Pre-Columbian civilization in the fertile, wooded region that is now Paraguay consisted of numerous seminomadic, Guarani-speaking tribes of Indians, who were recognized for their fierce warrior traditions. They practiced a mythical polytheistic religion, which later blended with Christianity. Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar founded Asuncion on the Feast Day of the Assumption, August 15, 1537. The city eventually became the center of a Spanish colonial province. Paraguay declared its independence by overthrowing the local Spanish authorities in May 1811.
The country's formative years saw three strong leaders who established the tradition of personal rule that lasted until 1989: Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, Carlos Antonio Lopez, and his son, Francisco Solano Lopez. The younger Lopez waged a war against Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil (War of the Triple Alliance, 1864-70) in which Paraguay lost half its population; afterwards, Brazilian troops occupied the country until 1874. A succession of presidents governed Paraguay under the banner of the Colorado Party from 1880 until 1904, when the Liberal party seized control, ruling with only a brief interruption until 1940.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Paraguayan politics were defined by the Chaco war against Bolivia, a civil war, dictatorships, and periods of extreme political instability. Gen. Alfredo Stroessner took power in May 1954. Elected to complete the unexpired term of his predecessor, he was re-elected president seven times, ruling almost continuously under the state-of-siege provision of the constitution with support from the military and the Colorado Party. During Stroessner's 34-year reign, political freedoms were severely limited, and opponents of the regime were systematically harassed and persecuted in the name of national security and anticommunism. Though a 1967 constitution gave dubious legitimacy to Stroessner's control, Paraguay became progressively isolated from the world community.
On February 3, 1989, Stroessner was overthrown in a military coup headed by Gen. Andres Rodriguez. Rodriguez, as the Colorado Party candidate, easily won the presidency in elections held that May and the Colorado Party dominated the Congress. In 1991 municipal elections, however, opposition candidates won several major urban centers, including Asuncion. As president, Rodriguez instituted political, legal, and economic reforms and initiated a rapprochement with the international community.
The June 1992 constitution established a democratic system of government and dramatically improved protection of fundamental rights. In May 1993, Colorado Party candidate Juan Carlos Wasmosy was elected as Paraguay's first civilian president in almost 40 years in what international observers deemed fair and free elections. The newly elected majority-opposition Congress quickly demonstrated its independence from the executive by rescinding legislation passed by the previous Colorado-dominated Congress. With support from the United States, the Organization of American States, and other countries in the region, the Paraguayan people rejected an April 1996 attempt by then-Army Chief Gen. Lino Oviedo to oust President Wasmosy, taking an important step to strengthen democracy.
Oviedo became the Colorado candidate for president in the 1998 election, but when the Supreme Court upheld in April his conviction on charges related to the 1996 coup attempt, he was not allowed to run and remained in confinement. His former running mate, Raul Cubas Grau, became the Colorado Party's candidate and was elected in May in elections deemed by international observers to be free and fair. However, his brief presidency was dominated by conflict over the status of Oviedo, who had significant influence over the Cubas government. One of Cubas' first acts after taking office in August was to commute Oviedo's sentence and release him from confinement. In December 1998, Paraguay's Supreme Court declared these actions unconstitutional. After delaying for 2 months, Cubas openly defied the Supreme Court in February 1999, refusing to return Oviedo to jail. In this tense atmosphere, the murder of Vice President and long-time Oviedo rival Luis Maria Argana on March 23, 1999, led the Chamber of Deputies to impeach Cubas the next day. The March 26 murder of eight student antigovernment demonstrators, widely believed to have been carried out by Oviedo supporters, made it clear that the Senate would vote to remove Cubas on March 29, and Cubas resigned on March 28. Despite fears that the military would not allow the change of government, Senate President Luis Gonzalez Macchi, a Cubas opponent, was peacefully sworn in as president the same day. Cubas left for Brazil the next day and has since received asylum. Oviedo fled the same day, first to Argentina, then to Brazil. In December 2001, Brazil rejected Paraguay's petition to extradite Oviedo to stand trial for the March 1999 assassination and "marzo paraguayo" incident.
Gonzalez Macchi offered cabinet positions in his government to senior representatives of all three political parties in an attempt to create a coalition government. While the Liberal Party pulled out of the government in February 2000, the Gonzalez Macchi government has achieved a consensus among the parties on many controversial issues, including economic reform. Liberal Julio Cesar Franco won the August 2000 election to fill the vacant vice presidential position. In August 2001, the lower house of Congress considered but did not pass a motion to impeach Gonzalez Macchi for alleged corruption and inefficient governance.
Today, Paraguay is a constitutional republic with three branches of government. The President is the Head of Government and Head of State; he cannot succeed himself. Colorado Party Senator Luis Gonzalez Macchi assumed the presidency in March 1999; in August 2000, voters elected Julio Cesar Franco of the Liberal Party to be Vice President. The bicameral Congress is made up of a 45-member Senate and an 80-member Chamber of Deputies. The Colorado Party, the dominant political party, holds a small majority in both houses of Congress; however, factional differences within the Party result in shifting alliances depending on the issue. In August the lower house voted down impeachment charges based on poor performance of duties and corruption against the President and Vice President. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, although the Supreme Court continued to undertake judicial reforms, the courts remain inefficient and subject to corruption and political pressure.
The tradition of authoritarian rule was deeply rooted in the national history and rigorously maintained by the Stroessner regime. The government tolerated only a narrow range of opposition to its policies and moved quickly and forcefully to put down any challenges that went beyond implicit but well-recognized limits, that threatened to be effective, or that were raised by groups not enjoying official recognition. The government pointed proudly to the stability that Stroessner's rule brought to Paraguay, which had been riven by years of political disruption. Noting that Paraguay escaped the instability, political violence, and upheaval that had troubled the rest of Latin America, government supporters dismissed charges by human rights groups that such stability often came at the cost of individual civil rights and political liberty.
The government relied on several pieces of security legislation to prosecute security and political offenses. Principal among these was the state-of-siege decree, provided for under Article 79 of the Constitution. With the exception of a very few short periods, a state of siege was in continuous effect from 1954 until April 1987. After 1970 the state of siege was technically restricted to Asunción. The restriction was virtually meaningless, however, because the judiciary ruled that authorities could bring to the capital those persons accused of security offenses elsewhere and charge them under the state-of-siege provisions. Under the law, the government could declare a state of siege lasting up to three months in the event of international war, foreign invasion, domestic disturbance, or the threat of any of these. Extensions had to be approved by the legislature, which routinely did so. Under the state of siege, public meetings and demonstrations could be prohibited. Persons could be arrested and detained indefinitely without charge.
The lapse of the state of siege in 1987 had little effect on the government's ability to contain political opposition as of late 1988. Other security legislation could be used to cover the same range of offenses. The most important of these provisions was Law 209, "In Defense of Public Peace and Liberty of Person." This law, passed in 1970, lists crimes against public peace and liberty, including the public incitement of violence or civil disobedience. It specifies the limits on freedom of expression set forth in Article 71 of the Constitution, which forbids the preaching of hatred between Paraguayans or of class struggle. Law 209 raises penalties set forth in earlier security legislation for involvement in groups that seek to replace the existing government with a communist regime or to use violence to overthrow the government. It makes it a criminal offense to be a member of such groups and to support them in any form, including subscribing to publications; attending meetings or rallies; and printing, storing, distributing, or selling print or video material that supports such groups. Law 209 also sets penalties for slandering public officials.
During the early 1980s, Law 209 was used to prosecute several individuals the government accused of taking part in conspiracies directed from abroad by Marxist-Leninist groups. Among these were a group of peasants who hijacked a bus to the capital in 1980 to protest being evicted from their land. In 1983 members of an independent research institute that published data on the economy and other matters were arrested after a journal published by the institute carried articles calling for the formation of a student- worker-peasant alliance. Human rights groups, critical of trial procedures and the evidence in the two cases, questioned the existence of a foreign-directed conspiracy, asserting instead that the cases represented carefully selected attempts to discourage organized opposition. During the mid-1980s, the government used Law 209 principally to charge political opponents with fomenting hatred, defaming government officials, or committing sedition.
The lapse of the state of siege also had little effect on the government's ability to handle security and political offenses because authorities routinely detained political activists and others without citing any legal justification at all. In these cases, suspects were held for periods of hours, days, or weeks, then released without ever being charged. In practice, persons subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention had no recourse to legal protection, and constitutional requirements for a judicial determination of the legality of detention and for charges to be filed within forty-eight hours were routinely ignored. According to the United States Department of State, 253 political opposition activists were detained at least overnight in 1987. Of these, thirty-nine were held more for than seven days, and formal charges were filed in only sixteen of the cases.
Many of those detained were taken to police stations, armed forces installations, or to the Department of Investigations at police headquarters in Asunción. There have been numerous well- documented allegations of beating in the arrest process and of torture during detention. The government has asserted that torture was not a common practice and that any abuses were investigated and their perpetrators prosecuted under the law. National newspapers have carried rare accounts of a few such investigations and trials, but continued allegations of torture suggested that the problem had not been brought under control as of the late 1980s.
The government also limited the expression of opposition views by denying permits for assemblies and refusing or cancelling printing or broadcasting licenses. In early 1987, an independent radio station suspended its broadcasts after the government refused to do anything about a months-long illegal jamming of its authorized frequencies. Meetings by the political opposition, students, and labor groups required prior authorization by police, who did not hesitate to block and repress assemblies that did not have prior approval, sometimes beating leaders and participants. The government has also restricted the travel of a few persons involved in the political opposition or in labor groups. Some foreign journalists and certain Paraguayans identified with the opposition were expelled. During 1987 two persons then in exile were allowed to return to Paraguay. The government claimed that a third, a poet, was also free to return.
The police and the military were the main means of enforcement of the regime. During the mid-1980s, however, armed vigilantes associated with the Colorado Party broke up opposition meetings and rallies, sometimes while police looked on. Such groups had been active since the 1947 civil war but had been used relatively infrequently after the 1960s. The principal group was a loosely organized militia known as the Urban Guards (Guardias Urbanas), whose members were linked with local party branches and worked closely with the police. A second group was led by the head of the Department of Investigations. The government did not appear concerned by the reemergence of such groups and may in fact have encouraged them. In September 1987, for example, vigilantes broke up a panel discussion of opposition and labor members that was being held in a Roman Catholic Church. The vigilantes used chains and clubs to attack panel members and a parish priest who tried to intervene. The minister of justice, who himself was the leader of an anticommunist association that maintained its own security group, later publicly commended the vigilantes.
Numerous sources of government opposition were targets of security forces during the 1980s. Activity by these groups as well as the violent suppression of such activity disturbed public order on numerous occasions.
Foremost among those groups officially viewed as a security threat was the Paraguayan Communist Party (Partido Comunista Paraguayo--PCP). Since its inception, the Stroessner government has justified the continuance of strict internal security policies, particularly the prolongation of the state of siege, as necessary measures to prevent a communist takeover. Thus, the PCP's efforts to establish and maintain a power base in Paraguay had been ineffective throughout the Stroessner regime. This anticommunist fervor did not abate during the 1980s, however, even though the PCP was completely isolated from the national population. As of mid- 1988, the party was estimated to have some 4,000 members, most operating underground. Its leaders were either in exile or under arrest. The party claimed to have organized new cells during the 1980s, but their existence could not be confirmed. Excluded from the principal political opposition coalition, the PCP also claimed to have set up its own political front and labor front in exile. Both front organizations appeared, however, to exist only on paper, if at all.
The party was founded in 1928 and has been illegal since then, except for a short period in 1936 and again in the 1946-47 period before the PCP became involved in the 1947 civil war. The party's efforts to organize a general strike in 1959 were ineffective as was its involvement in guerilla attacks in the early 1960s. Both efforts drew harsh government reprisals. The party was believed to have two factions. The original one, the PCP, was loyal to the Soviet Union. A breakaway faction, the Paraguayan Communist Party-- Marxist-Leninist (Partido Comunista Paraguayo--Marxista-Leninista) was formed in 1967; it was avowedly Maoist. In 1982 the government arrested several persons that it identified as being members of the pro-China wing of the PCP. Evidence in that case has been criticized by international human rights groups, however, and it was unclear as of late 1988 whether either wing of the PCP was active in the country at all. The party held its last conference in 1971.
Another illegal opposition group was the Political-Military Organization (Organización Político-Militar--OPM). The group was founded in 1974 by leftist Catholic students and drew some support from radical members of the clergy and Catholic peasant organizations. The government made extensive arrests of OPM members and sympathizers in 1976, after which operations of the movement declined. It was unclear whether the OPM still existed as of mid- 1988, but the government continued to warn of its threat, claiming that it was under communist control.
The activities of illegal opposition parties--including the Colorado Popular Movement (Movimiento Popular Colorado--Mopoco), the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico--PLRA), and the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano--PDC)--also drew official attention. Members of illegal parties were subject to regular police surveillance. They have alleged that their telephones were illegally tapped and their correspondence intercepted. The unrecognized opposition parties were routinely denied permits for meetings, so that any they held usually were broken up, often violently, by police, who cited them for illegally holding unauthorized assemblies. In 1979 these three parties joined with a legally recognized opposition party, the PRF, in a coalition known as the National Accord (Acuerdo Nacional). Leaders of this coalition, whether members of legal or illegal parties, were also subject to detentions and deportations.
Independent labor unions were another object of surveillance by government security forces in the 1980s. Most labor unions belonged to the Paraguayan Confederation of Workers (Confederación Paraguaya de Trabajadores), which was allied with the government and carefully controlled by it. Although workers not sponsored by the official confederation were not authorized to organize freely, some independent labor unions had been given official recognition. Their activities, however, were closely monitored by the police, who sent representatives to all meetings. Despite tight controls--Paraguayan law made it virtually impossible to call a legal strike--a number of labor-related public disturbances took place in the mid-1980s. In April 1986, for instance, a peaceful protest by a medical workers' association in Asunción was forcibly broken up by police. Vigilante groups associated with the Colorado Party were also active in intimidating and assaulting the doctors, nurses, and technicians involved, as well as university students who joined in subsequent demonstrations supporting the medical workers. Hundreds of demonstrators organized by an independent workers' movement were clubbed and beaten in the capital in May 1986. Continued demonstrations in support of the jailed demonstrators and medical workers also drew police action.
In 1985 student demonstrations disturbed public order in the capital for the first time in twenty-five years. An estimated 2,000 students clashed with police in April of that year. After a student was shot to death in the clash, more demonstrations followed, and part of the National University was closed for several days. Since that time, students have been prominent in demonstrations organized by several other groups.
Land tenure issues were also apparent in outbreaks of public violence. Several incidents involved arrests by military and police personnel of militant landless peasants who were squatting on private or public land. In 1986 three squatter incidents were publicized in the local press; after military involvement in the shooting deaths of two peasants was revealed, the military made efforts to leave action in similar cases to the police. Local community leaders chosen to represent peasants in negotiations with the government over land tenure issues have also been subject to harassment by local police and judicial officials. Reports have appeared in both the national and international press about abuses of the rights of the nation's small, unassimilated Indian population. Most frequently, abuses were alleged to occur in land disputes. The abuses appeared to result from the relative powerlessness of the Indian population vis-à-vis local landowners and the remoteness of tribal areas.
The government controlled most print media, both television channels, and most radio stations and tolerated only limited criticism from the press. Major media usually avoided criticizing the president, his family, the military, and key civilian leaders. Topics related to official corruption and national security were also generally avoided, and coverage of the political opposition was strictly limited. Violations of these rules were answered with force eventually--sometimes immediately--by the government.
During the mid-1980s, the Roman Catholic Church emerged as a leader of antigovernment forces. The church was openly opposed to the Stroessner regime during the 1960s and early 1970s, until the government cracked down, sending troops into the private Catholic University on more than one occasion and eventually leaving it in shambles. The harsh government response was followed by several years of relative quiet from the church. During the mid-1980s, church officials offered to serve as a bridge for the reconciliation of the government and the opposition but were turned down by the government. Roman Catholic bishops also began to take a larger role in pressing for a transition to democracy and investigation of human rights abuses. The wave of antigovernment protests in 1986 and the government's forcible response, however, appeared to have inspired the church to take a more overt political stance. In May 1986, the archbishop of Asunción announced a series of protests that culminated in the ringing of church bells throughout the capital. Some 800 priests and members of religious orders, joined by members of the opposition parties and other people, led a march of silence in the capital in October 1987. The government permitted the crowd--estimated at 40,000--to proceed peacefully. Provincial clergy, long active among the rural poor, also have been involved in land tenure disputes and in setting up peasant cooperative enterprises. Activities in both areas have been met with displeasure by local landowners and have resulted in clashes with the military and with local police. Following the government's closure in 1984 of ABC Color, the Roman Catholic Church's newspaper, Sendero, became an important source of information on opposition activities.
The country has a population of approximately 5.6 million and a market economy with a large state presence and a large informal sector. The formal economy has been in a recession for the past 5 years. In 2000 economic growth declined by 0.4 percent in real terms. According to preliminary figures for 2000, gross domestic product (GDP) was $7.7 billion (35.4 trillion guaranies). The GDP per capita ($1,506) has fallen steadily and is lower in real terms than it was 10 years ago. An estimated 32 percent of the population is employed in agriculture, which provides 30 percent of the GDP. Hydroelectric power, agricultural products, and cattle were the most important export items. The informal economy, estimated at 50 percent of the value of the formal sector, has shrunk considerably in the last few years and suffered a severe blow with the implementation of stricter border controls by the Brazilian Government on the important crossroads of Cuidad del Este. Wealth continues to be concentrated in a small upper class, with both urban and rural areas supporting a large subsistence sector.
Social life in Paraguay had always been closely tied to religion, but politically the Roman Catholic Church traditionally had remained neutral and generally refrained from commenting on politics. In the late 1960s, however, the church began to distance itself from the Stroessner regime because of concerns over human rights abuses and the absence of social reform. The Auxiliary Bishop of Asunción, Aníbal Maricevich Fleitas, provided an early focus for criticism of the regime. With the growth of the Catholic University and the influx of Jesuits from Europe, especially Spain, the church had a forum and a vehicle for reform as well as a dynamic team of spokespeople. Some priests moved into the poor neighborhoods, and they, along with others in the rural areas, began to encourage the lower classes to exercise the political rights guaranteed in the Constitution. These priests and the growing Catholic Youth movement organized workers and peasants, created Christian Agrarian Leagues and a Christian Workers' Center, and publicized the plight of the Indians. As part of the program of education and awareness, the church founded a weekly news magazine, Comunidad, and a radio station that broadcast throughout the country.
In April 1968, the regime reacted against this criticism and mobilization by authorizing the police to invade the university, beat students, arrest professors, and expel four Jesuits from the country. Although the Paraguayan Bishops' Conference (Conferencia Episcopal Paraguayo--CEP) met and issued a blistering statement, the regime was not deterred from continuing its crackdown on the church. The Stroessner government arrested church activists, shut down Comunidad, disbanded Catholic Youth rallies, outlawed the Catholic Relief Service--the church agency that distributed assistance from the United States--and refused to accept Maricevich as successor when Archbishop Aníbal Mena Porta resigned in December 1969.
The following January, the government and church reached an agreement on the selection of Ismael Rolón Silvero as archbishop of Asunción. This resolution did not end the conflict, however, which resulted in continued imprisonment of university students, expulsions of Jesuits, and attacks on the Christian Agrarian Leagues, a Catholic preparatory school, and even the offices of the CEP. Rolón stated that he would not occupy the seat on the Council of State provided by the Constitution for the archbishop of Asunción until the regime restored basic liberties.
In the 1970s, the church, which was frequently under attack, attempted to strengthen itself from within. The church promoted the establishment of peasant cooperatives, sponsored a pastoral program among students in the Catholic University, and endorsed the creation of grassroots organizations known as Basic Christian Communities (Comunidades Eclesiásticas de Base--CEBs). By 1986 there were 400 CEBs consisting of 15,000 members. These organizational efforts, combined with dynamic regional efforts by the church symbolized in the Latin American Episcopal Conference (Conferencia Episcopal Latinoamericana--Celam) meeting in Puebla, Mexico, in 1979, resulted in a renewed commitment to social and political change. Following the Puebla conference, the Paraguayan Roman Catholic Church formally committed itself to a "preferential option for the poor," and that year the CEP published a pastoral letter, "The Moral Cleansing of the Nation," that attacked growing economic inequalities and the decline of moral standards in public life. In 1981 the CEP released a detailed plan for social action. Two years later, the bishops issued a pastoral letter denouncing increasing evictions of peasants.
By the early 1980s, the church had emerged as the most important opponent of the Stroessner regime. The CEP's weekly newspaper, Sendero, contained not only religious information but also political analysis and accounts of human rights abuses. The church's Radio Caritas was the only independent radio station. Church buildings and equipment were made available to government opponents. In addition, the bishops joined with leaders of the Lutheran Church and Disciples of Christ Church to establish the Committee of the Churches. This committee became the most important group to report on human rights abuses, and it also provided legal services to those who had suffered such abuse.
Keeping an eye on the post-Stroessner political situation and concerned to bring about a peaceful democratic transition, the CEP began in 1983 to promote the idea of a national dialogue to include the Colorado Party, business, labor, and the opposition parties. This concept was endorsed by the National Accord, which demanded constitutional reforms designed to create an open, democratic, pluralist, and participatory society. The Colorado Party rejected the calls for dialogue, however, on the grounds that such action was already taking place in the formal structures of government at national and local levels.
In the late 1980s, the church was better able to respond in a united manner to criticism and repression by the regime than had been the case in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Five days after the suspension of the state of siege in Asunción in 1987, police broke up a Holy Week procession of seminarians who were dramatizing the predicament of peasants who had no land. Rolón denounced this police action. In October 1987, the clergy and religious groups of Asunción issued a statement that condemned the preaching of hatred by the Colorado Party's radio program "La Voz del Coloradismo," demanded the dismantling of assault squads made up of Colorado civilians, and called for respect for civil rights and a national reconciliation. Later that month, the church organized a silent march to protest government policies. The march, which attracted between 15,000 and 30,000 participants, was the largest public protest ever staged against the regime and demonstrated the church's impressive mobilization capabilities.
Critical statements by the church increased with the approach of the 1988 general elections and with the government's continued refusal to participate in the national dialogue. In January 1988, the CEP issued a statement on the current situation, calling attention to the government's use of corruption, violence, and repression of autonomous social organizations. The bishops warned of increasing polarization and violence and indicated that blank voting in the upcoming elections was a legitimate political option, a position frequently denounced by Stroessner and the Colorado Party. The archbishopric of Asunción followed up in February by issuing a document rejecting the government's accusations of church involvement in politics and support for opposition parties. Immediately after the elections, Rolón granted an interview to the Argentine newspaper Clarín, in which he blamed the tense relations between church and regime on the government's use of violence. He criticized the government for its disregard of the Constitution, harassment of political opponents, and refusal to participate in the national dialogue, and he charged that the elections were farcical.
In the confrontational atmosphere after the elections, the visit by Pope John Paul II to Paraguay in May 1988 was extremely important. The government rejected the church's plans to include Concepción on the papal itinerary, claiming that the airport runway there was too short to accommodate the pope's plane. Maricevich, who now headed the diocese of Concepción, charged, however, that the city had been discriminated against throughout the Stroessner era as punishment for its role in opposing General Higinio Morínigo in the 1947 civil war. The pope's visit was almost cancelled at the last moment when the government tried to prevent John Paul from meeting with 3,000 people--including representatives from unrecognized political parties, labor, and community groups--dubbed the "builders of society." After the government agreed reluctantly to allow the meeting, the Pope arrived in Asunción and was received by Stroessner. Whereas Stroessner spoke of the accomplishments of his government and the recent free elections, the Pope called for a wider participation in politics of all sectors and urged respect for human rights. Throughout his three-day trip, John Paul stressed human rights, democracy, and the right and duty of the church to be involved in society. His visit was seen by observers as supporting the Paraguayan Roman Catholic Church's promotion of a political transition, development of grass roots organizations, and defense of human rights.
During the colonial period, criminal justice was administered in courts in what is now Paraguay according to provisions in several codes developed by the Spanish. Appeal in specific cases was referred to higher tribunals in the mother country. Many of those laws continued to be applied during the period following independence, except when Paraguayan rulers arbitrarily applied their own self-made law. In 1883 the nation adopted the Argentine penal code. This was replaced by a national code drawn up by Paraguayan jurists in 1890. This code was rewritten in 1910, and the new code proclaimed in 1914. The 1914 Penal Code, as amended, was still in force as of 1988.
The code is set forth in two books, each of which has two sections. The first section of Book I gives general provisions defining the application of the law and criminal liability, addressing such issues as mitigating circumstances, insanity, and multiple crimes. According to the code, active-duty members of the armed forces come under the jurisdiction of the Military Penal Code, as do perpetrators of purely military offenses. Section 2 of Book I establishes punishments and provides for the cancellation of legal actions and the exercise of prosecution functions. The death sentence was abolished in 1967, and the punishments provided for are imprisonment, jailing, exile, suspension fines, and disqualification. Jailing, which like imprisonment can entail involuntary labor, is served by those persons convicted of less serious crimes in special institutions distinct from prisons, which house those convicted of serious crimes that draw long-term sentences. Disqualification can entail loss of public office or loss of public rights, including suffrage and pension benefits.
The first half of Book II of the code comprises a sixteenchapter section that groups offenses into broad categories, defines specific types of violations, and sets penalties for each type. The major categories include crimes against the state, against public order and public authority, and against persons and property. The second half of Book II sets forth misdemeanor offenses and their punishments.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
As a matter of policy, the government did not publish statistics on crime in the 1980s, so it was impossible to determine the incidence of crime, the frequency of particular crimes, or the direction of overall crime rates. The nation had a relatively homogeneous population, however, and did not appear to be troubled by the high rates of ordinary crimes, such as murder, assault, and theft, that have been associated with ethnic tensions or class divisions found in other areas of Latin America. However, three special types of crimes--corruption, smuggling, and drug trafficking--attracted media attention both locally and internationally in the 1980s.
Official corruption has been a very sensitive issue throughout the Stroessner regime and remained so during the late 1980s. National standards of public conduct appeared to accommodate a certain amount of personal intervention on behalf of family members, friends, and business associates. It was widely agreed, however, both within the nation and outside it, that serious breaches of these standards by senior civilian and military officials were rarely investigated or prosecuted. Indeed, efforts by officials to generate wealth or to influence the outcome of legal or business decisions, either on their own behalf or on that of relatives, friends, or associates, were treated by the government as a perquisite of office and a reward for loyalty. Allegations of high-level corruption and graft in the local press were officially frowned upon, and displeasure was expressed overtly by confiscating publications and arresting journalists and publishers. Nonetheless, some investigations and arrests of alleged perpetrators have taken place and been reported. One example was the arrest in late 1985 of twenty-nine senior bureaucrats and businessmen on charges of embezzlement of an estimated US$100 million from the Central Bank.
Involvement or connivance in smuggling appeared to be a significant element of official corruption. Most observers have estimated that the volume of illegal foreign trade at the very least came close to matching that of legal commerce during the mid1980s and possibly surpassed it. In 1987 the leader of a business association of commercial and industrial interests estimated that contraband accounted for two-thirds of Paraguay's foreign trade. The avoidance of import duties represented a serious loss of revenue to the government. The flood of cheaper goods also harmed local producers, who could not compete with the artificially low prices of smuggled goods. The illegal commerce also had raised tensions with Brazil because it undercut Brazil's own economy.
Smuggling has had a long history in Paraguay. During the 1950s, most operators worked on a small scale, but by the 1960s it was apparent that several persons had made fortunes in the trade. During the 1970s, smugglers moved into exports as well as imports. The trade began by focusing on such luxury items as whiskey and cigarettes, but by the 1980s, smuggled goods included electronic goods, appliances, and even commodities such as wheat. Logs taken from Eastern Paraguay and sold in Brazil were a major illegal export item. The growing disparity between official exchange rates and market exchange rates during the 1980s made the trade increasingly lucrative, because traders were able to buy goods outside the country at market rates and then sell them in Paraguay at a price that was below that of legally imported goods but still high enough to render a substantial profit. Movement of the heavy volume of illegal trade necessitated crossing river borders controlled by the navy and crossing land borders and road checkpoints patrolled by the army and the police. Entry by air entailed transport through airports controlled by the air force. Despite these controls, few smugglers were arrested as the trade in illegal goods burgeoned and illegal markets thrived openly in the capital and other cities, especially Puerto Presidente Stroessner, which borders Brazil. The apparent tolerance of smuggling and the fact that several senior military and civilian officials had unaccounted-for sources of wealth contributed to a widely held local belief that there was official involvement in the trade.
An especially serious outgrowth of smuggling was the expansion into drug trafficking during the early 1980s, when Paraguay emerged as a transit point in the international drug trade. The nation was well situated for the role. It was located near Bolivia and Peru, which were major Latin American sources of illegal drugs. Moreover, Paraguay's sparsely populated and remote border areas presented difficulties for police surveillance. The nation had been used as a transit point during the 1960s, but international and local efforts had shut down the trade by the early 1970s. A series of seizures of drugs and of chemicals used to refine them during the 1984-87 period suggested that the problem had resurfaced, however. The problem first reached public attention in 1984 when a large quantity of chemicals used to refine coca paste into cocaine was seized by authorities in Paraguay. In 1986 and 1987, officials in Panama and Belgium discovered large amounts of cocaine that had been shipped from Paraguay. Again in 1987, evidence of Paraguayan involvement in drug trafficking surfaced after a plane carrying a major shipment of cocaine crashed in Argentina, having taken off in Paraguay. The Stroessner government denied charges by United States government officials that Paraguayan military and civilian officials were involved in the trade and vowed to take a tough stand against any drug traffickers. According to a United States Department of State official, Paraguay was also a major producer of marijuana for export.
Paraguay has reported data on crime to INTERPOL since 1995, so it is possible to do some analysis using that data. With the exception of murder, the crime rate in Paraguay is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Paraguay. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Paraguay will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 11.57 per 100,000 population for Paraguay, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 4.77 for Paraguay, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 2.76for Paraguay, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 55.1 for Paraguay, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 22.19 for Paraguay, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 8.16 for Paraguay, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 48.13 for Paraguay, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 152.68 for Paraguay, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA.
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1995 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 16.08 to 11.57 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 28%. The rate for rape increased from 4.18 to 4.77, an increase of 14.1%. The rate of robbery decreased from 15.04 to 2.76, a decrease of 81.6%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 92.18 to 55.1, a decrease of 40.2%. The rate for burglary increased from 20.43 to 22.19, an increase of 8.6%. The rate of larceny decreased from 91.49 to 8.16, a decrease of 91.1%. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 48.33 to 48.13, a decrease of 0.4%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 287.73 to 152.67, a decrease of 46.9%.
The legal system of Paraguay is based on Argentine codes, Roman law, and French codes. In practice the criminal justice system was composed of two parallel structures. The first comprised the formal legal system set forth in the Constitution and in numerous statutes that provided for an independent judiciary and that specified legal procedures. The second system was one in which political and economic clout determined the outcome of conflict resolution. When the two structures clashed, the second was generally perceived to prevail. The widespread perception that the criminal justice system was susceptible to economic and political manipulation meant that few people were willing to confront police, military, or political authority.
Public order was well established in the nation, and the government committed sufficient resources to law enforcement to maintain domestic order throughout the country. Urban and rural areas were generally safe, as was travel throughout the country. As a rule, citizens were able to conduct routine day-to-day affairs peaceably and without government interference. A major exception, however, was activity associated with opposition to the regime, to the Colorado Party, or to the interests of powerful and influential national and local figures. In these circumstances, individuals were likely to attract the negative attention of the police or other security personnel.
The police had a long history in Paraguay. Francia maintained the nation's first police establishment, using it to enforce his complete control of the state. Under him, the police maintained a wide-reaching spy network that moved ruthlessly to suppress dissent and generated an atmosphere of fear. The police have remained a powerful and politicized institution ever since. Until the mid1950s , the police often served as a counterweight to the armed forces, but after police officials were implicated in an abortive coup against Stroessner in late 1955, the force was purged, and police paramilitary units were sharply cut back. Since then, the police chief has almost always been a serving or retired army officer. Army officers have also held many key positions in the police hierarchy.
The Paraguayan police force was a centralized organization under the administration of the minister of interior. The force comprised two main elements, one for the capital and another for the rest of the nation. A separate highway police patrolled the nation's roads and was administered by the minister of public works and communication.
In 1988 police strength was estimated at 8,500 personnel; about 4,500 were assigned to the capital and the rest to the nation's 19 departments. The ratio of police to the rest of the population was one of the world's highest. Most rank-and-file police personnel were two-year conscripts who generally served outside their home area.
The capital police force was headed by a chief of police. Police personnel were assigned to headquarters or to one of twenty-three borough precincts. Police headquarters had three departments. The regular police, who dealt with ordinary crime, as well as having traffic-control mounted, and motorized elements, came under the administration of the Department of Public Order. The Department of Investigations, an internal security organ, dealt with political and security offenses. The Department of Training and Operations handled police administration and planning and ran police training establishments. Several directorates at police headquarters specialized in particular areas; among these were surveillance and offenses, identification, alien registration, and politics. A separate directorate specializing in political intelligence-- formerly the sole province of the army staff's intelligence section--was established in mid-1987. Police personnel also ran the capital's fire department.
A special unit of the capital police was the Security Guard, a 400-strong unit called up in cases of emergency and used in ceremonies and parades. About one-half of the unit, which had two rifle companies, was manned by conscripts.
Police in the interior were under the control of the government delegate heading the department in which police operated. For police functions, the delegate was in turn responsible to the minister of interior. Each delegate usually had a police chief who handled routine matters, an investigative section to process the identity cards carried by all citizens, and an additional person to supervise police arrests with a view to bringing charges. Departments were divided into districts in which a justice of the peace had several police conscripts assigned to him to carry out guard and patrol duties and other routine police functions.
All police training took place in Asunción. Basic training was given at the Police College, which offered a five-year course in modern police techniques. The Higher Police College offered specialized training. The police also operated a school for NCOs and an in-service training battalion.
The military generally no longer plays an overt role in politics; however, members of two army units and a group of National Police officers participated in an attempted coup in May 2000. The National Police force has responsibility for maintaining internal security and public order, and it reports to the Ministry of the Interior. The civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces. Members of the security forces committed some human rights abuses. The police and military were responsible for over a dozen extrajudicial killings. The Constitution prohibits torture as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment; however, torture (primarily beatings) and brutal and degrading treatment of convicted prisoners and other detainees continued. The Paraguay Human Rights Coordinating Board (CODEHUPY)--a group of 32 (nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), civic organizations, and trade unions--reported several cases of police torture and other abusive treatment of persons, including women and children, designed to extract confessions, punish escape attempts, or intimidate detainees. The Attorney General's office and the Committee of Churches compiled numerous examples of police abuse.
In May 2000, during the state of exception imposed after the aborted coup attempt, several of those arrested reported being tortured during their detention. Some of these persons reported that former Interior Minister Walter Bower witnessed and encouraged the beatings of suspects in three unrelated cases. In June prosecutors filed charges against Basilio Pavon and Osvaldo Vera, two police officers, alleging that on Bower's orders they tortured Alfredo Caceres and Jorge Lopez in the aftermath of the coup attempt.
Press reports also connected Bower to the torture of eight peasants in Concepcion in March 2000; police reportedly beat them in Bower's presence after they were arrested for illegally cutting down trees. In October 2000, Bower was removed as Minister of the Interior. In April the Chamber of Deputies revoked Bower's immunity as a member of Congress, and in August prosecutors completed their investigation of these incidents and charged Bower with torture and other crimes. In December Saul Lenardo Franco filed a complaint alleging that Bower and three police officers had tortured him following the failed coup attempt. Legal action against Bower was pending at year's end 2001.
Police used force to disperse protesters on several occasions, sometimes seriously injuring civilians.
The Constitution provides that the police may not enter private homes except to prevent a crime in progress or when the police possess a judicial warrant; however, at times the Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. While the Government and its security forces generally did not interfere in the private lives of citizens, human rights activists claimed that local officials and police officers abuse their authority by entering homes or businesses without warrants and harassing private citizens. There were allegations that the Government occasionally spied on individuals and monitored communications for political and security reasons.
Arbitrary arrest and detention are persistent problems. The Constitution prohibits detention without an arrest warrant signed by a judge and stipulates that any person arrested must appear before a judge within 24 hours to make a statement. The police may arrest persons without a warrant if they catch them in the act of committing a crime, but they must notify a prosecutor within 6 hours. In practice the authorities do not always comply with these provisions.
In August the armed forces announced a campaign to stop arbitrarily young men in the streets to see if they had complied with their military service obligations; however, within a week, the armed forces cancelled the campaign after criticism from civic and human rights groups and inquires from Congress and local governments. Pretrial detention remains a serious problem; an estimated 75 percent of persons in prison were held pending trial, many for months or years after their arrest. While the law encourages speedy trials, the Constitution permits detention without trial until the accused completes the minimum sentence for the alleged crime, which often occurs in practice. Judges have the discretion to permit "substitute measures," such as house arrest, in place of bail for most crimes. Judges frequently set relatively high bail, and many accused persons are unable to post bond. The Supreme Court and many criminal court judges also make quarterly visits to the prisons to identify and release improperly detained individuals.
The authorities arrested over 45 persons in connection with the 1999 assassination of Vice President Argana and the killing of student protesters. Many of those arrested were well-known political figures, including legislators allied with the former Government. There was little evidence presented to support the charges against most of them, and most of the accused were held without bail, leading some observers to question whether due process had been observed. According to the Attorney General's office, at least 10 of those detained remained in jail awaiting trial at year's end 2001, and approximately 5 prominent suspects, who had been remanded to house arrest or other alternative detention, had not yet been cleared of the charges against them; therefore, they remained in an uncertain legal status. The Government restricts the movement of persons allegedly suspected of plotting the coup.
The Constitution expressly prohibits exile, and the Government does not use it.
Article 193 of the Constitution provides for a Supreme Court of Justice of no fewer than five members and for other tribunals and justices to be established by law. The Supreme Court supervises all other components of the judicial branch, which include appellate courts with three members each in the areas of criminal, civil, administrative, and commercial jurisdiction; courts of first instance in these same four areas; justices of the peace dealing with more minor issues; and military courts. The Supreme Court hears disputes concerning jurisdiction and competence before it and has the power to declare unconstitutional any law or presidential act. As of 1988, however, the court had never declared invalid any of Stroessner's acts.
Supreme Court justices serve five-year terms of office concurrent with the president and the National Congress and may be reappointed. They must be native-born Paraguayans, at least thirtyfive years of age, possess a university degree of Doctor of Laws, have recognized experience in legal matters, and have an excellent reputation for integrity.
Sources of procedural criminal law are the Constitution, special laws, the Penal Code, and the Code of Penal Procedure. These sources govern pleading and practices in all courts as well as admission to the practice of law.
The entire court system was under the control of the national government. In addition to the judiciary, which was a separate branch of government, the Ministry of Justice and Labor was also involved in the administration of justice. It was responsible for judicial officers attached to the attorney general's office. These officials were assigned to the various courts and represented the government in trial proceedings. The ministry was also responsible for the judiciary's budget and the operation of the penal system.
At the apex of the criminal court system was the Supreme Court of Justice, which was made up of five justices appointed by the president. Below the Supreme Court of Justice, which was responsible for the administration of the judiciary, was the criminal court of appeal. Both courts were located in Asunción. Courts of original jurisdiction were divided between the courts of the first instance, which heard serious cases, and justice of the peace courts, whose jurisdiction was limited to minor offenses. There were six courts of the first instance in the country during the 1980s. There were far more justice of the peace courts, but the exact number was not publicly available.
Although theoretically a coequal branch of government, the judiciary, along with the legislature, has traditionally been subordinate to the executive. Members of the judiciary were appointed by the president and served a five-year term coinciding with that of the president. In practice, the courts rarely challenged government actions. Under the law, the Supreme Court of Justice had jurisdiction over executive actions, but it continued not to accept jurisdiction in political cases as of mid-1988. The independence of the judiciary was also made problematic by the executive's complete control over the judiciary's budget. Moreover, during the Stroessner regime, membership in the Colorado Party was a virtual requirement for appointment to the judiciary; in 1985 all but two judges were members. Many justices of the peace, in particular, were appointed by virtue of their influence in their local communities. During the mid-1980s, the government made an effort to improve the public image of judges, suspending a small number for corruption. It appeared, however, that more would be necessary to promote public confidence in judicial independence.
The Constitution theoretically guarantees every citizen the rights of due process, presumption of innocence, prohibition against self-incrimination, and speedy trial. It protects the accused from ex post facto enactments, unreasonable search and seizure, and cruel and unusual punishment. Habeas corpus protection is extended to all citizens.
Criminal actions can be initiated by the offended party or by the police acting under the direction of a judicial official. According to the law, police had to secure warrants to arrest suspects or to conduct searches unless a crime was in progress while the police were present. Police could detain suspects for only twenty-four hours without pressing charges. Within forty-eight hours, a justice of the peace had to be informed of the detention. Upon receiving the charges of the police and determining that there were grounds for those charges, the justice of the peace then took action according to the gravity of the offense charged. In the case of misdemeanors, the justice of the peace was empowered to try the suspect and to pass sentences of up to thirty days in jail or an equivalent fine. In the case of felonies, a justice of the peace, although not possessing authority to try the case, performed several important functions. If upon hearing the charges, the justice of the peace determined that there were grounds to suspect the individual charged, he informed the suspect of charges against him or her, fixed a time within twenty-four hours to permit the suspect to present an unsworn statement, established a time for witnesses to make sworn statements, and determined a time for inspecting the scene of the crime.
After investigation and the receipt of the suspect's unsworn statement, the justice of the peace could order the suspect to be held in preventive detention, if necessary for up to three days incommunicado. This period was renewable for additional three-day periods and was intended to prevent the suspect from communicating with coconspirators still at large. Justices of the peace could also order impoundment of a suspect's goods, except those needed by his or her family.
Finally, the justice of the peace prepared the case for trial in the criminal court of the first instance. This preparation was done by assembling the evidence into a document known as the summary and sending it to the higher court along with supporting documents such as statements of witnesses. The investigative stage of criminal proceedings was limited by law to two months--subject to a formal petition for extension.
Despite these important responsibilities, many justices of the peace were not qualified lawyers. Therefore, in several of the larger cities, a special official, known as a proceedings judge, took over the most difficult cases before sending the information to Asunción for trial. These judges were empowered to release suspects on bail--something a justice of the peace could not do.
Trials were conducted almost exclusively by the presentation of written documents to a judge who then rendered a decision. As was true for most Latin American nations, Paraguay did not have trial by jury. Verdicts were automatically referred to the appellate court and in some cases could be appealed further to the Supreme Court of Justice. A portion of the trial was usually open to the public.
The safeguards set forth in the Constitution and in legal statutes often were not honored in practice. The police frequently ignored requirements for warrants for arrest and for search and seizure. Legal provisions governing speedy trial were ineffective, and delays were legendary. Most accused persons were released before trial proceedings were complete because they had already been detained for the length of time prescribed for their alleged offense. A 1983 United Nations study found that Paraguay had the highest rate of unsentenced prisoners in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, defense lawyers, particularly in security and political cases, were subjected to police harassment and sometimes to arrest.
Today, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, judges often are pressured by politicians and other interested parties. There are credible reports of political pressure affecting judicial decisions; however, the judiciary is not allied with any one political group.
The nine-member Supreme Court appoints lower court judges and magistrates, based upon recommendations by the magistrate's council. There are five types of appellate tribunals: Civil and commercial, criminal, labor, administrative, and juvenile. Minor courts and justices of the peace fall within four functional areas: Civil and commercial, criminal, labor, and juvenile. The military has its own judicial system.
The judicial system remains relatively inefficient and has insufficient resources. The March 2000 Penal and Criminal Procedures Code, provides the legal basis for the protection of fundamental human rights. The new Code introduced expedited oral proceedings, and requires prosecutors to bring charges against accused persons within 180 days. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, and defendants and the prosecutor may present the written testimony of witnesses as well as other evidence. The judge alone determines guilt or innocence and decides punishment. A convicted defendant may appeal his or her sentence to an appeals court, and the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over constitutional questions.
The new system has reduced the backlog of pending criminal cases: 95 percent of those cases active in 1999 had been resolved by March. The average length of a criminal proceeding has dropped by 75 percent, resulting in a reduction of the length of pretrial detention; however, the average time from arrest to trial is still approximately 240 days. The long trial period highlights the judiciary's struggle with insufficient resources.
The Constitution stipulates that all defendants have the right to an attorney, at public expense if necessary, but this right often is not respected in practice. Many destitute suspects receive little legal assistance, and few have access to an attorney sufficiently in advance of the trial to prepare a defense. For example, in Asuncion there are only 26 public defenders available to assist the indigent, and only 102 nationwide, although 25 new positions are planned. In practice public defenders lack the resources to perform their jobs adequately.
There were no reports of political prisoners. Of the more than 45 supporters of former General Lino Oviedo that were arrested after the 1999 killings of Vice President Argana and the student protesters, 10 remained in jail awaiting trial at year's end 2001. They assert that they are being detained because of their political opposition to President Gonzalez Macchi.
In 1988 the operation of prisons was under the General Directorate of Penal Institutions, controlled by the Ministry of Justice and Labor. According to Article 65 of the Constitution, penal institutions are required to be healthful and clean and to be dedicated to rehabilitating offenders. Economic constraints made conditions in prisons austere, however, and overcrowding was a serious problem. A report by an independent bar association in the early 1980s criticized the prison system for failing to provide treatment for convicts.
The National Penitentiary in Asunción was the country's principal correctional institution. Observers believed that the total population of the institution averaged about 2,000, including political prisoners. Another prison for adult males was the Tacumbu Penitentiary located in Villa Hayes, near Asunción.
Women and juveniles were held in separate institutions. Females were incarcerated in the Women's Correctional Institute under the supervision of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. The institution offered courses in domestic science. A correctional institute for minors was located in Emboscada, which was also near the capital. It stressed rehabilitating inmates and providing them with skills that would help them secure employment when their sentences were completed.
In addition to the penal institutions in the Central Department, each of the other departments maintained a prison or jail in its capital. Many smaller communities did not have adequate facilities even for temporary incarceration, however. A suspect receiving a sentence of more than one year usually was transferred to a national penitentiary.
Today, prison facilities are deficient and prison conditions are extremely poor. Overcrowding, unsanitary living conditions, and mistreatment are the most serious problems affecting all prisoners. Tacumbu prison, the largest in Asuncion, was built to hold 800 inmates but houses over 1,500. Other regional prisons generally hold about three times more inmates than originally planned. UNICEF reported that conditions were substandard in other facilities around the country, especially in the prison in Coronel Oviedo. In December a fire and riot at the Alto Parana Regional Penitentiary in Ciudad del Este left 24 inmates dead and over 200 injured. Security is a problem in the prison system. For example, there are approximately 120 guards for over 1,500 prisoners at Tacumbu prison.
The Congressional Human Rights Commission has criticized the prisons for their poor nutritional standards. Prisons generally serve one meal a day, and prisoners seldom get vegetables, fruit, or a meat protein source, unless they have individual means to purchase them. Prisons have separate accommodations for well-to-do prisoners, which ensure that those with sufficient means receive far better treatment than other prisoners. Pretrial detainees are not held separately from convicted prisoners.
At the Asuncion women's prison, Buen Pastor, there have been several reported rapes of prisoners by their guards, although laws governing prisons forbid male guards in the women's prisons. Conditions in the women's prison are better than at Tacumbu, with less overcrowding. A small number of women are housed in predominantly male facilities, where they are segregated from the male population.
In April Amnesty International issued a report criticizing the conditions in the Panchito Lopez juvenile detention facility in Asuncion, citing overcrowding and substandard conditions. As of July, the prison, designed for 160 youths, housed 248 inmates. According to Amnesty International, the cells were overcrowded, overheated, and filthy, with few toilet or washing facilities. Amnesty International said that in January, 193 of the 201 prisoners were in pretrial detention; only 8 inmates had been convicted and sentenced. Panchito Lopez housed juveniles from all over the country who were awaiting trial. In its report, Amnesty International notes that prison authorities allegedly retaliated against inmates who met with Amnesty International during its investigation, although the prison director denies this. The UNICEF noted that inmates at Panchito Lopez were kept in isolation cells, although this practice is not consistent with international standards.
Amnesty International reported in April that five youths (Jorge Herebia, Rafael Pereira, Oscar Acuna, Die Acosta, and Jimmy Orlando Dos Santos) detained in the Panchito Lopez Juvenile Center were tortured and mistreated. In a September report, Amnesty stated that youths were kicked, beaten, suspended upside down, had plastic bags put over their heads, beaten on the back with a hammer, and had their feet scalded. Some children also reported being denied food, drink, or access to toilets, sometimes for several days.
With only nine guards on duty at a time, Panchito Lopez's inmates frequently set fires and caused other disturbances. In February a fire injured nine detainees, and in July a riot-related fire destroyed the institution. During the July incident, guards shot and killed one inmate. Amnesty International expressed concern when 146 of the juvenile inmates were transferred to the maximum-security prison in Emboscada, Cordillera. While the juveniles are segregated from the adult population, the Emboscada facility, which was built as a military barracks about 1903, is extremely overcrowded. In September another inmate killed one of the juveniles transferred from Panchito Lopez. In September Richard Daniel Martinez, an 18-year-old inmate at the Emboscada maximum-security prison, was killed by another inmate; both youths had been transferred to the adult facility after the closure of the Panchito Lopez facility. During temporary detention at the adult Emboscada facility, other juveniles raped at least two minors. Other juveniles were transferred to prisons nationwide. The authorities planned to transfer all juvenile detainees to new facility for juveniles in Itagua in September; however, at year's end 2001, the facility was not complete. This facility's capacity is not sufficient to house the existing population of juvenile prisoners; the Justice and Labor Ministry were seeking additional space at year's end 2001.
In December juvenile inmates at the Itagua youth detention center rioted and set fires. Official sources acknowledge that at least 27 inmates escaped, and unofficial estimates were as high as 70.
The Government permits independent monitoring of prison conditions by human rights organizations. Amnesty International and UNICEF, along with government officials and diplomatic representatives, have been granted access to prisons on announced and unannounced visits.
The most pervasive violations of women's rights involved sexual and domestic abuse, which are underreported. Spousal abuse is common. Although the Penal Code criminalizes spousal abuse, it stipulates that the abuse must be habitual before being recognized as criminal, and then it is punishable only by a fine. Thousands of women are treated annually for injuries sustained in violent domestic altercations. CODEHUPY reports, according to a government survey, that from January to August 1 woman was killed every 12 days by a family member or other acquaintance. Between January and August, the Secretariat of Women's Affairs registered 533 cases of violence against women, a 25 percent increase over the same period in 2000. According to these surveys, between January and August 2000, 63 percent of the cases of violence against women were rapes.
According to women's rights activists, official complaints rarely are filed or they are withdrawn soon after filing due to spousal reconciliation or family pressure. In addition, the courts allow for mediation of some family violence cases, which is not provided for by the law. There are no specialized police units to handle complaints involving rape. The Secretariat of Women's Affairs chairs a national committee, made up of other government agencies and NGO's, that developed a national plan to prevent and punish violence against women. Under the plan, an office of care and orientation receives reports on violence against women and coordinates responses with the National Police, primary health care units, the Attorney General's office, and NGO's. However, in practice these services are available only in Asuncion, and women living elsewhere in the country rarely benefit from them. The Secretariat also conducts training courses for the police, health care workers, prosecutors, and others.
The Women's November 25th Collective, an NGO, operates a reception center where female victims of violence can receive legal, psychological, and educational assistance. No shelters for battered and abused women are available outside the capital of Asuncion. Most imprisoned women reportedly were detained for assault, including murder, committed following domestic violence.
The law prohibits the sexual exploitation of women, but the authorities do not enforce the prohibitions effectively. Prostitution by adults is not illegal, and exploitation of women, especially teenage prostitutes, remains a serious problem. Law enforcement officials periodically stage raids on houses of prostitution.
There were reports of trafficking in women.
Abuse and neglect of children is a problem. A local NGO attributes a rise in the number of complaints of mistreatment of children during 2000 to the increased awareness of child abuse and neglect.
Sexual exploitation of children also is a problem. In a survey released during the year 2001, the NGO "AMAR" identified 619 child victims of sexual exploitation, the vast majority of whom in Asuncion and Ciudad del Este. Approximately 33 percent of the victims were under the age of 16.
Trafficking in girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a problem.
There continued to be reports of the forced conscription of underage youth.
Children 14 and older are treated as adults for purposes of arrest and sentencing.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
There is no specific legislation to prevent trafficking in persons, although the Penal Code prohibits sexual trafficking. There were sporadic reports of trafficking of women and girls for sexual purposes. Press reports indicate that up to 200 women may have been trafficked to Argentina in 2000 and in the early part of the year for purposes of prostitution. The reports suggest that traffickers falsely promise the women and girls jobs as models or domestic servants. In September three Argentine citizens were sentenced to prison terms in Argentina for trafficking Paraguayan women to work as prostitutes in Buenos Aires.
Paraguay is a transit country for as many as 40 metric tons of primarily Bolivian cocaine that move each year en route to Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., Europe and Africa. It is also a source country for high-quality marijuana. Significant money laundering occurs, but it is unclear what portion is drug-related. In 1998, the Government of Paraguay (GOP) signed a new bilateral extradition treaty with the United States which includes the extradition of nationals. Election year politics, judicial and other public corruption, the ongoing reform of the legal system and scarce resources have frustrated GOP-stated intentions to address counternarcotics issues. As a result, the GOP has had only limited success against major trafficking organizations, seizures of cocaine, and action against money laundering.
Transit of cocaine through Paraguay is facilitated by Paraguay's centralized location in South America, an extensive river network, lengthy and undeveloped land borders, numerous unpoliced airstrips, and limited resources and authority for law enforcement operations, and persistent official corruption.
A significant level of money laundering occurs in Paraguay, although it is largely the result of contraband trade, tax evasion and capital flight, rather than narcotics trafficking. In 1997, the GOP was credited for promulgating a strong anti-money laundering law, which provided the legal tools necessary to act against this criminal activity. In 1998, the GOP failed to implement the law by not funding or staffing the offices created to control money laundering. There were no money laundering prosecutions in 1998.
Despite continuing reports from a variety of sources that public officials, including judges, military, police and legislators were suspected of engaging in, encouraging, or facilitating the illicit production or distribution of illegal narcotics, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions, no serious investigative efforts were initiated by the GOP to confirm or contradict these suspicions. Judicial corruption was suspected in the release of a major cocaine trafficker in July 1998 in the Asuncion suburb of Fernando de la Mora. SENAD filed a formal complaint against the judge with the Attorney General's office, which has yet to take action on the charges.
Cannabis is the only illicit crop cultivated in Paraguay, and is harvested throughout the year. According to a rough estimate by the GOP, 2,500 hectares are under cultivation. SENAD believes marijuana production has increased this year. DEA reports that marijuana is primarily cultivated in the hilly regions of Eastern Paraguay near the Brazilian border. The Department of Amambay is the leading cultivation area of marijuana crops, particularly in the areas of Captain Bado, and the hills near Pedro Juan Caballero. The Department of Canindeyu is the second largest marijuana producing area, followed by isolated crops in the Caaguazu and Alto Parana.
According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates, annually, approximately 40 metric tons of Bolivian (and some Colombian) cocaine transits Paraguay each year en route through Argentina and Brazil to the United States, Europe and Africa.
Internet research assisted by Liliana Renteria