Another stands accused of the murders of dozens of peasants and political dissidents.
No, I'm not talking about inmates of La Modelo prison, but of the elected presidents of two South American nations.
This week, Paraguayans elected multimillionare Horacio Manuel Cartes to the presidency.
|The best president bad money can buy? |
Paraguay's new Pres. Horacio Manuel Cartes.
Cartes denies the contraband and money laundering accusations and says that he wasn't responsible for the plane on his land.
How did Cartes get elected despite this history, as well as crazy comments like calling gays and lesbians "monkeys." First of all, he controls the Colorado political party, perhaps the strongest political machine in Latin America. And, Cartes has lots of money, which is important anywhere, but extremely important in Paraguay, with its rampant corruption. While I lived there, a resident of one of Asunción poor riverside slums described to me how political parties paid for votes with beer and cash. Voters sometimes came home angry, my friend said, not because their candidate had been lost, but because they'd sold their vote too cheaply.
"My vote's worth more than that," they'd say.
So, Paraguay's a place where a millionare has solid political prospects, despite even a criminal background.
But another small South American country is ruled by a man accused of even worse crimes.
|Blood on his hands? Suriname |
Pres. Dési Bouterse.
Bouterse has also been linked by witnesses and in Wikileaks documents to Colombia's FARC guerrillas.
Paraguay and Suriname are tiny nations - but they are important cocaine trafficking routes. And Paraguay's a big marijuana grower.
And Cartes and Bouterse aren't alone. The U.S. government has charged Venezuelan high officials with supporting the cocaine trade. Colombian ex-Pres. Alvaro Uribe was linked to right-wing paramilitary death squads. And Nicaraguan Pres. Daniel Ortega stands accused by his adoptive daughter of having sexually abused her for two decades beginning when she was 11 years old.
Some could argue that the Paraguayan and Surinamese presidents are proof of the idea that if you smuggle 100 grams of cocaine or stab someone to death in a street fight, you go to prison. But if you smuggle thousands of tons of cocaine or order people killed by the dozens, you're more likely to go to the presidential palace.
Will Latin Americans and others ever stop electing leaders with criminal histories? Not likely, and one reason among many is drug prohibition itself. As long as prohibition diverts huge fortunes into the illegal economy, those who obtain those fortunes will get themeselves into positions of power, and many in positions of power will want to use that power to amass fortunes, any way they can.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours