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Paraguay: Addressing the Growing Security Concerns

Categories: Latin America, Paraguay, Law, Politics

Two former presidential candidates, two current Senators, and some businesspeople have been calling for an impeachment of President Fernando Lugo [1] for his inability to provide security to the country. However, it has been the recent kidnapping of Fidel Zavala, a cattle rancher who has been captive since October 15 and whose kidnappers have demanded a 5 million dollar ransom, which has really stirred up debate about who is ultimately responsible for the security concerns, what steps should be taken to solve the situation, and whether the blame placed on the President is merely a political maneuver by the opposition.

Zavala was kidnapped by the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP for its initials in Spanish), a terrorist group believed to the continuation of the Patria Libre political party. The EPP is also said to have been advised by Colombia's FARC in 2004 in the kidnapping and murder of Cecilia Cubas [es] [2], daughter of former President Raúl Cubas.

President Fernando Lugo outlines security plan. Photo by Fernando Lugo APC and used under a Creative Commons license. [3]

President Fernando Lugo outlines security plan. Photo by Fernando Lugo APC and used under a Creative Commons license.

Liberal senator Alfredo Jaeggli said Lugo should face an impeachment [es] [4] because he is not fulfilling his functions as president by not providing security to Paraguayan citizens. The impeachment idea is also supported by Pedro Fadul and Lino Oviedo, both former presidential candidates and Senator Julio Cesar Velázquez.

What places Lugo in an even more difficult position is that the President has been linked to members involved in Cubas’ case, to the point that Cecilia’s mother, Mirta Guzinsky, launched a video during the 2008 presidential campaigns asking citizens not to vote for Lugo [es] [5]. The video has now been revived within the online Paraguayan community through collective emails with the subject line: “What if Mirtha Gusinsky was right?” Lugo was the Bishop of San Pedro department in 2004 when he said he had not heard anything about the kidnap, even though the Cubas case was on every single media utlet in the country at that point.

Debates are ongoing both within the high political spheres and among regular Paraguayan citizens. Blogger José Angel López Barrios, comments on his blog that the government is not now nor has never been equipped to fight the increasing kidnap industry [es] [6]:

Sin duda se aúnan un montón de factores en la sucesión de secuestros que nos acorralan, en 8 años hemos tenido por lo menos 100 secuestros y el único factor común destacable es que quienes deben solucionar estos crímenes no están preparados para ello. (…)

La increíble suma solicitada por los mismos (5.000.000 de dólares) revela que atrás de ese pedido existe la idea de financiar las operaciones del grupo clandestino….

There is no doubt that there are many factors that make the kidnaps possible, which have been haunting us, we have had about 100 kidnaps in the last 8 years and the main outstanding factor is that the people who are supposed to be responsible of solving these crimes are not prepared for the task (…)

The unbelievable sum of money requested by the kidnappers (5 million dollars) reveals that behind their request lies the idea of financing more operations for this clandestine group.

Maki Fretez, a blogger who comments on an ABC Color article, says impeachment is fundamental to reestablish security and safety in Paraguay [es] [7]:

Cambiar al presidente en este momento es una cuestion de superviviencia!, de lo contrario hay que apagar las luces y salir del pais cuanto antes. El juicio politico es un mecanismo constitucional por lo que no puede ser considerado irregular…

Changing the president at this moment is a matter of survival! Otherwise we better turn off the lights and leave the country as soon as possible. A political trial is a constitutional mechanism, so it can’t be considered an irregular measure to take.

Others believe the impeachment flag is being used by politicians to favor their parties and personal interests, and that it is neither helping the kidnapped Zavala’s circumstances, nor improving the situation in the country. Blogger and journalist Alfredo Boccia, writes in his blog Antes del Septimo Día [es] [8]:

La mención al juicio político fue azuzada por buena parte de la oposición, por la prensa -que insinuaba que el silencio de Lugo ocultaba algo- y, por supuesto, por el vicepresidente, quien le dio manija a su fastidiosa y autodestructiva tarea de marcar sus diferencias con el presidente.

En momentos en que se imponían la austeridad de palabras y la reflexión prudente, triunfó la descalificación irresponsable y la vocinglería fanática. El que debería ser la principal preocupación de todos -cautivo en condiciones probablemente dramáticas en los montes del Norte- pasó a un segundo plano.

The political trial idea was incited by the opposition and the press – who insinuated that Lugo’s silence meant he was hiding something- and of course, by the vice president who insisted in his auto destructive and irritating function of pointing out his differences with the president.

At times when it is necessary to use trouble-free words and reflect prudently, the irresponsible disqualification and fanatic clamor prevailed. The person who should have been the main concern – probably captive in dramatic conditions in the forest in the North – became a secondary issue.

As Zavala remains captive, the debate over security concerns continues.