Press Memorandum: Duarte's Mixed Message in Paraguay

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Council On Hemispheric Affairs

Monitoring Political, Economic and Diplomatic Issues Affecting the Western Hemisphere

Memorandum to the Press 04.65

Friday, 24 September, 2004

Word Count: 1450


Duarte’s Mixed Message in Paraguay

• Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos has a clear anti-corruption agenda to which he appears to be adhering.

U.S. pressure has failed to sway Duarte’s economic policies as Paraguay moves to strengthen its relationship with its Latin American allies.

Duarte is a hero to many for having snubbed Otto Reich.

• The President must act resolutely to address the pressing needs of the campesinos to avoid further unrest in the country and to break the country’s chain of often unresponsive leadership.

• His handling of a difficult land reform issue stands as the one blight on
Duarte’s otherwise laudable commitment to social reform.

Duarte’s amazingly high popularity rating – the highest in the Americas – is at risk if he doesn’t affect real land reform in his country.

• As Duarte is increasingly seen as an entrant into the populist camp, along with the likely election of a populist president in Uruguay’s October elections, the U.S. should anticipate very tough negotiations with the dissident bloc, led by Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina, regarding the FTAA.

President Nicanor Duarte Frutos of Paraguay has spearheaded an anti-corruption campaign in his country, at times putting his country’s needs above those of the U.S.—an unprecedented move for this small landlocked country traditionally ruled by strongmen guided by dishonest motives. In a exclusive interview with COHA in New York before heading back to Paraguay, President Duarte revealed his intentions for his remaining four years as a head of state: “With divine guidance, we are striving for social, economic and political change— great changes that will evince a new image for Paraguay.”
Duarte reiterated that he would focus on purging the institutionalized corruption from Paraguay’s political infrastructure by establishing solid social, economic and political foundations for the future. “We believe strongly in our cause,” the 47-year-old president told COHA at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York City.

Since assuming office on
August 15, 2003, Duarte has been widely praised for his three-pronged effort to combat corruption through transparency, public service evaluation and social responsibility. In his first year, Duarte initiated a number of reforms directed at the country’s inefficient judicial system. This effort included replacing nine Supreme Court justices on the basis of merit, rather than for partisan motivations.


This analysis was prepared by Mike Johnson, COHA Research Associate.

September 24, 2004

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