U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Paraguay
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Paraguay, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1c10.html [accessed 19 April 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
PARAGUAYParaguay is a constitutional republic with a strong executive branch and an increasingly important bicameral legislature. The President is the head of government and cannot succeed himself. In 1993 Juan Carlos Wasmosy became the country's first freely elected civilian president. (Authoritarian regimes had ruled the country until 1989, when dictator Alfredo Stroessner was overthrown by General Andres Rodriguez, who was elected president later that year.) There are three major political parties and a number of smaller ones. The opposition's power has increased as a result of the changes brought about by the 1992 Constitution and the subsequent election of a civilian president and an opposition-controlled congress. President Wasmosy has worked to consolidate the nation's democratic transition. In April 1996 he resisted an attempted coup by then-army commander General Lino Oviedo. Subsequently, however, Oviedo won the Colorado Party presidential primary and became a potential contender in the May 1998 presidential elections. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Supreme Court continued its process of reform. The military no longer plays an overt political role, but rumors of coup-plotting persisted during the year. The national police force, under the overall authority of the Ministry of the Interior, has responsibility for maintaining internal security and public order. The civilian authorities maintain effective control of the security forces. The police committed some human rights abuses. Paraguay has a market economy with a large informal sector. The formal economy is oriented towards services, with less than half of the $8 billion gross domestic product resulting from agriculture and industry. Over 40 percent of the population is engaged in agricultural activity. Wealth continues to be concentrated, with both urban and rural areas supporting a large subsistence sector. Agricultural commodities (soybeans, cotton, lumber, and cattle) were the most important export items. The economy grew approximately 2 percent in 1997, a growth rate roughly equal to 1996. Annual per capita income is approximately $1,600. The Government's human rights record improved somewhat, but serious problems remain in certain areas. Principal human rights problems included allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of criminal suspects and prisoners, poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest, detention of suspects without judicial orders, lengthy pretrial detention, general weaknesses within the judiciary, infringements on citizens' privacy, and firings of labor organizers. Discrimination against women, the disabled, and indigenous people and violence against women and abuse of children are also problems. The Government continued its efforts to convict and punish those who committed human rights abuses during the Stroessner era.