus:

Burn, baby, burn Burn, baby, burn
Every flame breaks another chain So burn, baby burn

Even back then, a lot of my political associates in the Young Socialist Alliance thought I was an ultraleft maniac because of my instinctive reaction to explosions of rage like this. "Hassan the Assassin" some jokingly called me in the Berkeley YSA. (The YSA was the youth group associated with the Socialist Workers Party. I left the SWP long ago; I believe Fred is still a member).

And I don't even want to think about what these or many other comrades would think of me today: with half a century of experience, I should have learned the wisdom of correct, patient tactics at the service of a long-term strategy. And I think that mostly I have, but not when it comes to cases like this. I would plagiarize Wordsworth to explain myself only changing a word or two:

My heart leaps up when I behold
   Flames that climb into the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
   Or let me die!
It would have to be Wordsworth because his verses about the years of the French Revolution capture my own sentiment about the the privilege of growing up in the 1960s: "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!"

And I will not turn my back on the 60s, not the love and not the rage,

I think it is a good thing, a wonderful thing, for politicians to be reminded that if they game their "democratic" processes to defy popular sentiment, when the people finally get fed up with it, they have other ways of enforcing their will. #BurnBabyBurn

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