Paraguay: Power Game

Paraguay: Power Game

by Latin America Bureau


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780906156100
Publisher: Latin America Bureau
Publication date: 09/01/1980
Pages: 76
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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1537 Foundation of Asuncion by Spanish.

1811 Independence from Spain.

1814-65 Nationalist governments of Dr Rodrigues de Francia and Carlos Antonio López.

1865-70 War of the Triple Alliance against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

1932-35 Chaco War against Bolivia.

1936 Febrerista coup by war veterans.

1940-46 Pro-Axis military dictatorship of General Higinio Morinigo.

1946 Nine-month period of political freedom allowing expression of growing social discontent.

1947 Colorado Party defeats combined forces of opposition in civil war.

1954 General Alfredo Stroessner takes power in 4 May coup.

1956 Introduction of IMF stabilization programme.

1958 General strike crushed and trade union movement intervened.

1959 Stroessner closes parliament and purges civilista wing of Colorado Party, who flee into exile where they set up MOPOCO in opposition to Stroessner.

1959-60 Guerilla invasions by Movimiento 14 de Mayo and FULNA are wiped out by armed forces.

1966 Brazilian troops occupy disputed border area around Guairá Falls.

1969 Anti-US student demonstrations during visit of Nelson Rockefeller; excommunication of Interior Minister and Chief of Police following invasion of church property.

1972 Stroessner finally extradites Mafia heroin boss Augeste Ricord following threatened withdrawal of US support.

1973 Stroessner signs controversial Itaipu treaty with Brazil.

1974 Hundreds arrested and several deaths in police custody following abortive plot to blow up Stroessner with van loaded with dynamite.

1975 Anti-guerilla troops destroy peasant cooperative at Jejui, shooting peasants and arresting all 300 inhabitants (February), followed by nation-wide attacks on ligas agarias movement; arrest of 150 accused of Communist Party membership; arrest and death under torture of Dr Miguel Angel Soler, head of Communist Party and two other members of central committee (December).

1976 Security forces smash embryonic armed resistance movement, First of March Organization (OPM); 2,000 peasants and 200 students arrested with 20 deaths in police custody (April/May).

1977 Dr Agustin Goiburu, leader of MOPOCO, kidnapped in Argentina by Paraguayan police and disappears (February); arrest and trial of 17 activists of student-based Independent Movement who planned campaign for renegotiation of Itaipú Treaty (July); arrest of 19 trade union and peasant leaders (December).

1978 Stroessner 're-elected' for further five years with 89.6% of vote in election excluding almost all of the legal opposition; Organisation of American States condemns human rights violations in Paraguay (June); opposition leader Domingo Laino denounces Stroessner in US Congress and is kidnapped on return to Asuncion; Stroessner forced to release Laino following international protest; peasant leader Doroteo Brandel killed weeks after his release from two years secret imprisonment (August); 400 attend first national human rights congress in Asuncion (December).

1979 National Accord (AN) signed by four opposition parties (February); World Anti-Communist League holds biannual congress in Asuncion (April); deposed dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza, granted refuge in Paraguay (August); opposition leader Domingo Laino re-arrested (September); arrest of journalist's union leader González Delvalle (November); Domingo Laino released (December).

1980 Council of delegates of Paraguayan Confederation of Workers (CPT) meets for first time in 20 years (February); 20 peasants killed and over 200 arrested following protest against land evictions in Caaguazu (March); release of Virgilio Bareiro, political prisoner detained without trial since 1964 (May).

The Government

The Formal Structure

An official publication of the Paraguayan embassy in Britain, designed to attract foreign investment, describes the country's political institutions as follows:

'Paraguay is a unitary and representative Republic, ruled by a Constitution which provides for separate Executive, Legislative and Judiciary Powers.

The President of the Republic is the head of the Executive, elected by direct vote for a term of five years, and with the right to be re-elected. The President is assisted by a Cabinet of 11 Ministers, members of the Executive.

The Legislative Power consists of a Parliament with two Houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both Houses are elected by direct vote for a 5-year period.

The Judiciary is exercised by a 5-member Supreme Court of Justice, appointed by the Executive, the Courts of Appeal and the Magistrate Courts'.

This formal description however fails to reveal the extreme concentration of power in the hands of Stroessner and a handful of trusted military and civilian colleagues, who have become millionaires from the fruits of the rampant corruption which characterizes the regime.

The Executive

In 1978 Stroessner was re-elected President for a sixth consecutive term of office ( 1978-83). In order to do this, a constituent assembly in 1977 amended the 1967 constituiton which permitted only one period of re-election. Elections in Paraguay are blatantly fraudulent. In the 197 8 presidential election several large towns registered not a single vote for the opposition. The government exercises a complete monopoly over the mass media at election times and only pro-Stroessner posters are displayed in public places.

The Legislature

The maintenance of a facade of parliamentary democracy has been a permanent feature of Stroessner's rule. The bulk of the opposition has been denied parliamentary representation through non-recognition by the electoral board, but the token electoral opposition is assured of one-third of all seats in parliament, whatever their share of the total vote case. The legislature is subservient to the dictates of Stroessner, and has never rejected a proposed bill emanating from the executive.

The Judiciary

The rule of law does not exist in Paraguay. There is no independence of the judiciary. Although expressly forbidden by the constitution, all Supreme Court judges must be members of the Colorado Party and must obey Stroessner's orders. The mere accusation by the police that a person has been guilty of some illegal act is sufficient to ensure conviction. It is not necessary to offer evidence nor summon witness.

The State of Siege

Stroessner has maintained a state of siege constantly since 1954, lifting it on only six occasions, on five of them for a mere 24 hours, to coincide with elections. The justification for the state of siege is the threat of 'communist subversion'. Article 79 of the 1967 constitution provides for the declaration of a state of siege, but as an extraordinary measure only 'in cases of international war or conflict, foreign invasion, internal turmoil or a grave threat from one of these'. The permanent use of the state of siege is clearly unconstitutional; Stroessner himself has repeatedly boasted that Paraguay has preserved internal peace better than any other country in South America. Its true function is to clamp down on all opposition to Stroessner's rule.

According to the interpretation of the Supreme Court, all individual rights may be suppressed if a state of siege is declared. Consequently, it has repeatedly rejected writs of habeas corpus brought to its attention on behalf of political detainees. As a result political prisoners have remained in jail for periods of up to twenty years without trial, detained 'at the President's request'.

The Security Apparatus

The Ministry of the Interior, headed by Dr Sabino Augusto Montanaro, has traditionally provided the umbrella for the security apparatus. With a national network of undercover agents and paid informers, who do not appear on its payroll, the ministry carries out a highly efficient counter-intelligence operation against the political opposition. The police Investigations Department (DIPC), headed by Pastor Coronel, is the major operational unit for political repression. Its interrogation centre is staffed by some 50 experienced torturers. The Vigilance and Crime Division (D-3) of the DIPC, headed by Dr Victorino Oviedo Olmedo, houses the major torture centre in Paraguay.

Counter-intelligence against the Communist Party and other Marxist organizations is coordinated by the semi-autonomous Technical Division for the Repression of Communism, commonly referred to as the 'Technical Division' (DT) and headed by the shadowy Dr Antonio Campos Alum. The DT liaises both with the political section (D-3) of the D IPC and the military intelligence division (G-2) of the armed forces, headed by General Benito Guanes Serrano. At the same time, the DT provides the major institutional link between the Asuncion CIA station and the Paraguayan security apparatus. Almost all the staff of the DT are US-trained.

Until the death of its head, General Patricio Colman, in 1972, the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment was the main operational unit for repression of independent peasant organizations. Since then, this role has been divided between a special unit within the Security Guard of the Police Force (GS) headed by Colonel Felix Grau and the Second Cavalry Division, based in Villarrica, headed by General Bernardino Valois Arza.

Local Colorado Party militias, known as the Py-Nandu (silent feet) provide a back-up security force at times of internal crisis. They determined the outcome of the 194 7 civil war and subsequently wrought vengeance on the defeated opposition at a village level. They were again called into play during the search-and-destroy operations against guerillas in 1959-60. After a long period of inactivity they were mobilized in Caaguazu in March 1980 for the repression of peasant organizations protesting against Brazilian landbuying in the region.

Political Parties

Colorado Party (Asociación Nacional Republicana – ANR)

One of the two traditional parties founded in 1870, it has been skillfully transformed into the official part of the dictatorship. It has a highly centralized and authoritarian structure, totally subservient to Stroessner. The party has an effective national organization through a network of seccionales (branches) which extend to village level in rural areas and neighbourhood level in towns. Party affiliation, which is computerized, is compulsory for all administrative and professional civil servants, including doctors and teachers. Party affiliation in rural areas is seen as an insurance policy to avoid constant harassment by local Colorado bosses, whose power often exceeds that of the mayor.

In recent years Colorado Party members have increasingly expressed discontent at abuses by local bosses and opportunists who joined the party since Stroessner came to power.

Febrerista Party (Partido Revolucionario Febrerista – PRF)

This party originated in the revolt by demobilized soldiers after the Chaco War in 1936. It is a social democrat party, affiliated to the Socialist International. Although legally recognized, it is constantly under attack by the government. Its members were advised to cast blank votes in the 1978 presidential election. Its weekly paper, El Pueblo, is the only legal opposition newspaper in circulation.

The following parties are not recognized by the electoral board:

Authentic liberal Radical Party (PLRA)

When the major opposition Liberal Party declared its intention of abstaining from the 1978 presidential election, official recognition was granted to a handful of Liberals who were willing to participate. Official recognition was denied to the bulk of the party which then formed the PLRA and which advocates a more principled opposition to the dictatorship.

Christian Democrat Party (PDC)

This party was founded in 1960 and is still denied electoral recognition although it is allowed to hold meetings.

The following parties are illegal:

The Communist Party (PCP)

Founded in 1928, the PCP has only been legal for a nine-month period (1946-47). It has maintained an active presence within the country ever since Stroessner came to power, despite persistent repression. In 1978, three party leaders, Antonio Maidana, Alfredo Acorta and Julio Rojas, were released after 20 years imprisonment. In November 197 5, the general secretary of the PCP, Dr Miguel Angel Soler, and two members of the central committee were brutally tortured to death following their discovery inside the country (see Appendix 2). The PCP is closely aligned with the Soviet Union and advocates a united front strategy for overthrowing Stroessner.

Popular Colorado Movement (MOPOCP)

The MOPOCO was founded by Colorado dissidents in exile following Stroessner's take-over of the party in 1959. It maintains an active presence inside Paraguay. In 1973, MOPOCO split between a majority in favour of coordinated action with other opposition parties while a minority, later renamed 'ANR in exile', decided to work for an internal solution within the Colorado Party.

The First of March Organization (OPM)

An embryonic armed opposition to the dictatorship emerged in the early 1970s, drawing its membership from peasant activists within the ligas agrarias and students influenced by events in neighbouring Argentina. The OPM suffered a severe setback in April 1976 when two of its leaders, Juan Carlos da Costa and Mario Schaerer, were wounded in a police siege and subsequently died under torture. In the ensuing repression, many OPM activists were arrested, sought political asylum or fled into clandestinity in Argentina.

Trade Unions

Paraguayan Confederation of Workers (CPT)

Following the defeat of the general strike in 1958 and the subsequent replacement of its leadership by government-appointed nominees, the main trade union body, the CPT, was brought firmly under the control of the Ministry of Justice and Labour. The CPT receives a declared annual grant of US$8,000 from the ministry, under whose name it is listed in the Asunci6n telephone directory. Every year the CPT hierarchy declares Stroessner 'the nation's number one worker'.

Nevertheless, in recent years the rapid growth of trade union membership as a result of the foreign investment boom, together with the unaccustomed increase in the rate of inflation, have created internal pressure for reform of the CPT. The CPT has also come under international criticism. In November 1979 it was expelled from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and hence from its Latin American regional affiliate ORIT, on the grounds of political subservience. Shortly afterwards an internal power struggle led to a change in the leadership of the CPT. The new general secretary, Dr Modesto Ali, promised a more independent position with regard to the government, but he has failed to carry this out.

In 1979 a reform movement, known as the 'Group of Nine', emerged openly within the CPT. It includes the rapidly growing construction workers and metal workers unions, as well as the bank workers, print workers and journalists unions, and publishes its own monthly broadsheet, Trabajo. As a result of pressure from the Group of Nine, in February 1980 the council of delegates of the CPT was convened for the first time since the 1958 general strike. Delegates from 85 trade unions called on the CPT leadership to press for wage increases to compensate for the drop in real wages in the previous two years and pressed for greater independence from government interference in union matters.

National Coordination of Workers (CNT)

In 1963 the fledging Christian Democrat Party founded the Christian Confederation of Workers (CCT) which concentrated its activities on the organization of the church-sponsored peasant leagues (ligas agrarias). The CCT operated in a semi-clandestine fashion and suffered heavily from periodic waves of repression. In December 1977, 19 trade union and peasant leaders linked to the CCT were arrested during a secret meeting held outside Asunción and several were badly tortured, including Victoriano Centurión, one of the founders of the ligas agrarias. They were released after an unprecedented display of international solidarity, which even included a visit from United States AFL-CIO trade union leaders. In 1978 the CCT merged with the small National Centre of Urban Workers (CNTU) to form the CNT and is now affiliated to the Christian Democrat regional trade union confederation for Latin America, CLAT.


Excerpted from "Paraguay"
by .
Copyright © 1980 Latin America Bureau (Research and Action) Ltd.
Excerpted by permission of Practical Action Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Map, 4,
Paraguay in Brief, 5,
Statistics, 5,
Chronology, 7,
The Government, 9,
The Security Apparatus, 11,
Political Parties, 13,
Trade Unions, 15,
Power Game, 17,
'Discovery', 17,
Nationalist Development, 18,
The War of the Triple Alliance, 21,
'From Independence to Dependence', 23,
The Chaco War, 24,
The Rise of Stroessner, 27,
Consolidation of Power, 28,
The Stagnant Years, 30,
Opposition, 32,
Repression, 35,
Economic Transformation, 46,
Power Game, 60,
Conclusions, 65,
Bibliography, 67,
Appendix, 69,
The Violation of Human Rights, 69,

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