Richard Gott likes the new President.
It\’s going to be a disaster, isn\’t it?
In his inaugural speech, Lugo called for an unusual combination of austerity and happiness. He had already renounced his presidential salary, and he called upon young people to embark on the task of reconstructing the country with a smile. He invoked the great political leaders of Paraguay in the 19th century like Francia and the López family…
Francia? That\’s this guy.
In 1814, a congress named him Consul of Paraguay, with absolute powers for three years. At the end of that term, he sought and received absolute control over the country for life. For the next 26 years, he ran the country with the aid of only three other people. He aimed to found a society on the principles of Rousseau\’s Social Contract and was also inspired by Robespierre and Napoleon. To create such a personal utopia he imposed a ruthless isolation upon Paraguay, interdicting all external trade, while at the same time he fostered national industries. He became known as a caudillo who ruled through ruthless suppression and random terror with increasing signs of madness, and was known as "El Supremo".
However, despite these seemingly authoritarian attributes, Dr. Francia helped to create one of the first per-industrial societies in Latin America. By closing the borders to free trade (which was at that time almost solely British), Dr. Francia allowed Paraguayan factories to open and begin producing manufactured goods. While the people were limited to buying only from Paraguayan companies, the country under Francia was the earliest example of a Latin American country exhibiting Henry Ford\’s more modern idea of paying the factory workers enough money to be able to afford the products they make.
However, since this closing of the market was viewed by Britain as counter to their system of free trade, they incited dissent with the newly industrializing nation in the neighboring countries of Brazil and Argentina, which eventually led to the War of the Triple Alliance, the reopening of Paraguay\’s market, and the end of industrialization. To this day, Paraguay\’s economy has never reached the same threshold of industrialization as it did under Dr. Francia and his successors.
He outlawed all opposition and abolished higher education (while expanding the school system), newspapers and the postal service. He abolished the Inquisition and established a secret police force. He had abolished higher education because he saw the need to spend more money in the military in order to defend Paraguayan independence from those that did not recognize it such as Argentina.
Leading a spartan lifestyle, Francia frowned on excessive possessions or festivities. He even returned his unspent salary to the treasury. He closed the borders of the country to both people and trade (including river trade with neighbouring Argentina, from which Paraguay had broken off during the Wars of Independence), reasoning this would prevent a national debt from forming, but also isolating the country from outside – especially modernising European influences.