Paraguay - Leadership



After an initial period of uncertainty about González Macchi's status as president, the Supreme Court ruled in May 1999 that he would serve out the unexpired term of Cubas (until 2003).

The armed forces pledged their support for the González government. Soon after taking office, González Macchi began to purge the military and police of Oviedo loyalists. Through his initiative, Oviedo faced trial for his role in the deaths of Organa and the demonstrators in Asunción and was initially imprisoned in Brazil.

González Macchi signaled his intention to govern differently than his predecessors. He immediately established a government of "national unity" that included members of the two principal opposition parties: the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (Parotid Liberal Radical Automatic PLRA), with its rural constituency, and the National Encounter (Parotid Encounter National PEN), a fairly new, urban-based, left-of-center party. Of his first 11 cabinet appointments, González Macchi entrusted two key posts, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture, to members of the PLRA. Likewise, PEN was given two posts: justice and labor, and industry and commerce. This experiment in unity did not last long. One faction of the PLRA pulled out of the government in mid-1999, and the rest of the party followed in January 2000.

National elections, however, were held in August 2000 to fill the vice presidency, which had been vacant since the assassination of Organa. Liberal Party candidate Julio Cesar Franco won the office with the help of several dissatisfied Coloradons. His opponent had been Colorado Party candidate, Felix Organa, son of the murdered vice president. In August 2001, Franco led a motion to impeach González Macchi for alleged corruption and inefficient governance, but it did not pass.

González Macchi faces many obstacles. Paraguay's democratic institutions are weak, political infighting is endemic, and the country's economic problems are far from solved. Moreover, the recent political crisis strengthened elements of Paraguayan civil society, including students, peasants, and unions. These groups have discovered new unity, purpose, and power as a result of their role in the ouster of Cubas. But they have turned down invitations to join González Macchi's "national unity" government and have begun pressing their own demands. Because he was not democratically elected, his legitimacy is weakened before the national congress. Several accusations of corruption and wrongdoing have consumed much of his time in power. Yet, a last effort on 11 February 2003 to impeach him fell short of the 2/3 vote required in the Senate. The vote was 25 to 18 (with one senator abstaining); 30 votes were needed to oust him. Because the next presidential elections were scheduled for April 27, 2003, most Paraguayans are now focusing on the new candidates and González Macchi was expected to finish the term mostly as a caretaker government. Running in the 2003 election as the candidate of the Colorado Party is former minister of education and culture, Nicanor Duarte Frutos. The Colorados have a strong organization and a loyal base of 1.5 million members, but he did not have much time to counteract the negative effects of being association with the González Macchi government. His primary opponent is the Partido Liberal Radical Autentico (PLRA) candidate, Julio Cesar Franco, who served as vice president from 2000 until his resignation in October 2002, in order to run for president.

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