Paraguay: Controversial Constitutional Amend that Enables Reelection is Approved by the Deputies Chamber

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Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / April 19, 2017

The Red party used their majority and with the support of their allies, they proved that they have enough votes to pass the amendment. This, besides Cartes’ repeated promise not to present himself to elections.

When everything indicated that the project of constitutional amendment would no longer be presented at the Deputy Chamber, yesterday 38 Cartist, 5 liberals from Blas Llano’s party and 1 from the Guasu Front decided to start the corresponding procedure to treat next Wednesday the irregular document sent and written by 25 senators in secrecy. In this way, the Republic institutionalism is still at danger.

Hugo Velázquez expressed that they will no longer wait for the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice.

A debate of over an hour and a half was generated during the session, after the proposal of the liberal Eusebio Alvarenga to give new functions to the president of the Chamber, Hugo Velásquez, in order to return the document approved by 25 senators in a secret meeting. The acceptance of the note sent by the Senate titular, Roberto Acevedo, was also proposed, who urged for the denial of the procedure.

The Parliament manifested that it was necessary to give the institutionality back to the Republic and sustained that the project “approved” by 25 senators is an “assault and violation to the National Constitution”.

Several postures in favour and against were heard during the session and Oscar Tuma, from the Red Party, who opposed to the rejection of the document, argued that the pretension is to be “the judge” of the senators, and that the only the Judiciary Branch has the power to declare the unconstitutionality of the document.

Bernardo Villalba assured that by giving back the document to the Senate the internal rules of the Deputies Chamber would be being broken, a fact claimed to the 25 senators. This position was questioned by his fellow militant José María Ibañez, who reminded him that the article 31 of the internal rules gives the capacity to the titular of the Chamber to give back the document.

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What will happen with the amendment?

By: Cesar Centurión / Source: E’a / The Dawn News / April 18, 2017

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President Horacio Cartes announced past monday that he will avoid seeking reelection, “in any given case”, for the 2018-2023 term through an unusual way: a letter directed to Asuncion’s archbishop, Edmundo Valenzuela.

“I will keep in my heart the inspiring message sent by His Sanctity Pope Francis past Tuesday, April 2, who invited us to persevere ‘avoiding any kind of violence, and looking for political solutions’”, says part of the letter in which he repeats his devotion towards the Chief of the Vatican State. In the day of his inauguration he had already quoted the Pope by calling upon the young people to “make trouble” in the case he does not comply with his tasks.

Actually, a great “trouble” was unleashed on past March 31, when a group of 25 senators approved the call to referendum to place under consideration the “Yes” or “No” to presidential reelection. The protesters burnt the Congress headquarters and the police retaliation left one casualty, dozens of wounded and over 200 detainees.

However, the reactions of the people were not enough to make the officialism desist in the amendment project and ratified their posture, which provoked the failure of the dialogue table made with the opposition to try to solve the crisis. The environment for dialogue is not propitious while a denounce before the OAS exists against the anti amendment politicians (because of the violence facts that derived on the fire of the Parliament.

In spite of the presidential message, high ranks of the Red Party, like Lilian Samaniego and Juan Darío Monges, insisted that the amendment project is still standing arguing that the Supreme Court of Justice is the only competent organ that can read and interpret the laws. Also, at the time to highlight the leader’s attitude, they said that the Constitution should be modernized and that people should be the one to do so through the reelection referendum.

This declarations, added to a prior statement of the president in which he assured that he would not present himself for reelection, to then retract himself saying that he will obey the “order” of the Red militants, casted doubts about the veracity of the communique.

So, the possibility that we are seeing a Machiavellian strategy to decompress the situation remains latent, as the last movements of Senator Fernando Lugo, who manifested his rejection towards the amendment, but his party senators support it under his command. Therefore, in spite of his statement, the president maybe looking to soften the pressure under his figure but without desisting on his reelection project.

With or without an amendment

The Guasu Front, another sector interested in the reelection, made a communique in which they reaffirm the habilitation of Senator Fernando Lugo to run for presidency in 2018, since he is not actually exercising the presidency (he was impeached and removed from office in 2012) and, therefore, the reelection prohibition does not affect him, according to the coalition of progressist parties. The communique also states that the support to the amendment was only a “reassurance” to Lugo’s candidacy before the intentions of several sectors to deny his postulation via court proceeding. Therefore, the legality of the candidacy is being raify with or without the amendment.

The sectors that are against reelection maintain themselves in alert. The amendment was not retired yet and until it is retired, the opposition leaders, like Roberto Acevedo, will not take part in any dialogue table.

Cartes’ announcement might also have the intention to demobilize the sectors against reelection with the look placed upon the approval of the referendum in the Deputies Chamber, where he has a vast majority. While keeping his posture against reelection, in the case the “Yes” wins, he might actually change his mind, like he has already done, and present his candidature.

Even more, the Deputies Chamber president, Hugo Velázquez, assured that the project would not be treated this week, and that they would wait 20 days until the court orders the unconstitutionality of sessions held by the vice president of the Senate, Julio Cesar Velázquez, who modified the internal rules of procedure and approved the amendment project.

Due to Cartes’ alleged resignation towards reelection, it is probable that he places a subordinate for the 2018 elections and that during that period he thrusts the constitutional reform to present again in 2023. The successor has not been presented from the officialism. Enrique Riera, Minister of Education, is one of the names that sound stronger among Cartes’ circle. The Treasury Department titular, Santiago Peña, also sounds as successor to keep the indebtedness policies and the concession of public projects to private friendly sectors.

On the other hand, although Mario Ferreiro had announced that he would end his term as Asuncion’s Mayor and that he would analyze a presidential candidacy only for 2023, he made a quick call for the formation of an opposition alliance to defeat the Red Party. His proposal was a list leaded by him and stated that they would retake the negotiations with the Guasu Front.

Meanwhile, it is confirmed that Cartes would be present at the act in favour of the amendment that is convoked for this Tuesday in front of the Republican National Association (ANR). Before this, it is expectable to see if Cartes convinces the party to resign to reelection or if he accepts the demand of his “red people” and goes for the Executive again.

Cartes: “Evil will not win, you may keep burning down whatever you want”

The president of the Republic, Horacio Cartes, gave an aggressive speech in a farewell tone at the Red Party, where he reaffirmed his premise not to present his candidacy in the case of an allowed reelection and charged against the opposition and the press.

Even though he initially talked about peace and “not letting the evil defeat us”, in allusion to the opposition, Cartes launched poisonous darts against it and also against the media the rejected his reelection project.

“I do not want you to take this as a goodbye, this meeting is to hug between us. For those who do not want to compete, I tell you, you will compete against me, because I will be working and will have more time to travel my beloved Republic of Paraguay”, pointed out the first leader in a part of his speech.

“Be certain that evil and hate will not have the last word. The only thing I ask is to keep the Red family united. I tell you, there is strength, because I have God inside me. Of course that it was not easy to decide that I am leaving; we have to understand that from an office we arrived to another, people recognise us and those who preach violence have no convocatory”, he added.

“We will not break before those who steal opportunities from the Paraguayans. To all of them I want to say that I am not leaving, I am renewing my commitment with God, with the country and with the Red Party. I will be by the side of each one of you. Evil will not win, they may keep burning down whatever they want, but they will found a Red wall”, stated Cartes.

Finally he thanked the section presidents and pointed again against the press saying that “journalist do not know how to do their work”.

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