Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Paraguay is a multiparty, constitutional republic with a population of approximately 6.7 million. Citizens elected Fernando Lugo of the Patriotic Alliance for Change as president in April 2008 in generally free and fair elections. Although the government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, there were serious abuses in some areas, including killings, torture and abuse by government agents; political interference, corruption, and inefficiency in the judiciary; lengthy pretrial detention and overcrowded prisons; harassment and intimidation of journalists; trafficking in persons and exploitative child labor; and discrimination against minorities.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. strategy to promote democratic principles, practices, values, and human rights prioritizes institution building, anticorruption efforts, law enforcement training, and reform in the political, judicial, and economic sectors. The United States supports programs for governing justly that encourage accountability, transparency, and lawfulness. The United States also undertakes activities that increase the knowledge of decision-makers, future leaders, and the general population about the United States and its commitment to the country's emergence as a prosperous democratic partner. In developing strategic priorities, the United States consults with government institutions, NGOs, labor unions, and other members of civil society and works closely with these groups to encourage reforms and discuss problems related to human rights and democracy.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The cornerstone of U.S. efforts to promote democracy and human rights is the $30.3 million, two-year Millennium Challenge Corporation Threshold Country Program Stage II, set to begin in early 2009. The program is targeted at strengthening and improving prosecutors' investigative capacity; judicial disciplinary and internal control systems; internal control mechanisms in public administration, including in the health sector; control over foreign trade and smuggling; intellectual property rights protection; and anticorruption controls in the National Police. These initiatives are designed to improve transparency and democratic governance and to encourage further consolidation of democratic processes. The United States also works with Congress to modernize the Criminal Procedure Code to improve prosecution of corruption and other criminal offenses. U.S. programs send government officials and members of the security forces to courses on trafficking in persons and crimes that may facilitate human rights abuses.
To alleviate constraints on democracy and respect for rule of law, U.S.-funded programs manage a high-impact technical assistance initiative that supports civil society organizations working to consolidate the judicial ethics code. Through U.S. assistance, the Supreme Court has established customer service desks and a telephone hot line to respond to citizen questions about access to justice. Many of the callers are women, youth, and persons from indigenous communities seeking assistance regarding domestic violence and discrimination. The United States works closely with the government and civil society organizations to fight trafficking in persons and raise public awareness. U.S. programs fund several antitrafficking projects (including one in the Tri-Border Area of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil) that have assisted more than 100 trafficking victims; a shelter in Asuncion for female trafficking victims; technology and other support for the Public Ministry's new antitrafficking unit created in October 2008; and information seminars for government officials.
The U.S. Government uses public diplomacy to advance awareness about the importance of democracy and human rights through press conferences with journalists, meetings with political leaders, and exchange programs. The United States supports Fulbright academic exchanges, Youth Ambassadors and International Visitor Leadership programs, indigenous leadership training, and English language professional development programs, as well as book donations to schools. The U.S. Government brought several U.S. speakers to the country in 2008, including a well-known author on democratic governance who discussed democracy and human rights and two active members of the Democratic and Republican parties who discussed the U.S. elections. The U.S. Government also sent several local leaders to the United States, including the former vice president, who observed the 2008 U.S. elections, and the president of the Chamber of Deputies, who attended a civic engagement and democratic institutions seminar.
To promote democratic values, U.S. officials hosted events connected with the U.S. presidential election and inauguration. Following the U.S. elections, the ambassador appeared on television and radio shows to highlight democracy as illustrated by the election. In particular, the ambassador's consistent message about the peaceful transition of power as one of the fundamental tenets of democracy was disseminated throughout the local media.