The outbreak of a new institutional crisis in Paraguay worries the Jair Bolsonaro government, which fears the withdrawal of an ally – President Mario Abdo Benítez – and the resulting destabilization of the region during a pandemic.
Paraguay is experiencing protests that have taken to the streets, mainly in Asunción, against the government’s conduct of the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA) have decided to file a demand for political judgment against the current president, which could end his impeachment.
Itamaraty started receiving information from the embassy in Asunción after the protests started on Friday (5).
The assessment of Bolsonaro’s interlocutors consulted by Folha is that, so far, Abdo Benítez has managed to stay in office thanks to the exchanges carried out in his office.
The main sign of the president’s survival has been the failure of the Colorado majority party, controlled by former president Horacio Cartes, to declare support for impeachment.
Members of the Brazilian government, however, remain concerned and stress that in Paraguay, an impeachment process could take place in record time.
The dismissal of ex-president Fernando Lugo, for example, was completed in just two days.
Bolsonaro is an ally of Abdo Benítez, has no interest in seeing him removed from his post and has already helped him when, two years ago, he was threatened with losing his presidential seat.
In 2019, the Bolsonaro government did not oppose Paraguay’s decision to cancel a bilateral agreement that increased the cost for the neighboring country with the acquisition of power from Itaipu.
At the time, the impeachment proceedings against Abdo Benítez lost momentum after the document was canceled.
Concerns over the current crisis in Paraguay, according to members of the Bolsonaro government, go beyond ideological proximity to the president: there are fears that a change of power could be a destabilizing factor in the region amid the pandemic of Covid-19.
The problem is that the motivation for the current protests – the management of the health crisis – leaves Brazil with little room to help the neighboring country.
Although the Paraguayan government has imposed a stringent set of social isolation measures, maintaining a low number of infections and deaths, vaccination in the country has barely started.
So far not 0.1% of the population has been vaccinated. In Brazil, where the government is criticized for the delay in its vaccination campaign, the rate is around 4%.
Paraguayan authorities even asked Brazil to send a batch of vaccines, but the response was negative.
The Brazilians argued that they faced a serious shortage of vaccines, that Bolsonaro had been criticized for delays in the vaccination campaign and that allowing the export of these products was a politically sensitive issue.
With the crisis in Paraguay, the expectation of members of the Bolsonaro government heard by Folha is that the neighboring country will make new requests for aid.
Paraguayan Chancellor Euclides Acevedo Candia is due to visit Brasilia next week and faces new demands for cooperation.
According to Itamaraty, since the start of the pandemic, Brazil has donated to Paraguay 50 mechanical lung ventilators, 50,000 test kits and 20 campaign tents for the assembly of structures for the treatment of people suspected of Covid -19.
For the moment, the Ministry of Health is analyzing a new order from the neighboring country, for the delivery of more than 35,000 test kits.
“In addition to responding to requests for donations, the Brazilian government has shared with the Paraguayan government the Ministry of Health protocols to fight Covid-19,” Itamaraty said, in a note.