Ycuá Bolaños

Posting is hereby resumed…

One of the most interesting (and also moving) experiences of the past two weeks was to visit the site of the Ycuá Bolaños tragedy in Asunción.

Ycua Bolanos fireFrom Paraguay, ABC Digital has a page on “La tragedia de Ycuá Bolaños”, with links to many articles on the case and recent updates. There’s also “La investigación de Ycuá Bolaños”, a site with pieces that are more reflective or critical. And here is the BBC report immediately following the incident.

In short, however, on August 1st 2004 a fire gutted a huge supermarket in suburban Asunción. The fire started thanks to design flaws (a chimney that couldn’t be cleaned), and was aggravated by inattention to building codes. But it became a disaster in which over 400 people died when the supermarket owner ordered the doors locked so that shoppers wouldn’t rob the store of its produce en route to escaping with their lives.

Almost two years later, though the owner is in custody, he is due to be released if the Paraguayan judicial system doesn’t come up with at least a provisional verdict (a “juicio oral”) that assigns some culpability for the blaze and for the ensuing deaths.

The ruin itself is still remarkably intact: you can see the check-out counters, the shelving, piles of half-incinerated toothpaste tubes or bags of flour, half-melted crates of coke and so on. To one side, families of victims have constructed a kind of sanctuary, full of shrines to their deceased relatives. And though (because?) these shrines are decorated in typically kitsch Latin American style–fairy lights, plastic figurines of angels, and so on–the place is incredibly moving.

Relatives come by the sanctuary, to comb once more through the wreckage, to meet up with other victims, to hang out, to talk, to plan their next demonstration against an incredibly corrupt and inefficient judiciary.

Different movements have sprung up in the wake of the disaster, some more militant than others. The most radical is the Collective “Ni olvido ni perdón” (“No forgetting, and no forgiveness”). I talked for some time with a very articulate–and justifiably enraged–member of this group. But even for the more moderate elements of the movement, the attempt to win justice has become a fully-fledged battle against the state.

Many of these groups’ slogans (such as “Nunca más” or “Never again”) are taken directly from the movements that struggled against the Southern Cone dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s. Moreover, the Paraguayans now have links and contacts with organizations such as Argentina’s Mothers of the Disappeared.

So what’s interesting is that some time after one of the longest dictatorships in Latin American history (Stroessner’s 36 years in which the country was his personal fiefdom), and as a result of an incident in which capital, the state, and the law directly coincide, something in Paraguay may finally be awakening.

Agosto en llamas



[A service announcement…]

Posting has been a little sporadic here of late. And it is likely to be even more so over the next month, as I am away for most of June.

Thanks to an invitation from Craig, I’ll be presenting on (yes) “Pirate Studies” at the so-called “Learneds” in Toronto next week.

War of the Triple Alliance, ParaguayThen almost immediately I’ll be off to Buenos Aires and Asunción.

And though I hope to write something about Schmitt in that time, and perhaps some reports on the state of things in Argentina and Paraguay, these bulletins may well be brief at best.

Normal service will be resumed around the end of the month.

[Here ends the service announcement.]


[Customary apologies for meta-blogging…]

This blog has been nominated for an award. Not that it is the only blog to be so nominated: it is among 300 up for a “Koufax Award” in the category “most deserving of wider recognition”.

Which is, itself, a form of recognition. And what’s not to like about that?

Most of the 300 are very much focussed on the US political and foreign policy news agenda. But among other notable blogs on the list for this category are: the excellent 3 Quarks Daily; Jodi Dean’s I cite; the pugnacious Lenin’s Tomb; the “theory” group blog with which I am involved, Long Sunday; one of the better political blogs, Opinions You Should Have; and then how could I not mention We move to Canada?

name change

[A service announcement…]

See above for this blog’s name change. If, however, there is any kind of clamour calling for the return of “Posthegemonic Musings,” I may change it back.

[Here ends the service announcement.]


[A service announcement…]

What with one thing and another, mostly travel, I probably won’t be able to update this blog very often over the rest of December. Normal service will resume in January.

Among my travel destinations, I will be at the MLA in Washington DC at the end of the month. Probably with a fair amount of time on my hands. So I’d be pleased to meet up with any like-minded (or even differently-minded) people who may also have the misfortune to be attending said conference.

I will also be in the UK earlier in December, but with much less time on my hands.

[Here ends the service announcement.]