The Chancellor of Paraguay, Euclides Acevedo, meets this Wednesday (17) his Brazilian counterpart, Ernesto Araújo, in search of political support for the Paraguayan President, Mario Abdo Benítez, and donations of vaccines and drugs against Covid -19 .
Acevedo is expected to be received by President Jair Bolsonaro, an ally of Abdo Benítez, and Brazil can make a gesture of support for the Paraguayan government, shaken by popular protests against the failure of the fight against the pandemic and vaccination.
Brazil may announce the start of negotiations on Annex C of the Itaipu Treaty, which will determine the conditions for marketing the plant and energy prices from 2023 – the announcement is a Paraguayan election and deals of a critical point for both countries, which almost led to the fall of Abdo Benítez in 2019.
In terms of health, the visit should be less fruitful. Although he asked Brazil in January for a donation of 10,000 doses of vaccine and also drugs to treat seriously ill patients, the Paraguayan chancellor must leave empty-handed.
Brazil wishes to help the neighboring country and, in addition, to exercise soft power with the right-wing allies on the continent.
However, it is understood that a donation at a time when Brazil records more than 2,000 deaths per day and only vaccines 6.3% (first dose) would be politically unsustainable. Brazil has recorded 11.6 million cases of Covid and 282,000 deaths.
Chile, which has already successfully vaccinated 25% of its population, has donated 20,000 doses of Coronavac to Paraguay and 20,000 to Ecuador. China and Russia have used vaccine diplomacy to expand their influence in the region.
Paraguay, which has a population of 7 million, has recorded 181,000 cases and 3,517 deaths from Covid. But the vaccination is an absolute failure and, with the overcrowding of hospitals and the lack of medicines, has led people to the streets and the opposition to demand the impeachment of the president.
As of March 13, only 0.1% of the Paraguayan population had been vaccinated. The Paraguayan government, praised at the start of the pandemic for maintaining social isolation and recording a relatively low number of cases and deaths, declined from January, with an increase in cases and the arrival of the Brazilian variant.
According to Ambassador Pedro Miguel Costa e Silva, Secretary of Bilateral and Regional Negotiations in the Americas, the most immediate and urgent challenge of the pandemic will be on the agenda. “Brazil has sought to help Paraguay as much as possible. We hope to be able to offer more cooperation as soon as the conditions are right. We have already contributed with respirators and tests, ”says Costa e Silva. Brazil has already donated 50 respirators and 50,000 Covid tests and will send 35,000 more to the neighboring country.
Paraguayans, however, are desperate. “We have the money, but we don’t know where to buy the vaccines. They seem to be hiding from us, ”Chancellor Acevedo (16) said on Tuesday.
“We are exploring options for places to get vaccines, not just donations. If you need to buy, let’s compare. “
Paraguay is also asking Brazil to donate drugs needed for the intubation of critically ill patients with Covid, such as atracurium and midazolam, which are lacking in Paraguay. However, in Brazil too, these drugs are starting to fall short and prices have skyrocketed.
During a meeting of Prosul on Tuesday, Abdo Benítez complained about the delay in sending vaccines from the Covax mechanism and asked for help from countries in the region. According to him, Paraguay bought – and paid for – 4 million doses of vaccines through the Covax mechanism, in October 2020, but, so far, none have arrived.
The positive agenda for the meeting is to come from a statement of support from Bolsonaro for Abdo Benítez and from Itaipu’s announcement.
In 2019, the case almost led to a request for the removal of the Paraguayan president. It emerged that the two countries had reached an agreement establishing a timetable for the purchase of energy produced by the binational Itaipu hydropower until 2022. The agreement would increase the costs of the Paraguayan public electricity company of more than 200 million dollars, which, in the Brazilian government’s point of view, would correct a distortion.
But the opposition accused Abdo Benítez of treason to the homeland for signing an agreement that would have favored Brazil, signed in secret, and the population took to the streets.
In August, the country canceled the deal, without resistance from Brazil. At the time, Itamaraty defended the President of Paraguay and cited his “excellent personal relationship” with Bolsonaro. The Brazilian government gave in and signed in December of the same year an agreement valid until 2022 under conditions favorable to Paraguayans.
In 2023, Annex C of the Itaipu Treaty, which deals with the sale of energy and prices, will be revised by the two countries as the factory’s debt will be fully repaid. Paraguay wants an announcement on the review as a way to have a positive agenda. In the renegotiation, one of the possibilities, defended by Paraguay, is to open up the marketing of Itaipu’s energy, so that it can be sold to other countries. Paraguayans say Brazil pays little for the energy it buys from them.
Other themes of the meeting between the foreign ministers will be the bridges that the nations are building on the Paraguay and Paraná rivers and the broadband connectivity project between the two countries, in addition to the fight against organized crime and the situation in Venezuela.