Sunday, 2 February 2014

Paraguay marks 25 years of partial democracy

On 3 February, Paraguay will commemorate a quarter of a century of "incomplete" democracy. Alfredo Stroessner, head of Latin America's longest-running dictatorship, was finally forced out by a further coup in 1989. Shortly afterwards, he fled to Brazil, where he died 17 years later.

The overthrow led to a certain political opening up, the recovery of some political freedoms, the progressive reintegration of Paraguay into the international community and slow steps towards democracy, at least nominally. But in elections in May 1989, the Partido Colorado - the party of the dictatorship - won with 74% of the votes. The historic transfer of power away from the party did not come until 2008, and it returned to government in 2013.

The crimes which took place during the dictatorship remain largely unpunished. These are thought to include 425 deaths or disappearances and 20,000 politicial prisoners.

A recent survey illustrates how far the process of democratisation has to go in Paraguay: 32% of the population today would prefer an authoritarian government. This is the highest proportion in Latin America, according to Latinobarómetro.

Fernando Masi of the Paraguayan economic research institute Cadep judges the country to be "a low-quality democracy". He also explains that 1989 was not the moment when Paraguay "regained" its democracy but rather when it started building it - and this without a clean break, since the Partido Colorado remained in power.

Paraguay is still the country with the second-greatest concentration of land ownership in the world, according to the UN. 2.6% of landlords own 85.5% of agricultural land. Nepotism remains a major issue, although some protests highlighted the problem in the last year.

Paraguay: A 25 años del golpe que terminó con la dictadura mas larga de Sudamérica (Telam)

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