Chilling Vision of Corporate Coups d’Etat

When corporations have politicians working for them: coup d’état in favour of Monsanto

The other day I heard a financial analyst talking about ‘corporates’ and ‘sovereigns’, by which he meant corporations and countries. He spoke as if they were merely different branches of the same economic tree, interchangeable as far as investors are concerned. The power of ‘corporates’ is chilling but too rarely questioned. The story of the coup d’état in Paraguay on June 22nd 2012 should do more than alarm us.

The story is about Paraguay, cotton and Monsanto, the US-based agrochemical and biotechnology corporation, noted for herbicides and genetically modified (GM) seeds.

Paraguay is a landlocked county in South America, with Argentina to the south, Bolivia to the north-west and Brazil to the north-east. Agricultural products are the main exports, chiefly soyabeans, cotton, meat and edible oils.[1] Between 1954 and 1989 the government was in the hands of General Alfredo Stroessner, a repressive dictator. Elections in 1993 resulted in a right-oriented government of the ANR-PC, Asociacion Nacional Republicana-Partido Colorado, which continued in power until 2008, when Fernando Lugo of the APC, Alianza Patriótica por el Cambio (Patriotic Alliance for Change) was elected to the presidency. The APC is more progressive than the ANR-PC, which in Paraguayan terms means a degree of willingness to listen to the majority of inhabitants, who are very poor.

Fernando Lugo was far too progressive for Monsanto and the dominant landowners. His government would not go along with Monsanto’s wish to introduce GM cotton, and what is more, was considering whether to give some land rights to former small farmers, who had been cleared out of the way by estate owners as they sought to maximize the production of soyabeans, cotton, meat and edible oils for export. The official block to GM cotton may have taken Monsanto by surprise, because its GM soyabeans have spread all over the country since receiving Paraguayan government approval back in 2004.

A great deal happened in June, detailed by Idilio Méndez Grimaldi in an article on www.aporrea.org, dated June 23rd, called ‘Monsanto golpea en Paraguay: los muertos de Curuguaty y el juicio politico a Lugo’ (Monsanto’s coup in Paraguay: the dead of Curuguaty and the impeachment of Lugo). The article tells us that back on October 21st 2011 the Minister of Agriculture, Enzo Cardozo, wanted to allow a GM cotton from Monsanto, Bollgard BT, to be sown in Paraguay. There was, however, dissent within the government, and Miguel Lovera, director of SENAVE, Servicio Nacional de Calidad y Sanidad Vegetal y de Semillas (National Service for Plant and Seed Quality and Health) refused to add Bollgard BT to the register of seeds approved for commercial use, because he needed but did not have permission from both the Health Minister, Esperanza Martinez, and the Environment Secretary, Oscar Rivas.

The Paraguayan equivalent of the Confederation of British Industry, the UGP, Union de Gremios de Producción (Union of Production Organisations) mounted campaigns against Miguel Lovera, and also against Esperanza Martinez and Oscar Rivas, to try and force them aside or to make them approve Bollgard BT.

It all came to a head in June. On Thursday 7th, when the UK was recovering from the Jubilee celebrations, the Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color carried an exposé in which a SENAVE employee, Silvia Martinez, accused director Miguel Lovera of corruption and nepotism. Silvia was the wife of one Roberto Cáceres, who represents agrochemical and agribusiness companies, according to Idilio Méndez Grimaldi in his subsequent account of events.

The next day, Friday June 8th, ABC Color published a feature listing 12 reasons why Lovera should be dismissed. The state vice-president Federico Franco, and his political colleague Enzo Cardozo – the Minister of Agriculture who was so keen to have Bollgard BT approved – backed the campaign to oust Miguel Lovera.

A week later, Friday June 15th, at the annual trade fair organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, minister Cardozo  told the press that a group of investors from India’s agrochemical industry had just cancelled a project in Paraguay because of the (alleged) corruption in SENAVE. The identities of the investors were not divulged.

The same day, at Curuguaty near the Brazilian border, 240 kilometres from the Paraguayan capital Asunción, a Special Operations police unit, trained in Colombia, came to evict ‘squatters’ from a 70,000-hectare estate owned by Blas Riquelme, a former president of ANR-PC and owner of multiple businesses including supermarkets. The ‘squatters’ maintain that Riquelme obtained the land illegally and that it should be theirs.

It was to prove a deadly eviction. The Special Ops unit was ambushed by snipers and six police were killed. One of them was Erven Lovera, the brother of Lt-Col Alcides Lovera, president Lugo’s security chief. The police opened fire and shot dead 11 of the squatters. They injured over 50 more, perhaps as many as 80.

There are suspicions that the ambush was pre-planned by persons determined to get rid of both SENAVE’s Miguel Lovera and president Lugo. If this was the plan, it worked.

President Lugo was already weak and had attracted widespread criticism. A former bishop, he fathered at least two illegitimate children, and since his election in 2008 had made 74 overseas trips, the latest taking the last two weeks of May, when he went to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and India to try and drum up export business for Paraguay which, he would say, is a nation of six million with the capacity to feed 60 million.[2] This agricultural potential explains the close interest in the country taken by Monsanto and other global agribusiness and agro-technology companies.

The Paraguayan Senate acted quickly to impeach president Lugo. On Friday June 22nd, vice-president Federico Franco, of the centre right PLRA, Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico, was elevated to the presidency. Five days later, on June 27th, the announcement came that Miguel Lovera had been sacked. [3]

Monsanto barrier dismantled!

This is a short summary of the events, in which the UGP, the Paraguayan CBI, is thoroughly mixed up, and so is the Zuccolillo Group, publisher of ABC Color and with many other business interests, including property development, shopping centres and, importantly, partnership in Paraguay with the agribusiness giant Cargill. The boss of the Zuccolillo Group is Aldo Zuccolillo, a vice-chair of the press freedom committee of the Miami-based Interamerican Press Association.

June 2012 in Paraguay, with its black propaganda, dead bodies, and removal of the elected president, eases the way for Monsanto to reinforce its dominance in seed sales, and is a harsh blow for the rural poor, for whom Lugo was the first president to show them concern.

Corporates and sovereigns, forming unholy alliances to enrich the elites in each.


[1] Whitaker’s Almanack 2011, p.968.

[2] Several news items on the South Atlantic news agency MercoPress, en.mercopress.com, report on Lugo’s career.

[3] ‘Federico Franco mantiene a la ministra de la mujer’, UPI Español, espanol.upi.com.

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One Comment on “Chilling Vision of Corporate Coups d’Etat”

  1. […] owned by corporations, and corporations’ power is hijacking governments around the world. The ‘Monsanto coup’ in Paraguay last month is a current […]


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