Paraguay marred by violence at home and uncertain foreign policy abroad  
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Source: Council on Hemispheric Affairs – Analysis-Reportage

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By Peter M. Tase
From Asunción, Paraguay

Landlocked, hit by wildfires, engulfed in a prolonged rainfall shortage and drought, and with its people succumbed into malnourishment, the Republic of Paraguay under the leadership of Mario Abdo Benítez is confronted with an overwhelming number of middle income families that have miserably slipped into extreme poverty. The government has garnered a negative image in the region and throughout the world as a consequence of the corrupt justice system with discredited Supreme Court Judges, violations of human rights and chaotic execution of Paraguay’s foreign policy. President Abdo Benítez has shown poor leadership as his administration scrambled to implement a clumsy strategy that has fallen woefully short in its duty to accomplish equal employment opportunities, improve public works, fight corruption and keep his campaign promises for economic growth and encourage a transparent judiciary.[1]

Horrible crime against two girls

On September 2nd, 2020, Lilian Mariana Villalba and María Carmen Villalba, of Argentinean nationality, were both 11 years old when killed by members of Paraguay’s Joined Task Force (Fuerza de Tarea Conjunta, or FTC in Spanish) in Yby Yaú (northern Paraguay).[2]  Once again the FTC, a military division of Paraguayan Armed Forces, has shown a total fiasco in its pursuit of bringing members of self-declared Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) before justice.  According to various sources, the two girls were captured alive, tortured, executed, and were allegedly dressed in a military uniform after being killed.[3]

Due to these atrocious acts, the Regional Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has requested President Abdo Benitez’s Government to urgently investigate the killing of the two Argentinian girls.[4]

These reckless acts, committed by FTC, have caused a deeply ingrained crisis in Asuncion’s bilateral relations with Buenos Aires. Various members of the Argentine National Congress, at the Chamber of Deputies, have requested a thorough forensic investigation of the two victims, while the Paraguayan president ordered the girls’ immediate interring right after their chilling execution.[5]

A notorious political kidnapping

On Wednesday, September 9th, 2020,  Óscar Denis, 74 years old, former vice-president of Paraguay (2012-2013), was kidnapped, together with his driver Adelio Mendoza[6], by the EPP rebel group.  Denis is allegedly believed to be dead as he was an insulin dependent and suffered from heart disease. Óscar Denis was kidnapped while working in his farm, located six miles from Yby Yaú, the site where the two Argentinian girls were killed. On Monday September 14th, Adelio Mendoza was liberated by his abductors.[7]

The current physical state of  Denis –still abducted– is kept under a mysterious veil of silence, while President Abdo is hushing political corridors because the former VPs apparent and highly publicised death could have grave political consequences for his presidency.[8]

High Judges involved in corruption

Benitez’s foreign policy implementation and Paraguay’s deteriorated image abroad are also affected by a high level of corruption in the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). Its president Alberto Joaquín Martínez Simón has recently been alleged to be involved in a weapons’ trafficking scheme[9]; and Minister Federico Alberto González Franco, the president’s international affairs adviser is accused of trying to cover up the killing of the two Argentinian girls.

Martínez Simón is a member of an infamous masonic lodge named Gran Logia Simbólica del Paraguay, heavily exercising impunity in favor of his members, while illegally persecuting and purging highly qualified attorneys such as Dr. Jimmy Alberto Pàez Giret and other lawyers with high integrity, trained in Germany and the United States.[10]

Strategy against Venezuelan government

Venezuela is another sad chapter in Paraguay’s Foreign Policy; on January 10th, 2019 President Mario Abdo Benítez announced the termination of diplomatic relations with Venezuela and ordered the closure of the Paraguayan Embassy in Caracas.[11] These actions were taken immediately after President Nicolás Maduro was elected for a new term in May 2018.[12]

Later on Abdo Benítez (April 30th, 2019), called upon “the brave people of Venezuela to rise and defend democracy”, part of a deep political irony since more than four hundred thousand Paraguayan citizens have fallen into poverty in just 2 years.[13]

Acute poverty is not being addressed

Various international economists have argued that Abdo Benítez’s administration hampers the development of a sustainable democracy, allowing for corruption to proliferate.  For over two years the Paraguayan President has not shown any proclivity to reduce poverty levels in his country. This reflects a disturbing logic of Foreign Policy tenets and is only focused on amassing personal wealth at the detriment of his countrymen, as several media reports demonstrate.  While Benítez heavily criticizes Venezuela, Asunción today is in a dire condition[14] as it pertains to a deteriorated public order,[15] abysmal levels of poverty, organized crime[16] presence and deteriorated urban infrastructure, poorly structured residential neighborhoods or favella type homes, and a massively crowded prison system. Asunción’s poverty stricken Chacarita neighborhood can even be appreciated from the office windows of the Paraguayan head of state.   Under these circumstances there is rising doubt about whether President Abdo Benítez will be able to complete his constitutional mandate anticipated to end in August 2023.[17]  President Abdo Benítez is surrounded by corrupt members in the Council of Ministers and his weak leadership was openly displayed over the period of May – August 2019, in mishandling the ITAIPU Binacional treaty with the Government of Brazil; an imbroglio that almost caused him the presidency.[18] On this occasion President Benítez is alleged to have secretly allowed his close associates to conduct a murky energy sale deal pertaining to the fifty percent of electrical energy surplus produced by ITAIPU that belongs to Paraguay, a disingenuous bilateral negotiation valued at USD300 million, that is sold annually to the Brazilian industrial market for dirt cheap in exchange of underhand tactics and briberies that would solely benefit a few of his cronies.
In July 2019, President Abdo Benítez was saved from an overwhelming political impeachment by his long time political adversary and predecessor Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara,[19] currently the leader of Honor Colorado Movement within the Colorado Party (ANR). Meanwhile Benítez has yet almost three years to govern his country and his life saving vests are becoming ever more scarce [20] as in recent months his cronies[21] have succumbed to new corruption scandals and are testing[22] the patience of the Paraguayan people and certainly Paraguay’s national legislators are almost fed up.[23]

Peter Tase is a writer and foreign affairs scholar focused on Latin American countries, Europe and the Southern Caucasus region. More Information about Mr. Tase can be found here and here

[Credit Photo: President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, meeting with Donald Trump in 2019. Open license, White House]


End notes

[1] “Periodistas reclaman transparencia a la Corte Suprema de Justicia”,  https://www.adndigital.com.py/periodistas-reclaman-transparencia-a-la-corte-suprema-de-justicia/
“Lilian Samaniego critica actitud del canciller”, https://www.lanacion.com.py/politica_edicion_impresa/2019/12/18/lilian-samaniego-critica-actitud-del-canciller/
“Incendios no cesan y bomberos ya no dan abasto”, https://independiente.com.py/solicitaran-ayuda-internacional-para-combatir-incendios/
“Existen desconfianza, corrupción y deudas a dos años de gobierno”, https://www.ultimahora.com/existen-desconfianza-corrupcion-y-deudas-dos-anos-gobierno-n2899922.html

[2] “La ONU exigió a Paraguay que esclarezca el asesinato de dos niñas argentinas en operativo contra el EPP” https://misionesonline.net/2020/09/06/la-onu-exigio-a-paraguay-que-esclarezca-el-asesinato-de-dos-ninas-argentinas-en-operativo-contra-el-epp/
“Abuela: “Mataron a dos niñas y no saben cómo salir de la situación””, https://www.ultimahora.com/abuela-mataron-dos-ninas-y-no-saben-como-salir-la-situacion-n2903527.html
“Paraguay: mataron a dos niñas argentinas en un enfrentamiento con guerrilleros”, https://www.lanacion.com.ar/seguridad/paraguay-mataron-dos-ninas-argentinas-enfrentamiento-guerrilleros-nid2440913
“Gremial de abogados de Argentina dice que niñas asesinadas vinieron “de visita” y culpan al gobierno”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2020/09/03/gremial-de-abogados-de-argentina-dice-que-ninas-asesinadas-vinieron-de-visita-y-culpan-al-gobierno/
“Denuncian que dos niñas argentinas de 11 años fueron asesinadas por el ejército paraguayo”, https://www.pagina12.com.ar/289964-denuncian-que-dos-ninas-argentinas-de-11-anos-fueron-asesina

[3] “Abatidas son hijas de líderes del grupo, según parientes”, https://www.ultimahora.com/abatidas-son-hijas-lideres-del-grupo-segun-parientes-n2903139.html

[4] “Gobierno niega un “ajusticiamiento” tras muerte de niñas en operativo de la FTC”, https://www.ultimahora.com/gobierno-niega-un-ajusticiamiento-muerte-ninas-operativo-la-ftc-n2903218.html
“Cancillería toma “con sorpresa” reclamo y responde a Argentina sobre muerte de niñas”, https://www.ultimahora.com/cancilleria-toma-con-sorpresa-reclamo-y-responde-argentina-muerte-ninas-n2903288.html

[5] “Niñas de 11 años fueron ejecutadas por el Gobierno”, denuncia abogada”, https://www.ultimahora.com/ninas-11-anos-fueron-ejecutadas-el-gobierno-denuncia-abogada-n2903119.html

“El Estado paraguayo ejecutó a dos niñas argentinas”, https://notasperiodismopopular.com.ar/2020/09/06/el-estado-paraguayo-ejecuto-a-dos-ninas-argentinas/

[6] “Paraguayans call for release of kidnapped ex-VP Óscar Denis”, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-54147237?intlink_from_url=&link_location=live-reporting-story

[7] “EPP libera a Adelio Mendoza, secuestrado junto a Óscar Denis”,  https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2020/09/14/liberan-a-adelio-mendoza-secuestrado-junto-a-oscar-denis/

[8] “Asesor colombiano dice que el EPP busca rédito político con secuestro de Óscar Denis”, https://www.ultimahora.com/asesor-colombiano-dice-que-el-epp-busca-redito-politico-secuestro-oscar-denis-n2905988.html
“Paraguay terrorists linked to former prelate”, https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/paraguay-terrorists-linked-to-former-prelate

[9] “Cuñado de ministro trato de evitar juicio, pero Fiscalía respondió a recusación”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2020/01/07/cunado-de-ministro-vuelve-a-chicanear-para-evitar-juicio-por-trafico-de-armas/
“Una chicana más del cuñado del ministro Martínez Simón”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2020/02/07/una-chicana-mas-del-cunado-del-ministro-martinez-simon/
“A un mes de extinguirse causa por tráfico de armas, cuñado de ministro de la Corte volvió a chicanear el proceso”, https://www.adndigital.com.py/a-un-mes-de-extinguirse-causa-por-trafico-de-armas-cunado-de-ministro-de-la-corte-volvio-a-chicanear-el-proceso/
“Nueva recusación en caso tráfico de armas”, https://www.judiciales.net/2020/01/15/nueva-recusacion-en-caso-trafico-de-armas/

[10] “Masones realizarán su primer congreso abierto a la sociedad”, https://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/locales/2019/09/30/masones-realizaran-su-primer-congreso-abierto-a-la-sociedad/
“Dr. Jimmy Alberto Pàez Giret: Victima de la Persecución y Discriminación en el Paraguay”, https://eurasiahoy.com/25092020-dr-jimmy-alberto-paez-giret-victima-de-la-persecucion-y-discriminacion-en-el-paraguay/
“Ex diputado pide que masones se aparten de Corte”, https://www.ultimahora.com/ex-diputado-pide-que-masones-se-aparten-corte-n2890904.html

[11] “Outcry from Israel after Paraguay moves its Jerusalem embassy back to Tel Aviv”,
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/05/paraguay-jerusalem-embassy-moves-to-tel-aviv
“Israel closing embassy in Paraguay in response to return of mission to Tel Aviv”, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-paraguay-israel-netanyahu/israel-closing-embassy-in-paraguay-in-response-to-return-of-mission-to-tel-aviv-idUSKCN1LL2KG

[12] “Venezuela cierra sede de embajada en Paraguay”, https://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/politica/venezuela-cierra-sede-de-embajada-en-paraguay-1780452.html
“Paraguay breaks relations with Venezuela on the day of the Maduro’s takeover”, https://en.mercopress.com/2019/01/10/paraguay-breaks-relations-with-venezuela-on-the-day-of-the-maduro-s-takeover

[13] “Abdo alienta al “valiente pueblo de Venezuela””, https://www.abc.com.py/internacionales/mario-abdoalienta-al-valiente-pueblo-de-venezuela-1809720.html

[14] “Estiman que línea de pobreza llegaría al 30% y afectaría a 2 millones de compatriotas”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2020/09/07/estiman-que-linea-de-pobreza-llegaria-al-30-y-afectaria-a-2-millones-de-compatriotas/

[15] “El imperio de la delincuencia”, https://www.abc.com.py/especiales/fin-de-semana/el-imperio-de-la-delincuencia-1662096.html

[16] “El imperio de la delincuencia”, https://www.abc.com.py/especiales/fin-de-semana/el-imperio-de-la-delincuencia-1662096.html
“Crimen organizado avanza en todo el país ante corrupción e inacción”, https://www.ultimahora.com/crimen-organizado-avanza-todo-el-pais-corrupcion-e-inaccion-n2843890.html

[17] “Violence intensifies in Paraguay after ex-vice-president kidnapped”, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/sep/15/former-paraguay-vice-president-oscar-denis-kidnapped-amid-conflict-between-guerrillas-and-military

[18] “Itaipú: renunció el primer entreguista”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2019/07/29/hugo-saguier-renuncio-a-su-cargo-de-embajador/
“Pacto entreguista: Abdo aceptó las cuatro renuncias”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2019/07/29/pacto-entreguista-abdo-acepto-las-cuatro-renuncias/
“Polémica acta sobre Itaipú pone en el ojo de la tormenta a Hugo Velázquez”, https://www.ultimahora.com/polemica-acta-itaipu-pone-el-ojo-la-tormenta-hugo-velazquez-n2835142.html
“Ferreira: entreguistas aún esperan instrucción de Brasil y habrá consecuencias este verano”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2019/09/04/nueva-version-de-joselo-es-para-armar-nueva-historia-dice-pedro-ferreira/
“Luis Castiglioni retomó su banca en el Senado”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2019/08/20/luis-castiglioni-retomo-su-banca-en-el-senado/
“El libreto de la continuidad en Itaipú”,  https://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/suplementos/economico/2020/08/30/el-libreto-de-la-continuidad-en-itaipu/
“El Vice gestionó acuerdo a favor de presunto negocio de Bolsonaro”, https://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/politica/2019/07/31/el-vice-gestiono-acuerdo-a-favor-de-presunto-negocio-de-bolsonaro/
“Del pacto secreto en Itaipú al juicio político: entreguistas, antipatriotas y un frágil gobierno”, https://www.abc.com.py/especiales/anuario-2019/2019/12/16/del-pacto-secreto-en-itaipu-al-juicio-politico-entreguistas-antipatriotas-y-un-fragil-gobierno/
“HC salva a Abdo Benítez: Cartismo no acompañará el juicio político”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2019/08/06/hc-salva-a-abdo-cartismo-no-acompanara-juicio-politico/

[19] “Cartes ratifica apoyo a Abdo y lo salva del juicio político”, https://www.ultimahora.com/cartes-ratifica-apoyo-abdo-y-lo-salva-del-juicio-politico-n2836448.html
“Oposición presenta pedido de juicio político y cartistas frustran intención”,  https://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/politica/2019/08/07/oposicion-presenta-pedido-de-juicio-politico-y-cartistas-frustran-intencion/
“Paraguay: un pacto con el expresidente Cartes salva a Abdo del juicio político”, https://www.nodal.am/2019/08/paraguay-un-pacto-con-el-expresidente-cartes-salva-a-abdo-del-juicio-politico/

“Cartes ratifica apoyo a Abdo y lo salva del juicio político”, https://www.aps.org.py/en/cartes-ratifica-apoyo-a-abdo-y-lo-salva-del-juicio-politico/

[20] “Mario Abdo cumple dos años de gobierno y diversos sectores exponen sus falencias”, https://www.ultimahora.com/mario-abdo-cumple-dos-anos-gobierno-y-diversos-sectores-exponen-sus-falencias-n2899951.html
“La corrupción, el virus más letal que enfrenta el Gobierno de Marito”, https://www.ultimahora.com/la-corrupcion-el-virus-mas-letal-que-enfrenta-el-gobierno-marito-n2882060.html

[21] “Senado dilata el tratamiento de desafuero de Rodolfo Friedmann” https://www.ultimahora.com/senado-dilata-el-tratamiento-desafuero-rodolfo-friedmann-n2903062.html
“Rodolfo Friedmann renuncia al MAG tras ser imputado por la Fiscalía”,  https://www.ultimahora.com/rodolfo-friedmann-renuncia-al-mag-ser-imputado-la-fiscalia-n2902564.html
“Samudio renunció a Petropar ante sospechas de corrupción”, https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2020/04/22/patricia-samudio-renuncio-a-petropar-ante-sospechas-de-corrupcion/

[22] “Lilian Samaniego declara la guerra al canciller nacional”, https://www.ultimahora.com/lilian-samaniego-declara-la-guerra-al-canciller-nacional-n2860897.html
“Senadora denuncia nepotismo en concurso diplomático”, https://cdn-www.lanacionpy.arcpublishing.com/politica/2020/10/02/senadora-denuncia-nepotismo-en-concurso-diplomatico/
“Aguardan destitución del canciller”, https://www.liliansamaniego.com.py/noticias/aguardan-destitucion-del-canciller

[23] “Paraguay’s Curuguaty Case: Forgotten Murders, A Botched Trial, and A Broken Justice System”, https://www.coha.org/paraguays-curuguaty-case-forgotten-murders-a-botched-trial-and-a-broken-justice-system/
“Afirman que la crítica situación de Abdo lo obliga a pactar con Cartes”, https://www.ultimahora.com/afirman-que-la-critica-situacion-abdo-lo-obliga-pactar-cartes-n2896276.html

“Donald Trump, President of Paraguay Mario Abdo Benítez discuss corruption, Venezuela”, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/donald-trump-president-of-paraguay-discuss-corruption-venezuela/article30301500.ece
“Joshua Abreu – Yerno de Oro (Opinión)”, https://independiente.com.py/joshua-abreu-yerno-de-oro/
“Abdo afirma que solo en Asunción se lo critica”, https://www.lanacion.com.py/politica_edicion_impresa/2020/08/22/abdo-afirma-que-solo-en-asuncion-se-lo-critica/

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