The political tension in Paraguay

Paraguay, a sovereign nation, is located in the south-central part of the South American continent. It is landlocked, which share international boundaries with Brazil in the north and north east; Argentina in the south and south west, and Bolivia in the North West. The country had her Independence in 1811. Asuncion is the capital city and the largest in Paraguay.

The country’s population is 6.639 million as at 2015, but with a population growth of about 1.5%, it is predicted that the population shall hit about 7.6 million people in the year 2020.

The Republic of Paraguay covers 397,302 square kilometers of land, and 9,450 square kilometers of water, which makes it the 60th largest nation State in the world.

Dictatorship in governance in the former Spanish country is what constitutional democracy is to America, Britain, Canada or the Scandinavian States. In Paraguay, power is usually centered on a single ruler.

For instance, President Dr. Jose Gaspar Rodriquez de Francis (1811-1840) was a brutal dictator; Carlos Antonio Lopez (1841-1863) was a direct equivalent of that of Francis; Francisco Solano Lopez, (1862-1870) was a totalitarian ruler and the son of Carlos Antonio Lopez including other deft maximum elected or military rulers.

Within the period of 1904-1954, Paraguay had 31 presidential dictators and some other liberal ones open violation of human rights, extra-judicial executions of innocent citizens, the entire extermination of some political nuclear families who were opposition members to the evil regimes, repression of innocent persons, the fraudulent and stage-managed elections and illegitimate military coup plotting.

In 1954, a coup ushered in the Stronato, the period of rule of Alfredo Stroessner Mattiauda, whose regime was terminated towards the end of 1988.

That he lasted for 34 years in office was due to his combined political skill, hard work, brute repression and the complete elimination of his regime’s opponents.

On February 2, 1989, Stroessner was thrown from office in a military coup de tat. Casualty of the army takeover was the death of 27 persons but contrary that of the western observers which put the figure at 300.

It is, however, fair to commend the government of Stroessner, who ensured that there was political stability and a sustained economic growth for a period of 20 years. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was eight per cent annually. After the fall of Alferdo Stroessner, Andres Rodriquez took over the presidential leadership of the Paraguayan people from February 3, 1989 to August 15, 1993.

He was a liberal democrat who gave the opposition political parties the opportunity to organise themselves and campaigned openly without hindrance. At the expiration of the era of dictatorship, an amendment of the constitution of the republic was effected in 1992.

It states that a president, when elected in Paraguay may only serve for a single five-year term, and thereafter shall not be elected in other subsequent presidential elections.

Contrary to the provisions of the constitutional amendment, Horacio Cartes who was elected as president in 2013 has attempted to manipulate the parliament to amend the constitution, once again, to enable him to contest the presidency a second time. He assumed the office of president with effect from August 15, 2013.

He is still a sitting president whose tenure should constitutional expire in 2018. In the plenary session, senators secretly voted for a constitutional review that will enable President Cartes stand for election again. In achieving the aim of the amendment, the senators did not vote on the floor of the house but in a secret chamber of the parliament. In reaction, protesters mobilised themselves and, attacked the Paraguay parliamentary building, and eventually set it ablaze.

This was precisely on Friday night, March 31, 2017. The entire protest and violent activities took place at Asuncion, the nation’s capital city. One activist lost his life while many others were injured.

The political imbroglio experienced in Paraguay may be halted by the lower House in parliament, that is, if the chamber of deputies refused to approve the said amendment already passed by the Senate.

However, if approved by the chamber of deputies, ex-president Fernando Lugo, who was removed from office in 2012 due to his inefficiency, shall also be qualified to contest the presidency.

Reacting to the protest, an opposition senator, Desiree Masi said: “Democracy is not conquered or defended with violence and you can be sure that this government will continue to put his best effort into maintaining law and order in the republic. We must not allow a few barbarians to destroy the peace, tranquillity and general wellbeing of the Paraguayan people.”

In view of this disturbing factors, Hugo Velazquez, president of the chamber of deputies, had no other option than to cancel the sitting which had been slated for Saturday morning, April 1.

The totality of the political tension in Paraguay will certainly be aggravated if the chamber of deputies should give its assent and approval to the amendment as already passed by senate.

It should be noted that President Cartes has a comfortable majority in the lower House. Should the amendment get an easy ride, I am opined that the military may wish to move in to halt the dwindling political stability in Paraguay.

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