Paraguay 31/03/2017. Clashes at the capital Asuncion.
Many events marked the last days of March. In France things are on an electoral frenzy where the press does everything in its power to disgrace, shame and ultimately slow down the Front National, the extreme right nazi loving party that aspires to see its leader Marine Le Pen in power. In other news, the UK government is showing its teeth and hopes for the best as article 50 of the constitution has been triggered at last.
However, this cloudy morning all eyes are looking towards the continent of South America and to be exact Paraguay. Friday the 31 of March, large groups of civilians in the capital Asuncion, set the congress building in flames after the decision of the senate to amend -that is to change back- the Constitution in order to allow to the current President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election after the end of his term in 2018.
It may sound weird to all of us mere spectators, but the 5-year constitutional restriction is there for a good reason. In Paraguay, 1989 marked the end of what was knows as the longest dictatorship in South America. The 35 years under the power of General Alfredo Stroessner, left people tired and frustrated after a long line of coup d’etats that have blocked them from ever choosing their own ruler. That is why in the 1992 the Constitution posed restrictions that would limit the executive power of the president and wouldn’t allow him to be re-elected. 1993 was the first time the Paraguyans were given the opportunity to elect a civilian and that came after a long process of “scraping” the military out of power.
It is understandable now, how trying to reinstate the right of re-election for President Cartes brings back painfull memories of never-ending dictatorships. Desiree Masi from the opposition Progressive Democratic Party, critisized the senate’s decision and called the citizens to resist “A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us”. Police forces being, as usual, up to their old tricks, have responded with tear gas and rubber bulets.