Immunity

I usually refrain from talking about politics, but there are exceptions, and I think this is one of them. Some days ago, our Congress voted to revoke the immunity granted to U.S. troops performing humanitarian and technical assistance duties in Paraguay. Due to this circumstance, Paraguayan Army General (Ret.) Juan Antonio Pozzo Moreno (last names italicized) wrote an opinion piece in the Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color. I think this article is worth sharing, so I took the liberty to translate it in full for your benefit. My translation was quick and dirty; so please forgive any grammar or spelling mistakes.

In the most crucial moments of our history, the United States of America have shown with concrete actions their uncompromising support to the Paraguayan cause.

After the end of the Great War (1865–1870) Argentina, still not satisfied, kept claiming the better part of our Occidental Region (or Paraguayan Chaco) even despite all the territories she already took by force. Thanks to the timely intervention of the American president Rutherford B. Hayes, such a destitution never happened, and the Occidental Region is still part of our national territory.

While the Chaco War (1932-1935) raged on, Mr. Huey Pierce Long, an U.S. Senator from Louisiana, accused the Standard Oil of promoting the war by using Bolivia as a proxy against Paraguay. This astounding claim made against the very interests of the private sector of Mr. Long’s own country, gave great support to the legitimacy of the Paraguayan cause. And in 1938, after the war finished, when General José Félix Estigarribia served as Paraguayan ambassador to the U.S Government he was extended every courtesy, simpathy and support from the U.S. President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Anna Eleanor, so that General Estigarriba could perform his duties on behalf of the Paraguayan people in the best of conditions.

In june 1965, a Brazilian military expeditionary force set up shop on a twenty kilometers strip of the Guaira Falls area, part of a still untraced border. They said to members of the Border Tracing Commission from Paraguay that they had instructions of stationing at Port Renato. From the Brazilian viewpoint, the area wasn’t a zone under litigation and was totally inside Brazilian territory, to the point that the invaders retired road signs of Port Ypora and Port Phillip, on the Paraguayan side. No protest was accepted, claiming that the area was solemnly and definitely traced since 1874. Suddenly, the Guaira Falls became wholly inside the Brazilian territory manu militari; and therefore, all the platitudes about joint usage of the hydroelectric potential of the falls, as it was agreed by Presidents Goulart and Stroessner in Tres Marias, Matto Grosso State, Brazil, on January 19, 1964, became null and void.

We were thoroughly impotent and disappointed until 1966, where the Paraguayan government was able to get the then U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk to visit Asunción, if only for a few hours. During that brief but significant visit, an interview with the President took place. He was able to get Rusk interested on the issue, and extracted from him the promise to use his influence on the Brazilian government so that Brazilians would agree to sit on a negotiation table. It is highly likely that Rusk complied with that promise. (Enzo Debernardi, Apuntes para la Historia Política de Itaipú, pag. 63). Here lies the beginning of the Bi-National Itaipu Dam.

These examples show clearly that it is not enough for Paraguay to have legitimate property rights on its ancestral territory; it is also necessary the good friendship with the most powerful, most free, and most democratic country on earth so far.

when our larger neighbors confiscate our energy, put barriers to our foreign trade, and block our borders, they are unilaterally assuming a sort of de facto immunity whose effects can be seen right before our eyes: we are becoming more and more indigent, and les and less autonomous due to these causes. But, if our sovereign choice is to do so, we could grant immunity to soldiers from the United States for humanitarian and training tasks. And we do not deem appropriate the choice of other countries in the region of deny such immunity to any foreign military delegation.

Our national interest is above other interests, and this is part of the State policy, be it written or not, be it on the interests of the current government of not. The State policy will prevail over any other motive of the moment. The unfortunate choice taken with the nation who stood with us in the most difficult moments of our history is cause of grave concern; and the damage done is not so much to them, as is to Paraguay.

1 Comment

  1. Yes, we’ve been very nice in the past, I suppose. However, I don’t trust my own national government now, so I don’t see any problem with the small change in SOFA. We’ve accepted far worse from closer friends and said nothing, so this should make no difference.

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