ASUNCION – A Paraguayan politician who will be the main opposition alliance’s vice presidential candidate in next year’s general election sees environmental and indigenous rights issues as key to efforts to oust the governing conservative Colorado Party at the ballot box.
Journalist Leonardo Rubin, who represents the Guasu Front in the left-wing opposition Grand National Renovating Alliance (Ganar) that also includes the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), said in an interview with EFE in Asuncion that his personal contribution to the joint platform is the fight against deforestation and the promotion of issues of concern to indigenous peoples.
“I’m very concerned about the issue of deforestation. Paraguay is the country with greater deforestation than practically (any country) in the world if we take into account the number of inhabitants. And at the same time we’re the country in the world that produces more fresh water per inhabitant, as well as clean and renewable energy,” Rubin said.
“We’re seeing how our forests are being massively destroyed. We’re talking about a pace of 25,000 hectares (96 square miles) a month, and that’s twice the (New York City borough) of Manhattan per month. It’s awful,” he added.
In that regard, Rubin is calling for the creation of an Environment and Water Ministry, a portfolio that does not exist even though Paraguay and Brazil jointly operate the Itaipu Dam, the world’s largest producer of clean energy.
“In a water-rich country like Paraguay, there’s no ministry dedicated to water,” Rubin said.
He also said the alliance needs to make a big push in the area of technological innovation and the collaborative economy and also raise property taxes on soy farmers and ranchers.
“In Paraguay, you pay 1 percent; that’s the (rural) property tax and it’s paid based on the cadastral value (listed in the land registry), which has nothing to do with the real value. There are people who pay the equivalent of 20 cents a hectare when that costs $10,000 or $15,000, and that’s unacceptable,” Rubin said.
He noted, however, that the alliance is still dealing with “wounds that are difficult to heal,” after Fernando Lugo of the Guasu Front was ousted from the presidency via impeachment in 2012 due in large part to the votes of PLRA lawmakers.
Rubin will be the running mate of the presidential candidate that emerges from an internal PLRA election on Dec. 17: mostly likely either its president, Efrain Alegre, or former lawmaker Carlos Mateo Balmelli.