25 Years of Kleptocracy in Paraguay: Endemic Corruption Perpetuates Poverty

By: Scott W. Downs, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

For 23 months from November 1998 through October 2000 I traversed Paraguay on a humanitarian mission. During that period I witnessed abject poverty, precarious public works infrastructure, extremely limited educational opportunities, and a dearth of adequate sanitation. I lived in the districts of Asunción, San Lorenzo, Encarnación, Obligado, Natalio, San Antonio, Fernando de la Mora and Ñemby. It was revolting to see so many citizens living in abject poverty next to a small number of wealthy elites. Shanty-towns, or villas, are filled with lodgings that use plastic bags for doors and conceal dirt floors where several people sleep. Streams of sewage trickle through these villas, exposing its inhabitants to a litany of diseases. Meals provided little nourishment. Education regularly ended early because poor children could not afford to purchase uniforms and school supplies. Indeed, schools in rural villages are all but certain to be filled with malnourished children lacking shoes, attending so that they might receive meager sustenance.

Yet, despite the dire socio-economic environment in this impoverished country, they are an endearing and friendly people. Paraguayans are, by self-proclamation, tranquilo. This is to say they are peaceful, relaxed, friendly, and accepting of their station in life. The depth of Paraguayan hospitality, graciousness, selflessness, humility, and cheerfulness is remarkable, just as it is endearing.

The Paraguayans’ kindness quietly endures the stark income disparity consistent throughout much of Latin America. Seeking liberation from the oppression of dictatorships, several South American countries established democratic forms of government near the end of the 1980’s. In 1989, Paraguay ousted its fourth dictator, General Alfredo Ströessner, ending a merciless 35-year reign of searing human injustice. The expectation was that by removing General Ströessner and adopting democracy, Paraguayans would have a chance to enjoy increased financial upward mobility, improved social conditions, and an enhanced quality of life.[1] Recent reform in Health Care is promising, and its expansion will prove invaluable to improving the standard of living for all citizens. However, aside from the increased availability to health care services, few achievements in the past 25 years depict an inclusive democracy. The current system perpetuates extreme poverty while augmenting the wealth of the politically-connected elite—only a slight improvement from the economic model of Ströessner.

Ströessner’s Purported Achievements

Ströessner’s grand ambitions always seemed joined with his economic ineptitude; nonetheless, Paraguay’s skewed economy grew under the dictator. Trading Economics, in conjunction with the World Bank, reported that in 1965 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $0.4 billion USD, ending with almost $5.7 billion USD in 1989 at the end of Ströessner’s rule.[2] This growth largely depended on illicit industries, including smuggling “whiskey, cigarettes, passports, coffee, cocaine, luxury cars, [and] rare bird skins.”[3] The exportation of soya and cotton were the most notable legally traded commodities.[4] The legitimacy of economic reporting throughout the General’s regime is questionable. Nonetheless, the means of expanding the exportation of agricultural staples such as soya and cotton to neighboring Brazil can be attributed to his direction to construct the Friendship Bridge (see image below).

Constructed in 1965, the Friendship Bridge over the River Paraná connects Ciudad del Este in Paraguay to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil. Increasing the ease of transnational commerce was essential to the nation’s economic health, and also engendered positive relations with Brazil. The Friendship Bridge preceded another major infrastructural project, the Itaipú hydro-electric dam. The capstone of Ströessner’s economic tenure was no doubt the Itaipú hydro-dam construction project, which commenced in 1973 and opened in 1984, affording employment to thousands of Paraguayans.[5] It is the second largest dam in the world.[6]

Unfortunately, the accord on the hydroelectric Itaipú plant disproportionally favored Brazil. The 1973 treaty has been described by the United States Agency for International Development as “scandalously unfair” because it required “Paraguay to sell any unused electricity to Brazil at-cost, rather than to third parties.”[7] This imbalanced exchange squandered resources, and it would take 40 years—with a president from the opposing Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA) party—for a revision to be realized.[8]

In a successful attempt to parlay the excitement of hydroelectric energy into more opportunity, Ströessner sought another hydroelectric plant contract with Argentina. The two nations agreed to build the Yacyretá dam in 1983, a project completed in 1994.[9] The second energy exchange project was equally unfavorable, with Argentina paying a reduced price for surplus power.[10] Decades later, Argentina is contending for additional turbines to be constructed, hoping to expand its negotiated advantage over neighboring Paraguay.[11]

Each of these international development projects temporarily boosted the Paraguayan economy, yet did so in an unsustainable fashion. Ströessner had no strategies for transitional employment for all the displaced workers upon completion of the projects. Thus, in spite of technological advancements, unsavory agreements and imprudent planning undercut the progress made.

When Ströessner left office, Paraguayans renewed their hope for equality and opportunity. However, economic inequality has increased since the country’s adoption of democracy in 1990. Unsurprisingly, the Ströessner regime did not produce sufficient financial information for the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund to evaluate economic policy throughout his dictatorship. Decades after the fall of Ströessner, the imprint of his mismanagement still remains. Little changed economically, and least of all the pronounced disparity between the oligarchy and the peasantry. Political change was slow in coming, too. Ströessner’s Partido Colorado won each of the first five democratic elections after his departure.

Perspective of a Doctor

During the late summer of 2000, while in the town of Fernando de la Mora, I met a wonderful young student named Férnando Cardenás. While Férnando was aware of the limited socio-economic mobility, that did not stymie his exuberance for a better future for his country. At the time, he was nearing the end of colegio and strategizing how to achieve his aspiration of becoming a doctor.

Fourteen years later, Dr. Férnando Cárdenas now practices medicine in Amambay, Paraguay. The 31-year-old general practitioner is a graduate of the National University of Itaipú. In a recent interview, he was asked what the sueño Paraguayo (“Paraguayan dream”) is. Dr. Cárdenas responded, “The Paraguayan dream is quality educational and health care systems, [and] complete freedom.” He stressed that free basic health care services are available, but the programs require expansion to achieve universal inclusion. Cárdenas emphasized that while there is greater opportunity for advanced education today than during the rule of Ströessner, affordability for college is worse than ever, with the cost of private universities far beyond the reach of the lower class.[12]

Uneven Economic Growth

In regards to the realization of the Paraguayan Dream, the country’s Gini Coefficient indicates that dream is far from a reality from the majority of its citizens. The Gini Coefficient is an index that establishes the distribution of income and inequality for a nation. A score of zero represents perfect economic equality; conversely, a score of 100 represents absolute inequality. In 1990, the first year of democratic leadership, Paraguay found itself with a score of 40.80.[13] By 1999 this spiked to 57.0, improving moderately to 54.0 by 2004, and slowly trickling downward to its current position of 52.42, where it has hovered since 2008.[14] When comparing economic inequality from 1990 to 2014, the nation became 11.62 percent worse—informal economics, cattle ranchers’ refusal to employ locals, and the lack of personal income tax contribute to the disparity. This startling comparison leaves Paraguay as the sole member of the Southern Cone that has not reduced income inequality over the past quarter century.[15]

Paraguay finds itself within the bottom third in the world for income distribution, a position maintained for decades. Quandl, a global statistical analytics firm, noted in its 2014 report that the most favorable Gini scores went to Denmark (24.70), Japan (24.85), and Sweden (25.00), while the 52.42 score for Paraguay places the nation only slightly worse in income disparity than neighboring Chile (52.06), and tied with Lesotho (52.42).[16]

In an evaluation of worldwide income inequality, author Max Fisher noted in the Washington Post that Latin American countries are among those with the greatest inequity. Fisher stated, “These countries have been seeing economic growth over the past few decades, but much of the wealth ends up funneling into the top stratospheres of society. This problem tends to be self-reinforcing: The rich are able to secure better education and political access [.]”[17]

A 2013 report produced by the World Bank excluded the nation from a list of Latin American economies that would surpass the regional average for gross domestic product growth (GDP) of three to four percent.[18] The World Bank report noted Paraguay’s continued below average performance, which has spanned decades.[19]

In 1990, the per capita income was $4,200 USD.[20] In the ensuing decade, the nation made a moderate climb to nearly $4,400 USD and, by 2012, almost $5,000 USD, a slow-moving expansion built upon modest success in agricultural exports such as soybean, meat, organic sugar exportation, maize, rice, sunflower, sesame, and rapeseed seed.[21] The international value of soy and meat are the backbone of the country’s macro-economic policy—ranking as the fourth largest soy producer in the world, as well as the eighth largest exporter of meat.[22]

Real GDP growth has been volatile during the last decade, falling by double-digits in 2009 during the global recession, repeating the feat in 2012. The latter occurred due to a drought which devastated agriculture and livestock, amidst the political chaos surrounding the impeachment and removal of President Fernando Lugo. Still, a 2014 IMF analysis of Paraguayan economic health lauds the 13.5 percent real GDP growth which came on the heels of a regression of 6.1 percent in 2012. In spite of the historic unpredictability, the IMF projects a consistent 4.5 percent annual real GDP growth through 2018.[23]

The confidence imbued upon Paraguay by the IMF, and like-minded institutions, is predicated upon an assumption of forthcoming foreign direct investment. China, the leading source of foreign investment in Latin America, has approached the current president, Horacio Cartes, about expanding the Yacyretá hydroelectric dam.[24] Reaching such an accord would validate the basis for predicting a 4.5 percent annual real GDP growth between 2015 and 2019, yet a contract remains unsigned. Foreign direct investment in infrastructural development might prove to be the impetus for financial stability, but historical evidence demonstrates vast variation in real GDP, which a few projects alone will not counter-balance.[25]

Nonetheless, future GDP growth can indeed be buoyed by three massive infrastructure projects: the modernization of the Asunción airport; a triangulation highway system connecting Asunción, Cíudad del Este, and Encarnacíon; and a dredging of the Paraguayan River.[26] These are worthwhile endeavors, whether by foreign or domestic businesses, as they will facilitate a large supply of employment opportunity to the working-class. However, unlike the short-sighted vision of Ströessner, the current Ministry of Public Works will need to provide a transitional employment strategy as the projects near completion; they will also require vision and additional qualified engineers.

Since Ströessner’s departure in 1989, Paraguay aimed to bolster the economy via foreign trade. One of the major trade agreements since that time is the Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR), which Paraguay participated in founding in 1991. The nation sought increased exchange with neighboring Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, as well as the leverage to expand transnational business by pairing with larger emerging markets. In the first year of membership they realized $178 million USD of commerce within the union.[27] The alliance yielded $14.15 billion USD in 2010 and continues to stimulate steady economic growth.[28] MERCOSUR member-states believe their agreement will reduce economic polarity, but in the case of Paraguay this has decidedly not been the outcome.

Endemic Corruption

Despite the promise of trade and infrastructural development, corruption still hinders socio-economic transformation. The country suffers from a pyramid of illicit activities, up to and including those from the office of the presidency. The continual failings of the highest office date back to the first democratically elected President, Andrés Rodríguez, who held office from 1989 to 1993. Rodríguez was a pupil of Ströessner, and stood accused of protecting heroin-smuggling operations in the 1970s, cocaine in the 1980s, as well as amassing millions through illegal trafficking of cigarettes and whiskey.[29]

The trend of leaders of questionable background continued throughout the 1990s as institutionalized corruption persisted. In 1998, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) awarded the administration of President Juan Carlos Wasmosy a CPI of 1.5 out of a possible 10 (zero being completely corrupt and 10 being corruption-free), ranking only behind Cameroon as the most corrupt country in the world.[30]

As a stark example of Paraguay’s political strife, Vice President Luís María Argaña was assassinated in Asunción on March 23, 1999.[31] Five days later, President Raúl Alberto Cubas Grau resigned amidst factions within his own Partido Colorado (PC) who feared the President swore allegiance to former Army Chief Líno Oviedo. Oviedo lost the PC’s 1998 presidential nomination amidst accusations of a previous plot to overthrow then-President Juan Carlos Wasmosy.[32] Oviedo’s implication as the architect behind Argaña’s assassination was unsurprising, and he fled to Brazil seeking exile.[33]

This ominous March day is a vivid memory for me, as I was living in the rural town of Ca’agy Rory, Encarnación at the time. My missionary companion and I happened to enter an almacén moments after the shooting. The two of us stared at the television with the shop-owner, in disbelief of what we were witnessing. The shop-owner nervously announced he would close his doors and prepare for the worst, fearing the violent return of Líno Oviedo.

The infamous Oviedo did not succeed in his attempt to assume the presidency, but systematic, criminal operations persisted. By 2003, Paraguay’s deplorable state of affairs improved only two spots, placing fourth worst in the CPI under President Luis González who held the highest office from 1999 to 2003.[34] Casal and Associates published the results of an on-site study in 2004 assessing the myriad of illegal mechanisms used to manipulate Paraguayan politicians. Their extensive list ranged from “bribes, influence, peddling, embezzlement, extortion, conflict of interest, patronage, [to] nepotism.”[35]

The situation was so dire that an Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) analysis, released in October 2007, suggested the potential impossibility of operating the economy legally amidst endemic corruption. There are several areas of ongoing concern: nepotistic political appointments, an inability to dismiss bureaucratic employees regardless of performance, and poor remuneration, which encourages the rationalization of illicit activities.[36]

Equally disconcerting is the limited transparency of legislative activities. For example, budget development, proposals, and reforms go unreported, resulting in a sense of impunity for legislators.[37] The last 25 years of ostensible democracy is replete with improprieties ranging from the minute to the obscene, and they continue unabated. In fact, the political environment is a kleptocracy ruled by the few who steal resources from the general population.

The one reprieve came when the hegemonic Partido Colorado lost the 2008 presidential election to a former Catholic Bishop, Fernando Lugo who was backed by the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA) and other smaller parties. President Lugo’s administration was marked by three innovations: the renegotiation of the Itaipú Treaty with Brazil; the institution of basic universal health care; and establishing the Secretariat of Information and Communications Technologies (SETIC).[38] SETIC’s responsibilities include establishing “public policies regarding competitiveness, productive efficiency, innovation, research and development.”[39] However, aside from these achievements, all other attempts at reform met political gridlock in a Partido Colorado-dominated Congress.[40] Seeking to improve the conditions of the impoverished, President Lugo stated, “There are too many differences between the small group of 500 families who live with a first-world standard of living while the great majority live in poverty that borders on misery.”[41] The Colorados blocked all proposals for land and tax revisions which would threaten the structure of inequality inherent in the existing system.[42]

On June 22, 2012, after nearly four years, and with Lugo’s precipitously declining approval ratings, Congress impeached the president under the charge of “poor performance of duties.”[43] It is important to note that a February 2014 public opinion poll by Gabinete de Estudios de Opinión “asked what had been the best government in the past 25 years of democracy [and the results] showed that ousted president Lugo was voted the best government with 42.8% approval[.]”[44] Beloved by citizens, yet impeded by his political adversaries, Lugo instituted some of the most promising developments of the previous twenty years—and unlike his predecessors Lugo’s legacy was not necessarily one of gross indiscretion.

Twenty-four years after the advent of democracy in Paraguay, Transparency International ranked Paraguay at 150 out of 177 nations surveyed—the 27th most corrupt country included in the report.[45] Its score (on a scale of zero being completely corrupt, to 100 being without corruption) is now 24.[46] In all of North, Central, and South America, Paraguay ranks second worst, falling only behind Venezuela.[47] It is fitting that on the heels of evicting President Lugo, Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara won a questionable election marred by accusations that he purchased votes in the department of Caaguazú.[48]

The 57-year-old Cartes claims to be new to politics and thus innocent of the systematic corruption woven throughout governmental bureaucracy. However, the allegedly impeccable business mogul assumed office with a decorated record of suspicious activities. One of the most notable incidents was his imprisonment in 1986 for 60 days because of a fraud accusation surrounding his receiving a preferential interest rate on a Paraguayan Central Bank loan that earned him millions; the case was eventually dropped.[49]Three years later a currency fraud charge landed Cartes in jail for seven months.[50] In 2000, police seized an airplane containing cocaine and marijuana on his ranch.[51] WikiLeaks documents include a 2010 United States investigation of drug trafficking and money laundering, naming Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara as a person of interest involving his Banco Amambay enterprise.[52] The implications are clear: with rare exception those who have held the highest office since 1989 have engaged in endemic corruption, happily operating with impunity. 

Health, Education, & Happiness

Paraguay has realized only modest progress in public health since the end of Ströessner’s dictatorship due to policies that maintain an economic system that predominantly channels most of the country’s benefits to the affluent. The average life span at the inception of the democracy was 68 years.[53] The World Bank reported that by the dawn of the new millennia longevity reached 70 years, and by 2013, 72 years.[54] A steady rise of two years per decade appears to be promising and denotes the steady increase of availability of modern medical technology, expanded coverage of potable water and sewers, and overall improvement in the standard of living. While the improvement in longevity may be promising, Paraguay’s life expectancy continues to trail behind that of the other members of the Southern Cone. The average life span in neighboring Chile is 79.7 years; Uruguay 77.1 years; Argentina 76.1 years; and Brazil 73.7 years.[55]

The World Health Organization credits the rise in life expectancy to the 2012 per capita annual government allocation for health services of $164.80 USD.[56] This is compared with $27.10 USD per capita in 2002—a rise of 608 percent over the past decade.[57] The rapid increase in government funding, particularly the per capita allocation, has doubled since President Lugo’s momentous health care reform of 2009.[58] Dr. Cárdenas lauds the revitalized health care system because he is able to treat more patients as a result of the legislation.[59] The value of basic services for all citizens, coupled with improved availability to them, proffers optimism for the future health of the nation.[60]

A healthy nation is easier to educate. The World Bank reports that in 2010, the nation showed a 98.6 percent literacy rate (defined as those between ages 15-24).[61] This is a modest gain from the 1992 World Bank report, which noted a literacy rate of 95.6 percent.[62] Nonetheless, these statistics can be misleading as there are multiple variables restricting the actual literary competency of most citizens.

For example, one of the greatest academic impediments Paraguay combats is the need of a completely bilingual population. Eighty five percent of indigenous Paraguayans, approximately 85,000 people, speak the native tongue of Guaraní and Spanish, while 15 percent speak only Spanish and 60-65 percent speaks only Guaraní. In addition, rural citizens receive unequal access to proper elementary instruction, further separating them from the more educated urban population and Spanish-speaking businessmen.[63] A study conducted from 1995-2009 by the Socio-Economic Database for Latin America and the Caribbean (SEDLAC) found that low income reduces the amount of education a youth receives by age 15 by 10 percent.[64] To clarify, the SEDLAC analysis exposes the unequal relationship between poverty and formal schooling.[65] Literacy rates may be climbing, but income disparity leads to drastically unequal levels of education.

Fortunately, those who persevere and obtain advanced education appear to remain in their native land. Research analysis published in the Journal of Economic Literature in 2011 identifies the country as having the tenth lowest rate of brain drain in the world, in which a mere 3.8 percent of college graduates choose to leave the country.[66] This retention of the highly educated portion of the populous will help develop a work-force that may transform the country in upcoming decades.

The happiness of Paraguayans is admirably strong. However, happiness is a subjective evaluation: some choose to pleasantly endure intense difficulty, while others are blissfully unaware of the breadth of their privilege. The 2012 Happy Planet Index (HPI) is a rating of 151 nations based upon “life expectancy, experienced well-being and ecological footprint,” ranging from zero (being entirely miserable) to 100 (being completely content). The HPI index warns that is not a flawless depiction of contentment. For example, a nation that reports a high per-capita income may also have citizens suffering human rights violations.[67]

The highest score awarded in the HPI was Costa Rica’s 64.0; the lowest score in the HPI is Botswana’s 22.6.[68] Paraguay displays a middling HPI score of 45.8—57th out of the 151 included.[69] This is worse than the other Southern Cone nations, with neighboring Argentina leading the way with a score of 54.1, Chile closely following with a score of 53.9, and Brazil not far off with a score of 52.9.[70] Only Uruguay’s score of 39.3 falls below Paraguay’s in the Latin American region.[71]

Due to economic stagnation, political corruption, limited educational opportunities, and problems in health service access, it is surprising that Paraguay’s well-being component is so high; ranking in the top one-third.[72] However, the HPI measures perceived well-being, and Paraguayans remain optimistic despite little socio-economic change in previous decades. The nation suffers from income-restricted schooling, yet regardless of this glaring restraint, those who persevere and obtain higher education, overwhelmingly choose to establish their careers within the country. Longevity is steadily increasing as is access to public health services, pacifying the populous to patiently endure governmental endemic corruption.


Despite the many challenges Paraguayans face, there have been some areas of recent progress. Three improvements stand out: Fernando Lugo’s health care reform, Lugo’s renegotiation of the Itaipú hydro-electric dam agreement in July of 2009, and Federico Franco’s institution of the first-ever personal income tax in 2012.[73]

Fernando Lugo’s fulfillment of the campaign promise to renegotiate the hydroelectric energy exchange with Brazil was momentous, tripling the charge per mega-watt—an increase from $120 million USD annually to $360 million USD per year.[74] Another praiseworthy achievement for Lugo was the revolutionary institution of basic health care services for all citizens. President Federico Franco’s tax reform, which became law in August of 2012, was the defining achievement of his brief tenure as president following Lugo’s impeachment. As long as it remains, the personal income tax offers hope for future fiscal prudence.[75]

There is a chance, however, that Franco’s tax reform will be repealed because it is set to gradually decrease every year through 2019, unless extended.[76] The steady elimination of personal income tax will return taxation to levels preferred by the oligarchy and mark a return to underfunded social services. The tax revenues are especially needed for maintaining basic public health services. The potential for a progressive economy relies heavily on an appropriate tax basis for both businesses and citizens, paired with sizable infrastructural development.[77]

Furthermore, instituting performance reviews of political appointees in a trustworthy manner— one which rewards honest and effective governance—is essential to progress. Pairing those evaluations with competitive wages for government employees would mark important steps forward. At the same time, it is imperative that the clandestine activities of Congress become transparent and accessible to the general public. For the future to be as bright as envisioned by Dr. Férnando Cardenás, these reforms must become a reality.

In the 25 years following the Ströessner regime the economic circumstances of most citizens remain grossly inadequate. The hope of democracy ushering in an honest government remains unfulfilled. In fact, as a result of poor governance, today Paraguayan income disparity is 11 percent worse than in 1990.[78] Per capita income under reportedly democratic leaders, grew by a mere $800 USD since an oppressive Dictator.[79] Of the eight Presidents since 1989, six were from the same party as Ströessner. These Presidents have implemented startlingly few democratic policies to improve the socio-economic status of the peasantry. Meanwhile, most are guilty of a variety of illegal activities to increase their wealth. Only the aforementioned renegotiation of the Itaipú dam, institution of basic universal health care, and establishing a personal income tax, indicate a diversion from the oligarchy’s status quo—yet the Presidents behind those changes were ousted. For this endearing people to experience an inclusive democracy that sustains economic, social, and educational progress, they need legislators of integrity to replace the corrupt leadership. Paraguayans deserve more than extreme poverty and a kleptocratic government.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: LatinNews.com and Rights Action. 



[1] Peter Calvert, “Paraguay: Economy,” Europa World Plus, accessed July 29 2014 http://www.europaworld.com/entry/py.ec


[2] “Paraguay GDP: Historical Option Data,” Trading Economics, 2014, accessed August 12 2014, http://www.tradingeconomics.com/paraguay/gdp


“GDP (current US$),” The World Bank, 2014, accessed August 12 2014, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD/countries/PY?page=4&display=default


[3] “Alfredo Ströessner,” The Economist, August 24 2006, accessed July 29 2014, http://www.economist.com/node/7826946


[4] Riordan Roett, “Paraguay After Ströessner,” Foreign Affairs Magazine, Spring 1989, accessed July 29 2014, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/44327/riordan-roett/paraguay-after-stroessner


[5] Riordan Roett, “Paraguay After Ströessner,”


[6] Riordan Roett, “Paraguay After Ströessner,”


[7] “Paraguayan Democracy and Governance Assessment,” United States Agency for International Development, October 2009, accessed July 29 2014, http://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1862/Paraguay%20Democracy%20and%20Governance%20Assessment%202009.pdf


[8] Peter Calvert, “Paraguay: Economy,”


[9] Riordan Roett, “Paraguay After Ströessner,”


[10] Joao Peixe, “Paraguay, Argentina Dispute Over Shared Hydroelectric Facility,” OilPrice.com, July 21 2011, accessed August 1 2014, http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Paraguay-Argentina-Dispute-Over-Shared-Hydroelectric-Facility.html


[11] “Dudan del Compromiso Argentino Para Solucionar Deuda de Yacyretá,” ABC Color, March 12 2014, Accessed August 12 2014, http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/economia/dudan-del-compromiso-argentino-para-solucionar-deuda-de-yacyreta-1223606.html


[12] Fernando Cardenas. Interviewed by Scott W. Downs. E-mail Interview. Washington D.C. July 11 2014.


[13] “Income Gini Coefficient,” United Nations Development Programme, 2011, accessed July 14 2014, https://data.undp.org/dataset/Income-Gini-coefficient/36ku-rvrj


[14] “Gini Index by Country”, Quandl, May 28 2014, accessed July 14 2014, http://www.quandl.com/demography/gini-index-by-country


“GINI Index”, the World Bank, 2014, accessed July 14 2014, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI


[15] “World Development Indicators: Gini Index,” the World Bank, accessed July 29 2014, http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx#


[16] “Gini Index by Country”,



[17] Max Fisher, “Map: How the World’s Countries Compare on Income Inequality (the U.S. Ranks Below Nigeria)”, the Washington Post, September 27 2013, accessed July 14 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/09/27/map-how-the-worlds-countries-compare-on-income-inequality-the-u-s-ranks-below-nigeria/


[18] “In spite of pessimism, Latin America can use Exchange Rate to Manoeuvre Through Economic Slowdown,” The World Bank, October 9 2013, accessed July 7 2014, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/10/09/latin-america-exchange-rate-devaluation-economic-slowdown


[19] “2013 Article IV Consultation – Staff Report; Press Release,” International Monetary Fund, February 2014, accessed July 31 2014, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.aspx?sk=41359.0


[20] “2013 Article IV Consultation – Staff Report”


[21] “2013 Article IV Consultation – Staff Report”




[22] Andrew Nickson, “An Opportunity for Paraguay: The Challenges of Fernando Lugo,” Nueva Sociedad, NRO. 216: Julio-Agosto 2008, Accessed August 14 2014, http://www.nuso.org/upload/articulos/3529_2.pdf


[23] “2013 Article IV Consultation – Staff Report; Press Release,”


[24] Evan Ellis, “Are Big Chinese Energy Investments in Latin America a Concern?,” The Manzella Report, November 23 2013, accessed August 1 2014, http://www.manzellareport.com/index.php/world/781-are-big-chinese-energy-investments-in-latin-america-a-concern


[25] Ibid.


[26] “2013 Article IV Consultation – Staff Report; Press Release,”


[27] María Victoria Balbi, “El Mercosur Hoy, a 20 Anos,” Seminario Economía, Gobierno & Sociedad, December 6 2011, Accessed August 1 2014, http://www.fundacionege.org/publicaciones/semanario/2011/06/12/Seccion1.html


[28] “European Union, Trade in Goods with MERCOSUR,” European Commission, April 16 2014, accessed August 1 2014, http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2006/september/tradoc_113488.pdf


[29] Dennis M. Hanratty, “Provisional President Andrés Rodríguez Meets With Reporter During His First Week in Office,” Country-Data.com, October 5 1989, accessed August 1 2014, http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-10072.html


[30] Ibid.


[31] “Gunmen Ambush, Kill Paraguayan Vice President,” CNN.com, March 23 1999, accessed August 3 2014, http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/americas/9903/23/paraguay.attack.02/


[32] “Paraguay Candidate Lino Oviedo Dies in Helicopter Crash,” BBC World News, February 12 2013, accessed August 12 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-21315995


[33] Ibid.


[34] David Cohen, Gerardo Berthin, and Yemile Mizrahi, “An Assessment of Corruption in Paraguay,” Casals & Associates, October 2004, accessed August 1 2014, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADC661.pdf


[35] Cohan, et. al., “An Assessment of Corruption.”


[36] Cohan, et. al., “An Assessment of Corruption.”


[37] Ibid.


[38] Peter Lambert and Andrew Nickson, “Paraguay: The Impeachment of President Fernando Lugo,” The Paraguay Reader, May 7 2013, accessed August 2 2014, http://lab.org.uk/the-impeachment-of-president-fernando-lugo


ECLAC, “Paraguay Creates the Secretariat of Information and Communications Technologies,” the United Nations, May 2 2012, accessed August 7 2014, http://www.cepal.org/cgi-bin/getProd.asp?xml=/socinfo/noticias/noticias/7/46567/P46567.xml&xsl=/socinfo/tpl-i/p1f.xsl&base=/socinfo/tpl-i/top-bottom.xsl


[39] Ibid.


[40] Peter Lambert and Andrew Nickson, “Paraguay: The Impeachment of President Fernando Lugo,” The Paraguay Reader, May 7 2013, accessed August 2 2014, http://lab.org.uk/the-impeachment-of-president-fernando-lugo

[41] Andrew Nickson, “An Opportunity for Paraguay: The Challenges for Fernando Lugo,” Nueva Sociedad, Nro. 216 Julio-Agosto 2008, Accessed August 14 2014, http://www.nuso.org/upload/articulos/3529_2.pdf


[42] Lambert and Nickson, “Paraguay: The Impeachment of President Fernando Lugo,”


[43] Thor Halvorssen and Javier El-Hage, “Paraguay is Not Honduras: President Lugo’s Impeachment Was Not a Coup,” Forbes, July 3 2012, accessed August 2 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/thorhalvorssen/2012/07/03/paraguay-is-not-honduras/


[44] Claudia Pompa, “Cartes, A Year Later,” CIP Americas, July 15 2014, accessed July 21 2014, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/12603?utm_content=buffer09c50&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer


[45] “Corruption Perception Index 2013,” Transparency International, accessed July 29 2014, http://www.transparency.org/cpi2013/results


[46] “Corruption Perception Index 2013,”


[47] Ibid.


[48] Simon Romero, “Conservative Tobacco Magnate Wins Presidential Race,” The New York Times, April 21 2013, accessed July 10 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/world/americas/horacio-cartes-wins-paraguays-presidential-election.html?_r=0


[49] Pedro Servin and Michael Warren, “Paraguay’s New President Woos Foreign Investment,” The Boston Herald, August 15 2013, accessed July 10 2014, http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/international/americas/2013/08/paraguays_new_president_woos_foreign_investment


[50] Simon Romero, “Conservative Tobacco Magnate””


[51] Ibid.


[52] “Horacio Cartes Wins Comfortably in Paraguay,” Buenos Aires Herald, April 22 2013, accessed July 10 2014, http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/129307/horacio-cartes-wins-comfortably-in-paraguay


[53] “Life Expectancy at Birth, Total (Years),” The World Bank, 2014, accessed August 2 2014, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN


[54] Ibid.


[55] “Statistics: Basic Indicators,” UNICEF, December 24 2013, accessed August 3 2014, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/chile_statistics.html


[56] “WHO Region of the Americas: Paraguay Statistics Summary (2002-Present),” The World Health Organization, 2014, accessed August 2 2014, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.country.country-PRY


[57] “WHO Region of the Americas: Paraguay Statistics”


[58] “WHO Region of the Americas: Paraguay Statistics”


[59] Fernando Cardenas. Interviewed by Scott W. Downs. E-mail Interview. Washington D.C. July 11 2014.


[60] Ibid.


[61] “Literacy Rate, Youth Total (% of People Ages 15-24),” The World Bank, 2014, accessed August 2 2014, http://search.worldbank.org/all?qterm=paraguay+literacy+rates&title=&filetype=


[62] Ibid.


[63] Estanislao Gacitúa Marío, Annika Silva-Leander, and Miguel Carter, “Paraguay: Social Development Issues for Poverty Alleviation,” The World Bank, January 2004, accessed August 3 2014, http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2004/07/06/000090341_20040706113639/Rendered/PDF/294330PAPER0SDP01063e.pdf


[64] “Economic Mobility and the Rise of the Latin American Middle Class,” World Bank, October 19 2012, accessed July 18 2014, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/11858/9780821396346.pdf?sequence=5


[65] Ibid.


[66] Frédéric Docquier and Hillel Rapoport, “Globalization, Brain Drain and Development,” Journal of Economic Literature, February 2011, accessed August 2 2014, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1796585


[67] “About the HPI,” Happy Planet Index, 2014, accessed August 3 2014, http://www.happyplanetindex.org/data/


[68] “HPI: Table View,” Happy Planet Index, 2014, accessed August 3 2014, http://www.happyplanetindex.org/data/


[69] “Paraguay: Statistics,” Happy Planet Index, 2014, accessed August 3 2014, http://www.happyplanetindex.org/countries/paraguay/


[70] “About the HPI,” Happy Planet Index,


[71] “About the HPI,” Happy Planet Index,


[72] Ibid.


[73] Alexei Barrionuevo, “Energy Deal With Brazil Gives Boost to Paraguay,” The New York Times, July 26 2009, accessed August 14 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/27/world/americas/27paraguay.html?_r=0


“The Interim President Enacts Reforms,” The Economist, October 6 2012, accessed August 14 2014, http://www.economist.com/node/21564253


[74] Jeewan P. Thanju & Ricardo Canese, “Lessons From Hydropower Rich Paraguay,” Hydro Nepal 9: July 2011, Accessed August 14 2014, http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDIQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nepjol.info%2Findex.php%2FHN%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F7062%2F5705&ei=KMnsU536DsehyATy44DgDw&usg=AFQjCNH4GvIy06nYzB-Y80198wiimQfhCw&bvm=bv.72938740,d.aWw


[75] “2013 Article IV Consultation”


[76] “2013 Article IV Consultation”


[77] “2013 Article IV Consultation – Staff Report”


[78] “World Development Indicators: Gini Index,”


[79] Ibid.

One thought on “25 Years of Kleptocracy in Paraguay: Endemic Corruption Perpetuates Poverty

  • August 25, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    A la pobreza que existe en Paraguay hay que sumarle la pobreza del analisis de este articulo. No se cita ni una sola fuente de investigacion de autores nacionales. El analisis que se hace de Paraguay desde la optica estadounidense sigue siendo muy superficial. Stroessner cayo hace 25 anios. Le vendria bien a COHA invitar a investigadores con una perspectiva menos paternatista y mas seria que la que ofrece el autor de este escrito.


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