ASUNCION – The head of the Liberal Party (PLRA), Paraguay’s largest opposition organization, told EFE that the South American country’s current president is marching full speed toward “authoritarianism” by trying to introduce a constitutional amendment allowing presidential reelection, something banned by the country’s constitution.
The party of Efrain Alegre is one of the opposition organizations that most strongly object to the attempt by President Horacio Cartes and his ruling Colorado Party to bring before Congress an amendment bill permitting a second presidential term, a matter that has polarized the country’s politicians for months.
Alegre said that another sign of authoritarianism is the attempt to reintroduce this bill after the Senate already rejected it in August 2016, even though congressional rules state that such a move cannot be made until a year has passed.
For Alegre, debating this bill again in Congress would be “debating whether we want democracy or a dictatorship and authoritarianism, because this is really a violation of the constitution.”
“The amendment is not the right way to reelection, and anyway it has already been dealt with, and the constitution is very clear that the matter cannot be considered again until a year has passed. Only in case of a breakdown of the rule of law and of the constitution could this process go forward,” the Liberal Party leader said in an interview.
He also said that “there are too many incidents that clearly signify a return to authoritarianism,” and cited the collection of signatures of citizens favoring such an amendment promoted by the Colorado Party at the beginning of the year, a project that ended in scandal when a number of irregularities were discovered in the lists of signatories.
“The project was presented as a popular movement” to give the amendment a kind of democratic authenticity, “but it turned out to be full of irregularities: the requests were either signed by people long dead or with forged signatures,” Alegre said.
He called that way of collecting signatures “the nearest thing to the elections of (Alfredo) Stroessner,” the Paraguayan dictator who governed the South American country between 1954-1989.
He also considered an indication of this authoritarian tendency the presidential decree signed by Cartes at the end of last year to veto the 2017 national budget that had been approved by Congress.
For Alegre that veto, whose consequence has been to keep the 2016 budget in force this year, is equivalent to “substituting Congress and a congressional decision.”
Alegre believes the Liberal Party’s priority is to fight “the danger of Paraguay going back to dictatorship,” which could happen if the amendment is passed allowing Cartes to run for president again in 2018.
Among the political parties in favor of the amendment, besides the Colorado Party, is the Guasu Front of former President Fernando Lugo.