A. GENERAL ASPECTS
The Inter-American Commission has on many occasions cited the importance of respect for political rights as a guarantee of the validity of the other human rights embodied in international instruments. The IACHR has also noted that it is the exercise of those rights that keeps social power from being monopolized by a single person or group.1
The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, in this respect, recognizes in its Article XX that:
Every person having legal capacity is entitled to participate in the government of his country, directly or through his representatives, and to take part in popular elections, which shall be by secret ballot, and shall be honest, periodic and free.
The Preamble of the Charter of the Organization of American States had already established the relationship between the essential rights of man and the exercise of democracy, which is linked to continental solidarity in the following terms:
… the true significance of American solidarity and good neighborliness can only mean the consolidation of this continent, within the framework of democratic institutions, of a system of individual liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man.
The Commission finds it relevant to refer also to the Declaration of Santiago, Chili, adopted in 1959 by the V Consultative Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, at which the ISCHR was created. The declarative portion, which lists “some of the principles and attributes of the democratic system in this hemisphere,” stipulates the following:
1. The principle of the rule of law should be assured by the separation of powers, and by the control of the legality of governmental acts by competent organs.
2. The governments of the American republics should be the result of free elections.
3. Perpetuation in power, or the exercise of power without a fixed term and with the manifest intent of perpetuation, is incompatible with the effective exercise of democracy.
4. The governments of the American states should maintain a system of freedom for the individual of social justice based on respect for fundamental human rights.
5. The human rights incorporated into the legislation of the American states should be protected by effective judicial procedures.
6. The systematic use of political proscription is contrary to American democratic order.
7. Freedom of the press, radio, and television, and, in general, freedom of information and expression, are essential conditions for the existence of a democratic regime.
8. The American states, in order to strengthen democratic institutions, should cooperate among themselves within limits of their resources and the framework of their laws so as to strengthen and develop their economic structure, and achieve just and humane living conditions for their peoples.
Later on, when the Convention of Human Rights was drafted, the link between the exercise of political rights under a democratic system of government and the effectiveness of the entire range of human rights was again acknowledged. The Preamble of the Convention thus affirms “the intention of the American states to consolidate in this hemisphere, within the framework of democratic institutions, a system of personal liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man.”
The Commission finds it useful in connection with political rights to refer to the provisions of Article 23 of the American Convention. Although not applicable to Paraguay—since it was not ratified by that country—it is considered by the Commission to contain the hemisphere’s “most accepted doctrine” on human rights.
The article states that all citizens must be given the right and opportunity to participate in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, held through universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees free expression of the will of the voters; and to have access, under general conditions of equality, to the country’s public services.
Article 23 also provides that the law may regulate the exercise of the rights and opportunities mentioned in the preceding paragraph, but only on the basis of age, nationality, residence, language, education, civil and mental capacity, or sentencing by a competent court in criminal proceedings.
The Organization of American States General Assembly has repeatedly recommended that “… member states which have not yet done so reestablish or improve the democratic system of government in which the exercise of power stems from the legitimate and free expression of the people’s will, in accordance with the individual characteristics and circumstances of each country.”2
The texts quoted above allow the Commission to situate the exercise of political rights in the larger context of the system of representative democracy. The hemisphere’s legal tradition and the Commission’s experience lead to the belief that the exercise of such rights implies participation by the population in the conduct of public affairs, either directly or through representatives elected in periodic and genuine elections featuring universal suffrage and secret ballot, to ensure the free expression of the electors’ will. The voters must be given access, on general conditions of equality, to public functions.
Exercise of political rights is, in turn, an essential factor in the democratic system of government, which is also characterized by the presence of an institutional system of checks on the exercise of power, the existence of ample freedom of expression, association and meeting; and acceptance of a pluralism that would prevent the use of political proscription as an instrument of power.
This hemispheric vision of the exercise of political rights within the context of a democratic system of government is completed by the requisite development and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. Without them, the exercise of political rights is severely limited and the very permanence of the democratic regime is seriously threatened.
The Commission will now present the scenario that characterized the exercise of political rights in Paraguay, with particular emphasis on the way the country’s Government has acted in this respect. First of all, we shall address the norms that are applicable in the Paraguayan legal structure.
B. APPLICABLE LEGAL REGIME
The Constitution of Paraguay recognizes po9litical rights in Article 111:
Voting is a right, a duty and a public function of the voter. It constitutes the basis of the system of representative democracy, and it is based upon the universal, free, direct equal and secret vote; on supervised counting of the ballots; and on the system of proportional representation. Its exercise shall be compulsory within the limits established by the law, and no one may proclaim or recommend abstention from voting.
As mentioned in Chapter I of this report, the proportional representation established in Article 111 was regulated by Law Nº 886, known as the Electoral Statute. Article 8 on this subject provides the following:
Senators, Deputies and Delegates to the conventions, as well as members of the municipal and electoral boards, shall be chosen in direct general elections by means of the complete slate system and based on proportional representation, as follows: a) the pre-presentation system adopted consists of assigning two thirds of the offices to the party that has obtained the largest number of valid votes. To fill the remaining offices, the proportion shall be determined in the following manner: the total number of valid votes cast in favor of minority parties is divided by the number of posts to be filled; the result shall be the electoral quotient for the minority; this quotient shall serve as the divisor for the number of valid votes cast for each of the minority parties.
The right of Paraguayan citizens to organize political parties is recognized in Article 117, which says:
All Paraguayans who are able to vote have the right to organize themselves into political parties in order to participate, by democratic means, in the process of selecting the elective authorities and in the orientation of national policy. The law shall regulate the constitution and functioning of the political parties for the purpose of ensuring their democratic character and guaranteeing their equality before the law.
But the Constitution places limitations on the right to organize political parties by saying in Article 118 that:
The formation and operation of any political party whose purpose is to destroy the representative republic and democratic system of government and the multiparty system shall not be permitted. The subordination of Paraguayan political parties to, or their alliance with, similar organizations of other countries is prohibited. Nor may they receive subsidies or directives from abroad.
These limitations are tightened by the regulatory law: Article 25 of the Electoral Statute provided that:
The formation or functioning of any political party supporting the communist ideology, or of any other party of association with similar purposes that openly or covertly seeks to destroy the representative and republican system of government, the multiparty system, or the political, ethical and social bases of the Paraguayan Nation shall not be permitted.
A further constraint of the functioning of political parties is derived from Article 26 of Law Nº 886/81, when it states that:
The subordination or alliance of Paraguayan political parties with similar organizations of other countries is prohibited, alliance being understood to mean an agreement to develop programs and other political activities in common, and subordination to mean the participation as members of foreign or international political associations and the acceptance of directives and instructions therefrom.
Three basic factors emerge from the reading of the above transcriptions: the proportional representation relevant to conduct of the electoral processes; the proscription of certain doctrines concerning participation of certain parties in Paraguay’s political life; and the prohibition of alliances between political parties with similar parties from aboard. The Commission will now address these factors.
a. Electoral processes
The subject of proportional representation as a result of implementation of the provisions of the aforementioned Electoral Statute, Law 886/81, was discussed in Chapter I of this report. Under Article 8 of that Law, the party that obtains the majority of votes will be given two thirds of the seats for senators, deputies or delegates to conventions and the same proportion of the positions as members of the municipal and electoral boards. Those boards are responsible for organizing the elections, and their duties include the designation of the supervisors at the pools (Article 53 of Law 886/81). The electoral boards are chaired by a justice of the peace or a local civil court judge, who—as noted in Chapter I—are appointed by the President of the Republic for a period of five years, and may be “reelected,” also by the President, for the same term. This means that the judges are directly subordinated to the President.
In the opinion of the Commission, the system instituted by the Electoral Statute seriously distorts the electoral process by giving a single party an absolute majority, not only in the legislative bodies, but also in those responsible for organizing the electoral process. Consequently this system lacks the necessary institutional controls to guarantee impartiality of the electoral acts.
As claimed by the opposition political parties, control of the entire election system of the Partido Colorado has been substantially responsible for the high percentages obtained by that party in the various elections. In the presidential elections of 1978, the Partido Colorado received 89.6% of the votes, while in 1983 the figure was 90.6%. It should be noted by way of example that the incumbent Partido Colorado received 88.2% of the votes in the 1985 municipal elections.
The lack of guarantees in the electoral results has led certain political parties and sectors to refuse to participate. Such was the case of the Partido Revo9lucionario Febrerista which-although officially recognized—has recommended electoral abstention until there is a system that guarantees the authenticity of the elections.
It must also be remembered that elections have been held under the current state of siege, which is lifted for 24 hours only, on the day of elections. The many restrictions on the action of political opponents resulting from this situation have also been adduced to justify abstention from voting. Such restrictions include the arrest and harassment of political opponents and the ban of public meetings and party meetings, which are prohibited during the state of siege. Those provisions have not been applied, however, in the case of acts of the official party.
In addition to those restrictions, mass communications media are controlled directly or indirectly by the patty members or persons close to the President of the Republic, as discussed in Chapter V of this report. Even simple political information about the activities of opposition parties sufficed for numerous repressive measures to be taken against the ABC Color newspaper and Radio Ñandutí.
The serious limitations arising from the organization of the electoral system itself and the flawed conditions under which elections take place are accentuated when one considers the provisions that regulate the functioning of political parties, especially the practice of the Government of Paraguay, both in its relations with opposing groups and in the incentives implicit of joining and supporting the Partido Colorado. We shall now address these aspects.
b. The political parties accepted and those banned
The two traditional political parties in Paraguay have been Partido Liberal and the Asociación Nacional Republicana, or Partido Colorado. The latter is the one in power. Its head is General Stroessner, who was first elected President on August 14, 1954, and has been reelected continuously from then until the present.
The Partido Colorado is the organizational base that has enabled the Paraguayan Government to secure the necessary adherents to maintain its image of being chosen by popular vote. The Party, then, is the vehicle for the various incentives, which the exercise of power allows it to administer. According to different sources, such incentives range from bureaucratic positions with the state to public works contracts and admissions to the university. Membership in the Partido Colorado is indispensable for promotions in the military and—according to information given to the Commission—the state withholds their dues from the salaries paid to its members as civil servants. Members of the party also control the communications media. The Party itself has daily programs that are transmitted over a nation-wide network.
A split in the Colorado Party in 1959 led to the formation of the Movimiento Popular Colorado, of MOPOCO, in opposition to the Government. MOPOCO is not recognized by the Central Electoral Board, and the Government has been particularly sedulous in persecuting its leaders, who were expelled from the country and lived in exile for periods up to twenty-five years. In 1983 the Government authorized the return of MOPOCO leaders as well as those of other opposition groups whose political activities, as we shall see, were subjected to numerous restrictions. MOPCO has not yet been legally recognized.
Paraguay’s other traditional political party has been the Partido Liberal. It split into three fractions, two of which are recognized by the Government: the Partido Liberal and the Partido Liberal Radical. Theses two comprise the legal opposition in Paraguay. Together, they account for the third of the senatorial and deputies’ seats allocated by the existing system of proportional representation. The majority fraction of the old Partido Liberal, however, refused to play the role of formal opposition and founded the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico, which has not yet been recognized.
The Partido Revolucionario Febrerista, although officially recognized, refuses, as noted earlier, to take part in the elections, adducing the impossibility of real elections results because of the control exercised by the Colorado Party. The Febrerista group also believes that under such conditions, participating at the urns helps provide the Government with argument to support the putative existence of a formal democracy, despite the absence of true political content.
Another party that has not been recognized is the Partido Demócrata Cristiano, which in 1971 went to the Supreme Court of Justice to appeal the Electoral Board’s refusal to admit its registration. In the intervening 16 years, the Supreme Court has not yet passed judgment on the appeal, and the Partido Demócrata Cristiano has still not been officially recognized.
Because of the restrictions stemming from the constitutional provisions discussed earlier, plus the severe restraints imposed by laws 294/55 and 209/70—on the Defense of Democracy and the Defense of Public Peace and Individual Freedom, respectively, addressed in Chapter I f this report—neither the Communist Party nor any political organization espousing Marxist tenets exist legally in Paraguay. As noted previously, such persons are excluded by law from holding any kind of a job, and the penalties for violations are extremely harsh.
In February 1979 a group known as the “Acuerdo Nacional” was formed jointly the Partido Revolucionario Febrerista, the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico, the Partido Demócrata Cristiano, and the Movimiento Popular Colorado (MOPOCO). This “national accord” constituted a first combined attempt by opposition forces “to set up a regimen that would ensure effective human rights, the commonwealth, and the freedoms and guarantees inherent in the republic-democratic system …” The objectives posited by the Acuerdo Nacional included the following:
1. Lifting of the state of siege throughout the Republic
2. Release of all political and social prisoners
3. A wide-ranging amnesty law
4. Abrogation of anti-freedom Laws 209, 294 and 323
5. Defense and promotion of human rights
6. An independent judiciary
7. Admission of the judiciary and the teaching profession to the civil service, with no requirements other than the proper qualifications, thereby nullifying the present requirement of membership in the official party
8. Dismantling of the existing repression apparatus
9. A new electoral law to prevent fraud and guarantee respect for people’s will, freely expressed at the polls
10. Statutes of the political parties, drawn up with the participation of the political organizations
11. Suppression of the government monopoly of mass communications media, allowing complete freedom of expression
12. Intransigent defense of national sovereignty
13. Implementation of the republican principle of alternatives, abolishing indefinitely prolonged presidential reelection
14. Rejection of the antidemocratic process implanted by the regime as a means toward democratic and international legitimization of autocracy.
In April 1984, the political parties comprising the Acuerdo Nacional expanded their objectives to encompass the armed forces, economical and social factors, and international policy. That same year Minister of Subversive Action." In it, he cited the Partido Demócrata Cristiano, the Liberal Radical Auténtico and MOPOCO—those forming the Acuerdo Nacional—as “irregular groups” whose operations were outside the law and therefore violated the Constitution. Mr. Montanaro reiterated at that time the fact that only recognized political parties could operate legally.
As stated earlier, toward the end of 1983 the Government began to lift some of the restrictions on certain exiled opposition leaders. The permission to return to the country excluded writer Augusto Roa Bastos, Christian Democrat leader Luis Alfonso Resck, and Authentic Radical Liberal Party leader Domingo Laino. The status of the politicians who did return was evaluated in the following terms by the Commission in its 1984-1985 Annual Report:
Regarding political rights, the Commission must stress the fear and anguish of most of the political leaders who left the country. The complain of constant surveillance and acts of harassment by police officials and state that it is virtually impossible for them to move from one place to another because they are frequently detained, either without justification or for trivial reasons, to intimidate them.
Last year, the number of these arrests has increased. For example, there was the January 11-12, 1985, of 14 members of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (Bienvenido Benítez, Francisco Bigo, Pedro Sanabria, Félix Ramón Paya, Jorge Alcides Galeano, Juilo César Parodi, Carlos Rubén Parodi, Leo Bigildo, Domingo Bigo, Julio Garcete, Prudencio Duarte, Blanca Torales, Juan Andrés Torales and Estela Torales) because they were attending an organization meeting of the party in San Pedro Altiges in the Department of Itapua; and more recently the arrest of Dr. Miguel Abdón Saguier, Secretary General of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party on September 8, 1985, in the interior of the country, in the locality of Aldana Cañada, while he was presiding over an organization meeting of young people of his party. While the number of these arrests of opposition political leaders, students, peasants and unionists has increased during the year, most of these persons have been held for only a few hours or at most one or two days, at the end of which they have been released or charges have been brought against them and they have been brought before the courts of Justice.
In addition, the Commission has learned that just this September there have been two new cases of banishment: leaders of the opposition Colorado Party, Drs. Alejandro Stumpfs and Enrique Riera have just been confined in the localities of Mbuyapey and Caraguatay, respectively, more than 100 kilometers of Asunción.
20 January 1985
Dr. Miguel González Casabianca, Sandino Gil Oporto, Antonio González Prieto and Dr. Enrique Riera, all of who are members of MOPOCO, were arrested for a few days. Dr. Riera was confined to Caraguatay, about 80 km from Asunción, until February 13.
24 January 1985
Three MOPOCO members, Miguel González Prieto, and Sandino Gil Oporto were again detained while at a Café. They were jailed at the Asunción police headquarters, accused of violating a police restriction on their movements between the place of work and the residence. They were released on January 27.
3 March 1985
Eight PLRA and PRF militants were arrested as they returned to Encarnación after participating in the First Forum Southern Cone Democratic Youth, held in Posadas, Argentina on March 2-3, 1985. They were detained at the Government office in Itapua (where the state of siege is not in effect), and later transferred to Asunción. They were released on March 6.
8 April 1985
Following the PLRA meeting on April 7 attended by about 60 people at the home of Mr. Honorio Salinas, he was summoned before the police and held in the Tacumbú National Penitentiary for “allowing a secret meeting of the PLRA in his home.” Mr. Salinas was freed a few days later.
10 April 1985
Partido Febrerista member Juan José Ríos was arrested and held incommunicado for transporting political party leaflets in his truck, although the Febrerista party is officially recognized by the Government. He was released on January 27, after more than three months imprisonment.
21 April 1985
A meeting at San Pedro del Paraná was broken up by the police. A group of militant peasants from the PLRA youth sector some of them members of the executive committee, were detained and held incommunicado at the local police station. The state of siege is not officially in effect at San Pedro del Paraná. They were presumably subjected to both physical and psychological torture and imprisoned in small dirty cells. Fourteen peasants were released on April 22 and the other two on April 25.
26 May 1985
Eusebio Basualdo, Chairman of the Itacurubi de la Cordillera PLRA Committee and Víctor Iglesias, a member of that Committee, were jailed at the mayor’s office at the site of Compañía Rubio Ñu de Itacurubi de la Cordillera for having organized an assembly of the local PLRA Subcommittee. They were transferred to the Government office at Caacupe and released on May 29. The state of siege is not officially in force in either the Itacurubi or the Caacupe area.
27 August 1985
PLR leader Julio Basualdo was detained and held incommunicado at the Police Investigation Department. He was transferred to the Tacumbú Penitentiary and accused, pursuant to Law 209 (Defense of the Public Peace and Freedom of Individuals) of “preaching hatred among Paraguayans in public” because he had reportedly given a speech openly criticizing corruption and injustice in the ruling Partido Colorado during a PLR convention. He was released on August 29, but the charges against him are still pending.
Humberto Rubín, director of the independent broadcasting station, Radio Ñandutí, and newspaperman Oscar Acosta were also accused under Law 209 of having aired the speech, but they were not detained.
6 September 1985
Enrique Riera, Vice Chairman of MOPOCO, was confined to his ranch at Caraguatay, 80 km from Asunción, for the third time in 1985 by virtue of the provisions governing the stage of siege. Alejandro Stumpfs, second Vice Chairman of MOPOCCO, was confined to the area of Mbuyapey, 170 km from Asunción. The orders of confinement imposed on both were set aside on October 16.
15 September 1985
Dr. Miguel Angel Casabianca, international secretary of MOPOCO, was detained when he crossed the border from Brazil at Foz de Iguazú. He was transferred to Asunción where he was held incommunicado at police headquarters. No charges were presented, and he was released on October 16, 1986.
6 December 1985
Cornelio López, Clemente Maciel and Optaciano Maciel were detained at the San Pedro police station. This town is not officially under the state of siege. The three were released on September 16.
13 December 1985
Aguedo Ocampos and Juan Ocampos were detained at the San Pedro del Paraná local police station in connection with the meeting mentioned above. They were released on December 17.
The following events that occurred in 1986 were reported to the Commission:
24 January 1986
The apartment building where the current chairman of the MOPOCO and Acuerdo National parties, Waldino Ramón Lovera, lives was surrounded by 20 police. At 10:30 a.m., four members of the police investigation unit entered Lovera’s apartment, which is also the office of the MOPOCO political committee. They ordered Lovera to leave the office at noon, but did not produce a warrant. The police had no official papers showing the “higher orders” they said they had received. Lovera refused to leave his home. The noon deadline was extended. MOPOCO members who wanted to visit Lovera were prevented from entering the building. The 20 policemen left, ordering Lovera not to receive any MOPOCO visitors.
25 January 1986
Lovera and Emilio Reynal, Labor Secretary of MOPOCO, were injured and taken to hospital after being beaten by the police. Another 25 MOPOCO members were also hurt in the melee when 50 uniformed policemen and 20 plain clothes, armed with electric truncheons, broke up the plenary meeting of 50 MOPOCO delegates at the home of Julie César Vasconcellos.
26 January 1986
Aníbal Abatte Soley and Edgar Giménez, delegates of Brazil and Argentina, respectively, to the MOPOCO plenary that was canceled, were summoned by the Police Investigation Department. After being interrogated, they were freed the same day; Lovera, Antonio González and Eduardo San Martín were also summoned by the Police Investigation Department and later released. Police guards were posted in the building where Lovera lives to control the entrance. Vasconcellos was informed that MOPOCO was forbidden to hold its plenary anywhere in the country.
28 February 1986
Sindulfo Coronel, member of the Coordinating Committee of the Movimiento Campesino Paraguayo, was arrested without charges at Santa Rosa, Misiones, where he lives. His nephew, Hilarión Coronel, was held incommunicado until their release on March 9.
5 or 6 March 1986
Justo Lugo Villalba, Chairman of the Asamblea Permanente para Campesinos sin Tierras (Permanent Assembly of Landless Peasants) at Misiones, was detained and held incommunicado until he was freed on March 9.
13 April 1986
At San José de los Arroyos, 84 km east of Asunción, 22 persons were arrested and 30 injured. Troops of the Specialized Police Task Force, the armed forces, and the people’s militia from the Partido Colorado broke up a meeting of the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA)). All were released on April 15.
Vehicles belonging to other PLRA sympathizers were stopped at km 48 of Route 2 on their way to San José. Some 500 persons left their cars at the roadblock and began to walk. The march was violently restrained by security units. PLRA leader Miguel Abdón Saguier was brutally beaten, dragged into a police van, arrested and held incommunicado at the office of a government representative of the Cordillera Department. The police attacked other marchers with clubs, ships and barbed wire. Newspaper reporters, foreign diplomats and leaders of the Liberal and Radical parties accompanied the PLRA sympathizers and witnessed the police action.
Another 27 persons believed to be PLRA sympathizers were detained and kept at various provincial government buildings and police barracks in the interior of the country. A short time later, they were released.
25 April 1986
Quintín González Escobar, a member of the Movimiento Popular Colorado (MOPOCO) was arrested in Puerto Falcón when returning to Paraguay from Argentina. He was held incommunicado at the Asunción Investigation Department. Set free on April 30, he was again expelled to Argentina. González told reports that he was brutally tortured during his arrest.
27 April 1986
The police used rubber truncheons, jets of water and tear gas to break up a political meeting of about 1,000 persons who had gathered in front of the home of Domingo Laino, exiled director of the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico. The police beat and arrested demonstrators and foreign journalists, even including the press attaché from the West German Embassy, Mr. Armin Steuer; German television reporters Nikolaus Brender and Peder Wendt; and José Antonio Vulin and Eduardo Johnson, of Argentina. Their equipment was badly damaged. They were all taken to the Investigation Department in Asunción and released later that day.
Two Paraguayans were arrested in the same incident. José Luis Simón, a reporter for El Pueblo—a weekly publication of the Partido Febrerista Revolucionario, with social democratic leanings. Simón, who works for the Comité de Iglesias—a Church organization for human rights—remained under arrest and incommunicado at the Departamento de Investigaciones until his release on April 29.
Vidal Flores, a member of the Partido Liberal Radical—one of two opposition parties officially recognized and represented in Paraguay’s Congress—remained incommunicado at the Investigation Department until April 30, when he was released.
1 May 1986
Some 2,000 persons attended a mass organized by the Movimiento Sindical Independiente at the Cristo Rey church in Asunción. The bishop, Monsignor Melando Medina officiated. As thy left the church, those attending were surrounded by the police, who blocked the exits to the street. They reportedly attacked the crowd with tear gas, tank cars with colored water and sticks, and most of those present, both men and women, were allegedly beaten. Only those who managed to find refuge in the homes along the street remained uninjured. Many of the victims had to have hospital care for their injuries. Macelino Corazón Medina, Alberto Alderete and Adriano Yegros were arrested after the mass.
2 May 1986
Dr. Carlos Filizzola (age 26), current President of the Clinical Hospital Medical Association, was arrested and held incommunicado in the Asunción Department of Investigations. On May 9 he was visited by Dr Cattoni, dean of the National University School of Medicine. The incommunicado status was restored after the visit, by virtue of Article 70 of the constitution, which regulates the state of siege. On May 13 he was transferred to the Guardia de Seguridad, the maximum security detention center. Filizzola’s release on May 23 was apparently due to termination of the hospital de Clínicas strike and the intervention of the Archbishop of Asunción, Monsignor Ismael Rolón, on his behalf.
18 May 1986
More than 20 persons were injured, three of them seriously, following a mass at the Roque González de Santa Cruz church in Asunción and prayers for the release of political prisoners and an end to police and quasi-police repression. The police appeared and hit the people with sticks when leaders of the independent Movimiento de Trabajadores Inter-union called for an active strike in the cause of Paraguayan democratization. The incident lasted 20 minutes. Curate Américo Ferreira managed to calm the police, who then let the workers depart in peace.
27 May 1986
The Board of the Archdiocese of Lay Persons and the national Lay Council organized a community mass “against violence, for justice and brotherhood.” About 2,000 persons attended the mass celebrated by Monsignor Ismael Rolón, Archbishop of Asunción. At the end of the mass, a group of students, politicians and leaders of religious movements were attacked by the police as they walked along Calle Independencia Nacional.
29 May 1986
During a meeting of the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico at a private home, 48 persons were detained in the town of Yuagaron in Paraguari. Although 43 of them were released the same day, two doctors and three lawyers were transferred t the Departamento de Investigaciones in Asunción, where they remained incommunicado.
24 June 1986
Paraguayan police used force to keep Radical Liberal party leader Domingo Laino from entering the country via the Asunción airport. It was Laino’s fifth attempt to return to Paraguay following his expulsion in 1982. He was accompanied by Uruguayan deputies Roberto Asiain and Oscar López Balestra; the former United States Ambassador to Paraguay, Robert White; and retired united States Admiral John Lee. Laino received multiple bruises on his arms and chest during the attack. Asiain, López and White were also struck. The equipment of ABC, NCB and CBS television correspondents traveling on the same plane with Laino was confiscated.
20 August 1986
The Public Prosecutor demanded the detention and trial of Dr. Miguel Abdón Saguier for sedition against internal security of the state for having allegedly instigated disobedience to established order. The public prosecutor’s charges against Saguier were based on a newspaper interview supporting statements originally made by Carlos Romero Pereira, a dissident member of the Partido Colorado. Romero said that “people have a legitimate right to rebel against oppression. Nobody can deny a subjugated country the right to resort to force if necessary to overthrow tyrants.” The Prosecutor recommended that Saguier be tried for violating Article 3 of law 209. No similar recommendation was made concerning Romero.
28 August 1986
Criminal Court Judge José Ramírez presented the indictment and ordered preventive detention of Dr. Miguel Abdón Saguier. In statements to the press, Saguier said that he had no intention of appearing before the court, since he considered the order of arrest to be arbitrary and a matter of political persecution. Dr Saguier was said to be hiding from authorities.
6 September 1986
Police searched the home of PLRA leader Dr. Miguel Abdón Saguier.
7 September 1986
Despite a government ban and the presence of police forces, the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico held a meeting of 500 young people in the Itagua parish church, 30 km east of Asunción. Dr. Miguel Abdón Saguier, wanted on charges of “sedition,” addressed the group. Security forces detained at least 15 party leaders, including its Chairman, Juan Carlos Zaldívar, Secretary of the PLRA Committee at Itagua, Rodolfo González and Martín Sanemann (member of the PLRA youth sector), César López, Eulogio López, Sergio López, Cándido Rodríquez, Justo Rodríquez, Maximiliano Rodríquez, and Juan Dorales. They were taken first to the San Lorenzo police station and then to the central station, and released within 48 hours.
11 September 1986
Juan Carlos Galaverna, member of the Partido Colorado and organizer of the lake Ypacarai Festival, took refuge in the Argentine Embassy in Asunción, stating that he was being hunted by the Paraguayan political police. A high official of the Embassy accompanied him to the border city of Clorinda, where he was given a 90-day visa. Galaverna told the press that he was not leaving Paraguay of his own volition, but was forced to do so.
The police allowed no one to enter or leave the home of Luis Becker, national Deputy and Chairman of the Ypacarai Local Section of the Partido Colorado.
13 September 1986
Scores of persons were detained on highway 2, which links Ypacarai and Asunción. Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico leader Dr. Miguel Abdón Saguier was detained at Ypacarai in the midst of a crowd of 3,000 who cheered when he emerged after 15 days in hiding. Despite the presence f some 600 police and an order for his arrest, Saguier attended a mass and the folklore music festival before being arrested. Dr. Saguier was not released until February 11, 1987, five months later. He as accused pursuant to the provisions of Law Nº 209.
27 October 1986
After stating during a demonstration that his judge was corrupt, Dr. Juan Massi was accused of violating a “disciplinary norm” and held at the police station for 10 days.
30 October 1986
Gilbert Riveros, Chairman of the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico Committee, was arrested and held at the Carapegua government facility. After interrogation by an army colonel, he was released on November 5.
17 December 1986
Police from the Trinidad district arrested Juilo Rolando Elizeche, Chairman of the Partido Colorado, Electoral District Nº 1, and Juan B. Elizeche, Vice President of the Partido Colorado Doctors’ Association. They were taken to police headquarters, where they were held for three hours and interrogated about the activities of the “ethical” faction of the Partido Colorado.
30 December 1986
Former Chief of Police Dr. Rubén Darío Fretes Cubillas, Chief of the Partido Colorado’s San Lorenzo district was detained and held at police headquarters.
The foregoing summary conveys an idea of the insurmountable difficulties confronting political opposition in Paraguay. The legal instruments at the Government’s command, together with the coercive recourse used to enforce the provisions thereof, represent serious impediments to exercise of the political rights recognized in the Paraguayan Constitution and in international human rights instruments that are applicable in Paraguay. The recital presented here produces a clear picture of social tensions that find no adequate means of political expression due to the restrictions imposed by the Government’s action.
This situation led the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference to issue a document on April 20, 1986 calling for a national dialogue, in the face of “the ongoing confrontation and growing disunion noted in sectors of the nation’s society, the deterioration of public and private morality, which we have been denouncing for years …” The call from the episcopate, however, merited no favorable response from the Government.
It should also be noted that the Government of Paraguay has taken some initial steps that—if continued in the same direction—could mean an improvement in the political rights situation. One that warrants mention is the lifting of the state of siege in April of this year, followed by authorization of Domingo Laino’s return to the country. He is resident of Paraguay as of the date of this report. The Commission is aware that the initial measures have yet to be consolidated and expanded: accordingly they mark a promising, albeit precarious, beginning.
For continued progress toward complete validity of human rights in Paraguay, the Commission considers that the Government must now grant the leaders of the opposition and the groups that have assumed attitudes critical to the Government all of the faculties required by the exercise of democracy. This necessarily entails recognition of the political parties that are a part of today’s political life in Paraguay. Failure to recognize them has been an instrument of discrimination that conflicts with the democratic tenor of the Paraguayan Constitution and the international human rights agreements applicable to the country. Along the same line, the proscriptions based on political dogma must be lifted, for as the Commission has already said, “disqualification of certain doctrines is acceptable only if performed within the framework of a democratic system, and the only on authorized to perform it is the electorate.”
To attain that progress, it is indispensable to modify the legal instruments that have been used to restrain and ignore the exercise of political rights. The Commission feels in this connection that the restrictive provisions set forth in the Constitution and in laws 294/55 and 209/70 must be rescinded.
Finally, this process must culminate in restoration of the other rights and guarantees that constitute the essence of the republic and democratic system of government and an indissoluble part of the exercise of political rights: the right of freedom of thought, expression and opinion and renewed independence of the judiciary, accompanied by an authentic system of jurisdictional controls that preclude the concentration of state power—now feasible under the present Paraguayan Constitution—in a single group or person.
1 See the Report on the Status of Human Rights in El Salvador (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.45, doc.23 rev. 2, 17 November 1978, p. 126; 1980-81 Annual Report of the IACHR, p. 143; 1982-82 Annual Report of the IACHR, p. 25; and Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Chile, 1985, p. 277.
2. Resolutions of the OAS General Assembly 510 (X-O/80); 543 (XI-O/81); 618 (XII-O/82); 666 (XIII-O/83), and 742 (XIV-O/84).