June 21, 2024

Paraguay’s Problems

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By: Anjali Mahto, Research Analyst, GSDN

Paraguay: source Internet

Paraguay is a landlocked democratic South American country. The majority of the population is of mixed Spanish and Guarani heritage and speaks both Guarani and Spanish languages. Initially occupied by the indigenous Guarani people, Spanish invaders began colonizing Paraguay’s interior plains in 1537. The local population was thereafter converted to Roman Catholicism. From 1947, the right-wing Colorado Party dominated politics for the next 60 years. During their tenure, in 1954, General Alfredo Stroessner seized power in a coup, ushering in 35 years of ruthless dictatorship which came to an end in 1989, starting democracy in Paraguay.

Corruption is imposing a serious challenge in the country, and anti-corruption law has been not enforced adequately. Moreover, cases have been sitting in court for years, resulting in large protests. Authorities, meanwhile, have continued to criminalize and suppress social protests. Furthermore, the fact that Paraguay is a hub for drug and cigarette smuggling, as well as human trafficking, has fueled street violence, particularly in border districts, and raised fears about runaway crime. The Triple Frontier region, which includes Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil, has long been connected with drug trafficking and other illegal trade. Environmental degradation and institutional discrimination have harmed the rights of rural and Indigenous peoples. Forced evictions have been a severe problem as a result of the country’s agrarian policies and property rights, harming the rights of thousands of small-scale farmers and Indigenous communities.

Poverty and gender-based discrimination limit women’s and children’s rights, while sexual exploitation of children and girls’ forced pregnancies endangers their safety. In comparison to its neighbors, such as Brazil and Argentina, Paraguay is one of the least developed countries in South America, with a very small tourist sector.

Political Landscape

The right-wing Colorado Party has long dominated the political scene of Paraguay, holding power for decades until 2008, when a rift led to their collapse. The party’s ongoing power is credited to the development of a strong political machine during a 35-year dictatorship, as well as its connection with traditional values in the mostly Catholic country. Despite claims of dictatorial participation and corruption, the Colorado Party is supported by around 40% of the electorate. The party’s previous president, Abdo Bentez, was involved in controversies that led to US sanctions against the country.

Former President Horacio Cartes has been linked to the illegal trafficking of tobacco products in the region. Tabesa, his company, is tied to networks involving the FARC, Sinaloa Cartel, and Hezbollah, as well as illicit money transactions. Cartes was blacklisted by the US State Department owing to “significant corruption” and ties to “foreign terrorist organizations.”

Despite these scandals, Cartes remains President of Honor Colorado, a faction of Colorado Party after the split, and handpicked Santiago Peña, the current president of Paraguay. The party, which has traditionally controlled politics, is now under investigation, with several of its top leaders implicated in major organized crimes and sanctioned by the US.

Peña is Cartes’ former finance minister and former IMF economist. His policy is centered on attracting international investment, lowering taxes, and attempting to reduce Paraguay’s large foreign debt. He advocates keeping Paraguay as the only country in South America with full diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Rule of Law

According to polls, corruption remained one of the top three issues in Paraguay. Although the judiciary is technically independent, money launderers, drug traffickers, and corrupt politicians have taken control of local judicial authority. Sandra Quiónez, the attorney general, is widely thought to have obstructed investigations into former President Cartes. Efforts to remove her have been denied in Congress by the Colorado Party.

Deficiencies in the health system were exposed by the COVID-19 epidemic, which provided the population’s fundamental requirements and primary healthcare. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government faced severe and credible claims of corruption over the purchase of COVID-related products, prompting the resignation of the health minister in 2021.

A legislative commission report released in September 2022 documented a smuggling network conducted by members of Paraguay’s customs service and navy. Earlier that year, some officers and commanders were removed from their positions due to their involvement in smuggling.

Climate and Economics

Paraguay remained one of South America’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. However, officials continued to allow monoculture to spread, potentially damaging native ecosystems.

Economic issues, such as unemployment, poverty, social inequality, and inflation, remained among the top worries. Agriculture and hydroelectric power are important to the economy. Climate conditions that affected agricultural and hydropower exports, poor performance of its trading partners, and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Bank, have hampered growth in recent years, reducing GDP growth from an annual average of 4.4% between 2003 and 2018 to 0.7% between 2019 and 2022. Last year, Paraguay showed a 0.8% contraction in GDP.

The economy grew by -0.3% in 2022, however, as the weather begins to normalize, the economy is predicted to recover by 4.8% in 2023.

Poverty recovered to pre-pandemic levels at 19%, but drought, high inflation (9.8%), and fewer pandemic-related benefits led to an increase in extreme poverty. The World Bank forecasts average inflation of 5.3% in 2023, while Fitch forecasts 7.1%.

Its extreme sensitivity to climate change necessitates urgent attention. Weather events are predicted to become more frequent and intense in the future, requiring structural modifications in the country to boost production and resilience.

Freedom of Expression and Belief

Paraguay’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression; however, it is not consistently enforced.  Journalists are threatened and assassinated by criminal organizations and corrupt officials, encouraging self-censorship. Various religious groups are mostly free to worship. However, the Roman Catholic Church’s cultural domination has expanded deeper into public and private life, often at the expense of individual rights.

Protests are prevalent; however, they are sometimes suppressed. Throughout 2022 there were many protests demanding land rights and relief during drought and difficult economic conditions as well as against high fuel prices.

Indigenous People in Paraguay

Paraguay is home to 19 indigenous groups of people. Even though Paraguay has ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the country’s indigenous peoples’ fundamental rights are often violated. There is systemic discrimination, as well as agrarian policies that have increased in the frequency of forced evictions. These evictions have led to arbitrary detentions and executions, as well as the expulsion of thousands of small-scale farmers and Indigenous people.

Peasant settlements and Indigenous groups have been subjected to widespread prosecution and violence, to deprive the former of access to land and agricultural reform and the latter of their communal property rights.

Individual Rights & Trafficking Profile

In Paraguay, human trafficking affects both domestic and foreign victims, with practices such as Criadazgo, in which children from underprivileged homes are taken as domestic labor. It is estimated that 47,000 Paraguayan minors work in Criadazgo, rendering them vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. Although girls are disproportionately affected, boys account for 30% of youngsters in Criadazgo. Children from rural areas are used in sex trafficking and forced labor in metropolitan places, with familial traffickers participating in child sex trafficking cases. Indigenous people, transgender people, and those working in street selling, begging, mining, brick making, and ranching are especially vulnerable. Social media is being used more and more for recruiting, and victims are being identified both within and outside of Paraguay, especially in Europe.

The lack of regulatory mechanisms in the Tri-Border Area contributes to increasing trafficking dangers. Corruption among officials, especially police and judges, is alleged to be enabling sex trafficking through bribery and extortion. The government’s 2022 internet campaign and awareness materials attempt to counteract fraudulent recruitment practices, with awareness campaigns depending on civil society. There are hotlines and a website for reporting crimes, including human trafficking, highlighting attempts to combat the issue.

Gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual abuse continue to be prevalent among women and children. In 2021, authorities registered 35 femicides, and 40 in 2022. Abortion, same-sex marriage, and civil unions are still prohibited. LGBT+ persons, particularly transgender women, describe feeling increasingly dangerous as the country becomes more conservative.


Finally, Paraguay has a complicated combination of issues in the political, economic, social, and human rights domains. Its political scene, long dominated by the right-wing Colorado Party, is marred by claims of corruption, involvement in organized crime, and challenges to the rule of law. The judiciary is accused of being swayed by money launderers and corrupt politicians, hence impeding effective judicial processes.

Economically, Paraguay is vulnerable due to climate change implications on agriculture and hydroelectric generation. Poverty, unemployment, and social inequality remain high, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite economic difficulties, the resurgence is expected in 2023 as weather conditions stabilize.

The country’s human rights status is concerning, especially for Indigenous peoples who face discrimination, forced evictions, and violence. Threats against journalists and the Roman Catholic Church’s cultural dominance, which influences public and private life, highlight issues of freedom of expression and belief.

Individual rights are under attack, with human trafficking on the rise, particularly among vulnerable populations like children, Indigenous peoples, and transgender Paraguayans. Despite the government’s efforts to combat trafficking through awareness campaigns and hotlines, obstacles remain, including reported corruption among officials.

Gender-based violence continues to be a major issue, with sexual assaults and restrictions on reproductive and LGBT+ rights adding to a hazardous environment for marginalized people. Despite its natural and cultural riches, Paraguay is at a crossroads that requires comprehensive measures to solve structural concerns and promote diversity, justice, and sustainable development.


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Tree Mail
5 months ago

Wow superb blog layout How long have you been blogging for you make blogging look easy The overall look of your site is magnificent as well as the content

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