Paraguay: Franco Regime Sitting on Powder Keg

JOAQUÍN RIVERY TUR

Charges of corruption against Federico Franco, including revelations about the enormous increase in his personal fortune during the five months of his administration, have undermined even further the image of those who engineered the parliamentary coup against former President Fernando Lugo, this past June.

The Franco regime has rejected the presence of observers from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), demanding that the organization recognize the constitutional legitimacy of the legislative move, during which an elected president was charged, tried and ousted in the course of 24 hours.

The high-ranking UNASUR group charged with monitoring the situation in Paraguay reported the negative response given by the current administration, which is more inclined to accept the discredited Organization of American States representatives as adequate, along with those expected from the European Union.

Former Peruvian premier Salomón Lerner, president of the UNASUR group, told Prensa Latina that the issue will be the subject of a report at the next foreign ministers meeting, scheduled for November 29, as a prelude to the UNASUR Summit to take place the following day, which will be attended by heads of state.

In addition to the insecurity and charges of corruption, the Última Hora daily newspaper adds that according to the Comptroller General, Franco’s personal fortune has grown by some 1.2 million dollars over the last few months.

Franco tried to explain the rapid increase citing a previous, allegedly erroneous evaluation of his wealth by the Comptrollers Office, which he asked to be corrected.

An international organization has described Paraguay as a state in decline, given its instability, corruption and fragile infrastructure.

A global study disseminated by the Future Brand consulting firm and picked up by Prensa Latina, ranked Paraguay as number 104 among nations analyzed for its most recent report.

The investigation presents evidence of the declining trend within the nation which appears to be going from bad to worse.

Without mincing words, Future Brand indicates that the isolated Paraguayan government faces a poor reputation and lack of confidence on a world scale, exemplified by its expulsion from the integrationist blocs MERCOSUR and UNASUR.

Add to this the social conflicts which the current government cannot, or does not care, to address, since the population is incensed by the reigning poverty, low wages, corruption and the appropriation of land by national and foreign companies.

Just this month, taking to the streets have been literacy instructors in a program initiated by Lugo, who have not received their salaries in five months and on strike some 6,000 workers and officials in the court system demanding scheduled pay increases.

Most constant have been the demands of campesinos and indigenous peoples without land, whose protests continue across the country while the best areas remain, legally or not, in the hands of foreigners. Among other actions, some agricultural workers have chained themselves to trees outside of the Parliament building.

The campesino organizations’ coordinating committee, the largest group of its kind in the country, told AP that it has begun to mobilize thousands of workers in Caazapá and Misiones provinces, demanding that the government psovide food for families living in extreme poverty and the $65 monthly subsidy established by the Lugo government.

Franco is sitting on a powder keg and the fuse is lit.

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