While demonstrators in Asunción prepare new demonstrations for the afternoon of Tuesday (9) in favor of the resignation of President Mario Abdo Benítez, in the corridors of the Paraguayan Congress the possibility of a political trial runs up against obstacles.
The Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), led by Efraín Alegre, has filed a request for the opening of debates around the process of impeachment of the head of the country and his deputy, Hugo Velázquez, for mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.
Late Tuesday morning, however, Congressman Oscar Salomon, a Colorado party member – the same as the president – and third in line for succession, said it was not possible to vote on a request for dismissal of the two heads of state. .
“How is it possible to say that the vice president mismanaged the pandemic if he didn’t have the ability to handle anything?” Either a lawsuit is open only against Abdo Benítez, or it is not. You can’t judge both in this procedural figure, ”he said.
Salomón’s remarks sparked a split in the PLRA, which holds 29 seats in the House – 53 votes are needed to approve the recall. Although the wing loyal to Alegre has a majority in the party, it does not concentrate all the votes in favor of impeachment.
According to a member of the legend, one of the wings of the liberals would not agree to support a process that focuses solely on Abdo Benítez and would only launch into a political judgment if it included Velázquez.
The situation is therefore a situation of impasse. Either PLRA re-requests, or the agenda will not even be debated, by decision of Solomon. Meanwhile, Velazquez, a former ally of former President Horacio Cartes – now estranged from the Colorado party leader – says the executive’s situation is stable.
“We listen to and respect the people who have taken to the streets. We know there is dissatisfaction with the handling of the pandemic, but we will correct it. We have already started, with the change of Minister of Health. Now we are tackling the vaccines and drugs that are lacking in medical centers across the country, ”said the deputy on Tuesday morning at the headquarters of the Palacio de los López. of the Paraguayan executive.
Velázquez added that he and Abdo Benítez were “elected by popular vote and this decision must be respected.” “The majority supports us and we will end the mandate after the Constitution”.
For the political scientist Mario Paz Castaing, the panorama at the top of the government is explosive and “the power of Marito [o presidente Mario Abdo Benítez], kidnapped by Cartes, was already fragile before the pandemic. “It could explode now or in a few months. The street will define. “
Cards runs Honor Colorado, the mainstream Colorado Party chain. For now, the group does not support impeachment, and MPs say they will not attend a vote for Abdo Benítez’s departure.
Epidemiologist Alfredo Boccia, meanwhile, says the country is wasting time with political conflicts, as variants of the coronavirus enter Paraguay, mainly weakening cities in the interior, which do not even have doctors to help them. operate the ICUs. For him, the only way out is to negotiate the purchase of vaccines more quickly.
The country was controlling the spread of the virus with the imposition of restrictive measures, but since January the infection curve has started to rise. Daily records of new cases have surpassed 1,000 since February 15 – in the early months of the pandemic, that number did not reach 100.
On Monday evening (8), in addition to the protests in Asunción, protests were held in Encarnación and Ciudad del Este, among other cities. A caravan from Ciudad del Este, on the border with Brazil (where the contagion curve is growing rapidly), arrived to participate in the protests in the capital.
The dissatisfaction of those taking to the streets to protest against the government is linked to the lack of basic supplies in hospitals and health centers, such as pain relievers. The opposition is questioning the government for asking for an international loan of US $ 1.6 million to buy inputs that, so far, have not arrived.
A national vaccination plan has also not been presented – only 4,000 doses of Russian vaccine Sputnik V and 20,000 doses of Chinese Coronavac sold by the Chilean government have reached Paraguay. Little for the 7 million inhabitants of the country. Vaccination has not yet reached 0.1% of the population.
Yet, compared to other cities in the region, Asunción maintains rigorous security protocols. Arriving at the airport, the visitor finds sinks next to the migration line, with water, soap and alcohol gel.
In stores, there are thermometers, and the use of masks is compulsory in the streets and in enclosed spaces. There is a curfew between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., and until June the measurement started at 8 p.m. To get to Asunción by plane, you need a negative PCR test done up to 72 hours before departure – depending on the purpose of the trip, a quarantine is required.
The new holder of Health, Julio Borba, as part of a ministerial reform aimed at calming the population, said he is evaluating the easing of restrictive measures while negotiating the purchase of vaccines.