Freedom in the World
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Paraguay maintains a democratic political system, but it is dominated by the conservative Colorado Party, which resumed its many decades in government shortly after the four-year tenure of a liberal president ended in a controversial impeachment in 2012. Rampant corruption and organized crime are key impediments to good governance and security. Indigenous populations, which suffer disproportionately from poverty, have struggled to assert their land rights.
- Government forces continued to combat the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), a Marxist guerrilla group that operates primarily in the north. The government accused the EPP of killing eight soldiers and abducting three civilians during the year.
- A law enacted in September was designed to protect children against abuse, including in the context of child labor, which remains a pervasive problem in the country.
- In December, the president signed a law meant to address violence against women, in part by providing for shelters and establishing femicide—the murder of a woman based largely on her gender—as a crime punishable with 10 to 30 years in prison.
President Horacio Cartes was praised in 2016 for increasing economic opportunity and curbing crime in the country since he took office in 2013. However, Cartes’s market-oriented policies and widespread government corruption stoked protests by campesinos (small-scale farmers or farmworkers), indigenous people, and an emboldened student movement that has demanded comprehensive university reforms.
Cartes and conservative lawmakers resisted international pressure to ease the country’s strict ban on abortion and adopt laws to prevent discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people. Paraguay has more Roman Catholics per capita than any other country in the region, and the government enjoys the support of a significant portion of the population on these issues.
While no journalists were killed during 2016, direct pressure by criminal groups and corrupt authorities often leads reporters to censor themselves, especially in remote border areas. Private media owners also exert influence over journalists, and a media group linked to President Cartes has expanded its holdings in recent years.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Paraguay, see Freedom in the World 2016.