Long Overdue, Can an Anti-Corruption Surge in Paraguay Last?

Long Overdue, Can an Anti-Corruption Surge in Paraguay Last?
Thousands of workers and retirees protest against a proposed pension reform, Asuncion, Paraguay, Aug. 23, 2018 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

A narco boss bribes multiple justice ministers from prison and luxuriates in a VIP cell. A senator is recorded boasting about buying off judges, but is still re-elected thanks to a closed party list system. Taxpayers foot the bill for medical insurance covering liposuction and implants for low-level public employees.

These are just some of the many embarrassing episodes in the past two years alone in Paraguay, a country notorious for its culture of public malfeasance and long faithful to the words of its late dictator Alfredo Stroessner that “corruption is the price of peace.” In Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, Paraguay placed 135th out of 170 states, with only Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela performing worse in the Americas.

Yet in recent months, there has been an unprecedented surge of protests against dirty politicians of all stripes that has already claimed several high-profile targets. Amid the public outcry, Paraguay’s new president, Mario Abdo Benitez, who took office in August, has promised to leave no stone unturned. As the head of the deeply entrenched, center-right Colorado Party—and the son of a key Stroessner lieutenant—Abdo Benitez may not be up to the task, though, and several political obstacles could still derail this long overdue anti-corruption drive.

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