History, Recent Developments
Stroessner, Colorado Party, impeachment proceedings, coup attempt, presidential primary election
General Andres Rodriguez, the leader of the coup that had removed Stroessner from office, won election to the presidency as head of the Colorado Party following Stroessner. In office, he inaugurated a program of privatizing state-owned enterprises, but the economy remained relatively stagnant, and his party lost some support. The Colorado nominee in the May 1993 presidential elections, Juan Carlos Wasmosy, won the office with only a plurality of the votes cast. Under Wasmosy, Paraguay joined Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay in creating the Southern Cone Common Market (Spanish acronym MERCOSUR) in 1995. This trade association promised to lower tariffs and increase trade, sparking concerns that lower tariffs and economic integration would harm small Paraguayan businesses.
In April 1996 a confrontation between Wasmosy and General Lino Cesar Oviedo, commander of Paraguay’s army, brought the country to the brink of a coup. Wasmosy accused Oviedo of interfering in the political process and of opposing government policies, and he ordered Oviedo to step down from his position. Oviedo rejected the order and threatened to kill Wasmosy. After a tense standoff, Oviedo agreed to resign, but only under the condition that he be named defense minister. Fearing another coup attempt, Wasmosy agreed, but when many citizens protested, he reversed his decision. Oviedo then announced his intention to run for the presidency in 1998.
Oviedo won a presidential primary election in 1997 and emerged as the presidential candidate of the Colorado Party. However, Wasmosy, who was constitutionally barred from seeking reelection, ordered Oviedo arrested and jailed for his role in the coup attempt. In April 1998, two weeks before the election, a military tribunal sentenced Oviedo to ten years in prison. The Colorado Party then nominated Raul Cubas Grau, Oviedo’s vice-presidential running mate, to replace Oviedo as the party’s presidential nominee. Cubas won the election in May 1998 and pardoned Oviedo soon after taking office. Oviedo’s pardon outraged many people, and the Supreme Court ordered him back to prison in December 1998. Cubas ignored the court order and allowed Oviedo to remain free.
Amid growing political turmoil, Vice President Luis Maria Argana, Cubas’s rival in the Colorado Party, was assassinated on March 23, 1999. As speculation mounted that Cubas and Oviedo were responsible for the killing, the Congress began impeachment proceedings against Cubas, resulting in civil unrest in the nation’s capital. Cubas resigned as president, and he and Oviedo fled the country. On March 29, 1999, Senate leader Luis Gonzalez Macchi was sworn in as president. In April 1999 Paraguay’s Supreme Court ruled that Gonzalez could remain in office until 2003, when Cubas’s term was to end.
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