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LADB Blog Focuses on Church and Military in Paraguay

Church and Military Lose Their Luster in Paraguay

"The head of the Area of War Materials sold projectiles and explosives to anyone who asked for them." -NotiSur, September 26, 2014

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The above quote sounds like a description of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, or even a line from some Orwellesque sci-fi dystopian novel. It's neither.

This is Paraguay in 2014, and this is just one of many listed items on an internal report of corruption within the Paraguayan armed forces conducted earlier this year. As Andrés Gaudín points out in this week's issue of NotiSur, Paraguayan citizens are well-aware of the rampant corruption within the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. But, now, after internal reports have been released by the military as well as the Vatican, the armed forces and the Catholic Church have joined the ranks of Paraguay's most blatantly corrupt institutions.

Paraguay's previous perception of the military and the church as institutions that were free of corruption coincides with a recent survey of 107 countries. In that survey, conducted by Transparency International, none of the countries ranked the military among the institutions affected by corruption. Only three of the 107 countries viewed religious bodies (which includes the Catholic Church) as one of the most corrupt institutions.

In his first year heading Paraguay's government, President Horacio Cartes has made some gains in promoting transparency. Just this month, Paraguay became the 100th country to approve a freedom of information law. The Paraguayan government still has problems shaking off the perception of corruption, however.

There have been other efforts to fight corruption, including a legislative initiative approved by the Congress to address the widespread problem of nepotism. A new law bans legislators from hiring or appointing to any public post "spouses, domestic partners, or relatives to the fourth degree of consanguinity and second degree of affinity." Nepotism has long been a concern for the Paraguay public. Last November, some businesses --restaurants, bars, and movie theaters--banned those officials publicly reported guilty of nepotism from entering those establishments. Read More in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

While corrupt activities by institutions like the military and the church had been widely accepted in Paraguay for years, change might be coming. The transformation of the military might not be swift--as evidenced by the lack of action on the part of Cartes government against military officials renting out equipment to private enterprises and collecting informal "tolls." The fact that the practice has been exposed in an internal report is a very important first step. The corrupt activities by the Catholic Church cannot be overlooked, however, now that the Vatican has intervened. According to a recent report in The New York Times, Pope Francis sent investigators to the Diocese of Ciudad del Este. The investigators found sufficient evidence of corrupt activities and cover-ups to warrant the removal of Bishop Ricardo Livieres Plano.

Also in LADB This Week...

Chile-Peru Border Row: A border dispute that was supposed to have been resolved by a landmark ruling issued eight months ago by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is once again causing tempers to flare between Chile and Peru, this time regarding a miniscule patch of coastal desert.

Another Honduran Journalist Murdered: The killing of Honduran newsman Nery Soto on Aug. 14 in the town of Olanchito in the northern department of Yoro, some 390 km northeast of Tegucigalpa, the country's capital, prompted the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to call on Honduran authorities to investigate this and tens of similar crimes committed mostly since 2009-the year of the bloody coup that toppled then President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya.

Currency "Unification" Coming in Cuba: Cubans await the arrival of "Day Zero" with uncertainty about the fate of their savings and their future purchasing power. The still-to-be-established date will end the simultaneous circulation of two currencies (the Cuban peso and the convertible peso) and is a measure that, according to the communist government, has been considered necessary for two decades to make the economy more efficient.

Mexican Court Agrees that Televisa is a Dominant Company: In March of this year, the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT) ruled that Televisa was a dominant company, meaning that authorities had the right to enforce certain anti-monopoly provisions. The giant broadcaster and 18 affiliates appealed the ruling to a specialized court. However, the court ruled in September of this year that the IFT's designation was correct.

Toxic Spill Remains a Problem in Sonora State: The giant mining company Grupo México and its chief executive officer (CEO) Germán Larrea are again the center of controversy for violations of environmental policy in Sonora. In early August, state and federal environmental authorities cited Grupo México subsidiary Mina Buenavista del Cobre for spilling more than 1.4 cubic feet of sulfuric acid (about 40 million liters) into the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers.

About LADB

The Latin America Data Base (LADB) is one of the longest running premier news and educational services on Latin America. Established in 1986 as a unit of the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico (UNM), LADB has had an internet presence since 1996. LADB features three weekly electronic publications: NotiCen, NotiSur, and SourceMex, and a fully searchable archive of over 28,000 articles that provide timely information and historical perspective on a variety of Latin American issues. LADB is a subscription service made available at no cost to the UNM community. For more information, contact vnelson@unm.edu.

Image: "Asunción's Cathedral." Reprinted CC Attribution-Share Alike © from Axou28th.

--Posted October 1, 2014. Reprinted from LADB blog post, "Church and Military Lose Their Luster in Paraguay," written by Jacob Sandler on Monday, September 29, 2014.