Everyone I interviewed blames the Paraguayan government for the negative impacts of soy. The corruption, the lack of economic and social programs, and the selective enforcement of laws. My last interview was with Senator Alfredo Jaeggli, a former race car driver who decided 18 years ago to become a politician for the opposition.
Jaeggli chomped on a cigar and readily agreed with my conclusions that soybeans are very good for the 20% of the country who enjoy the benefits of democracy and that many people are left out. But he gave very unsatisfying answers for why people are left out, mostly owing to big government and ignorant voters. His only wisdom: “sometimes countries have to go all the way to the bottom before they can come up.”
Forenzia, Jaeggli’s secretary, was more telling if unwittingly so.
Forenzia was an attractive 22-year-old in a pink business suit with olive skin and hair dyed blonde. Her cell phone was pink as was her purse, wallet, and hair braids. Her family is well connected and she started working for the government right out of high school. She says she likes working for the Senator because it pays well and she doesn’t have to do much. She had pictures of herself all over her office.
Forenzia knew nothing about the peasants selling their land and moving to Asuncion to beg for money. She didn’t know that people sold their votes in order to pay for school and she didn’t have an opinion about the Indians squatting in the town square. She was, however, upset about Paraguay’s slow internet connection that made it hard to IM her friends working elsewhere in the government.
“There is a monopoly here that charges the private companies too much money so they can’t bring anything faster than 64 megabytes per second.”
I asked if her boss could do anything about it and she rolled her eyes and laughed, “I guess so. I should ask him.”