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Executive Summary

Paraguay is a multiparty, constitutional republic. In 2018 Mario Abdo Benitez of the Colorado Party, also known as the National Republican Association, won the presidency in elections recognized as free and fair. Legislative elections took place at the same time.

The National Police, under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for preserving public order, protecting the rights and safety of persons and entities and their property, preventing and investigating crimes, and implementing orders given by the judiciary and public officials. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; substantial problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including intimidation of journalists by politically and economically powerful actors; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; and human trafficking, including the worst forms of child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish low- and mid-ranking officials who committed human rights abuses and corruption, but impunity for high-level politicians and officials in police and security forces was widely alleged.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. There were widespread reports of government corruption in all branches and at all levels of government, with investigative journalists and NGOs reporting on hundreds of cases of embezzlement, tax evasion, illicit enrichment, breach of public confidence, false documents, and criminal association.

Although in 2020 there was an increase in Public Ministry corruption investigations and indictments, these cases typically proceeded slowly and took several years to reach a verdict in the courts. Under a law that prohibits court cases from lasting longer than four years, politicians and influential individuals convicted in lower courts routinely avoided punishment by filing appeals and motions until reaching the statute of limitations or by successfully requesting the removal or suspension of judges and prosecutors working on their cases. Although indictments and convictions for corruption of low- and mid-level public officials occurred occasionally, high-ranking public officials enjoyed a high degree of impunity. In addition, politicization and corruption were pervasive throughout the judicial branch, particularly in the lower courts and regional offices, hampering the judiciary’s effectiveness and undermining public trust.

Corruption: Impunity was endemic for former and current high-level government officials accused of crimes. NGOs and the press continued to report on several former government ministers, mayors, governors, and current elected officials who avoided prosecution in the justice system despite being accused of, and indicted for, corruption and other crimes. Persons indicted for corruption were not held in pretrial detention. As of October 18, unresolved high-level corruption cases included four former ministers from the current administration, as well as four former and seven current members of Congress, and three former Supreme Court justices.

On August 12, after a six-month trial, a criminal court sentenced former senator Oscar Gonzalez Daher to seven years in prison for illicit enrichment and making false statements. The court also ordered the forfeiture of nearly five million dollars of illicit gains and barred Gonzalez Daher from public office for seven years. Observers judged the sentencing of such a politically powerful figure to be a landmark event given the tradition of judicial corruption and impunity. Gonzalez Daher appealed the ruling and was free on bail when he died on October 21. The court also sentenced his son, Oscar Gonzalez Chaves, to eight years in prison. Gonzalez Chaves appealed the ruling. The appeal remained pending when he was elected to municipal office on October 10. Gonzalez Chaves took office on November 9.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future