InSight Crime Analysis
It is true that, as Abdo said, the Cartes government was largely unsuccessful in its fight against organized crime. The former president himself, as well as his uncle, have been linked to drug trafficking and cigarette smuggling. But it is also clear that Paraguay’s new president represents the same interests of the political and military elites that have governed the country almost without interruption for the past seventy years.
In combating organized crime, many of the new challenges Abdo will have to face stem from Paraguay’s growing role in international cocaine trafficking, including the increasing presence of Brazilian criminal groups, namely the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) and the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC). They have taken root primarily in the tri-border area Paraguay shares with Brazil and Argentina, and in some instances the Brazilian gangs have co-opted police and government officials.
While Abdo has not yet made any specific proposals on the fight against transnational organized crime groups, the new head of state has already reached outto the presidents of Brazil and Argentina on regional security issues, and they seem to have coordinated their respective zero-tolerance approaches to crime.
However, many have not hesitated to sharply question the promises of Abdo’s newly chosen ministers to simultaneously strengthen the FTC and the army. Their skepticism is likely due to the ineffectiveness the institutions have already demonstrated in attempting to quell the activities of both the EPP and marijuana growers in Paraguay’s north, despite their generous budgets.
Also unclear is what incentive Abdo has to remedy the judicial corruption that has benefited his family for so many years. While his father admittedly spent two years in prison for illicit enrichment, many of the more violent crimes for which he was accused during the dictatorship have gone unpunished since his death in March 2013.
Abdo’s relationships with previous Paraguayan administrations landed multimillion-dollar state contracts for his businesses, which include Almacenamiento y Distribución de Asfalto (Aldía S.A.) and Creando Tecnología S.A. (Createc S.A.). Between 2010 and 2014 the two companies received state contracts for approximately $18.5 million and $3.8 million, respectively.
Although media outlet ABC Color reportedthat Abdo’s businesses were not granted government contracts between 2014 and 2017, in part due to his differences with the Cartes government, shortly after his victory in Paraguay’s primaries in December 2017, Aldía was awarded another state contract for $1.7 million.
But it is not just Abdo’s clear conflict of interest in being both a state contractor and the president that causes potential concern. Add to this the fact that multiple members of his cabinet have been accused of involvement with corruption cases, and some have even favored impunity for egregious human rights violations and other crimes committed during Paraguay’s dictatorship.
The future of the country’s fight against corruption appears to have little chance of the bright start that was promised.
Poverty remains a challenge for Paraguay as new president is elected” on YouTube
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25 Years of Kleptocracy in Paraguay: Endemic Corruption Perpetuates Poverty
For 23 months from November 1998 through October 2000 I traversed Paraguay on a humanitarian mission. During that period I witnessed abject poverty, precarious public works infrastructure, extremely limited educational opportunities, and a dearth of adequate sanitation. I lived in the districts of Asunción, San Lorenzo, Encarnación, Obligado, Natalio, San Antonio, Fernando de la Mora and Ñemby. It was revolting to see so many citizens living in abject poverty next to a small number of wealthy elites. Shanty-towns, or villas, are filled with lodgings that use plastic bags for doors and conceal dirt floors where several people sleep. Streams of sewage trickle through these villas, exposing its inhabitants to a litany of diseases. Meals provided little nourishment. Education regularly ended early because poor children could not afford to purchase uniforms and school supplies. Indeed, schools in rural villages are all but certain to be filled with malnourished children lacking shoes, attending so that they might receive meager sustenance.
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