The United States

Paraguay Table of Contents

Between World War II and the late 1970s, foreign relations between Paraguay and the United States were largely conditioned by a complementarity of security interests, the United States interests in trade and investment, and Paraguay's desire for development assistance. Stroessner, believing his government to be threatened by subversive communist elements from inside and outside Paraguay, was one of the staunchest supporters of United States security policies in the hemisphere. On security issues that were raised in the OAS and the UN, Paraguay voted with the United States more consistently than did any other South American country.

In the late 1970s, however, the relationship began to falter as a result of human rights abuses and the absence of political reform. The United States concern with these issues became public after President Jimmy Carter appointed Robert White as ambassador to Asunción and persisted through the administration of Ronald Reagan. Ambassador Arthur Davis (1982-85) often invited prominent members of the National Accord to official embassy functions. He also cancelled performances by a United States Army band and a parachute team at the May 1984 Independence Day celebration as a personal protest against the closing of ABC Color.

Concern over political developments in Paraguay continued to be manifested during the tenure of United States ambassador Clyde Taylor (1985-88). Taylor met frequently with members of the opposition, protested the continued shutdown of ABC Color, the harassment of Radio Ñandutí, and the exile of Domingo Laíno. Taylor was criticized by Paraguayan officials, including Minister of Interior Sabino Montanaro, and other members of the Colorado Party. On February 9, 1987, Taylor was teargassed while attending a reception in his honor sponsored by Women for Democracy, an antiStroessner group.

The United States strongly supported the evolution of a more open political system with freedom of the press and expression and the participation of all democratic parties. In June 1987, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Elliott Abrams, noted that there were some indications of an improving political climate, which, if continued, could benefit relations between the two countries. He urged the government of Paraguay to institute democracy in order to avoid a rift with the United States and unrest within Paraguay itself. Abrams also was criticized by members of the Colorado Party. The Congress of the United States actively supported the Reagan administration's position on human rights and Paraguay's transition to democracy.

Foreign relations between the United States and Paraguay were also adversely affected by the involvement of some members of Stroessner's government in narcotics trafficking. A 1986 report to the United States House of Representatives stated that there was evidence of military collaboration and even active participation in the operation of cocaine laboratories. In 1987 Taylor, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics matters, stated that the level of narcotics trafficking in Paraguay could not have been reached without official protection. In its 1988 annual narcotics report, the United States Department of State also concluded that Paraguay was " a significant money-laundering location for narcotics traffickers due to lax government controls." An investigative story by Cox Newspapers in October 1988 charged that Gustavo Stroessner collected payoffs from all narcotics traffickers conducting business in Paraguay.

In accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Reagan administration certified to Congress in 1988 that the Paraguayan government was fully cooperating with United States drug enforcement efforts. The administration based this certification, however, on its own national interests rather than on specific actions of the Paraguayan government. Three factors motivated the administration to issue the certification. First, the administration believed that it needed additional time to test the sincerity of Stroessner's professed willingness to cooperate in controlling drugs. In 1987 the United States provided Paraguay with a US$200,000 grant to train and equip an antinarcotics unit. The following year the United States Drug Enforcement Administration reopened a station in Asunción after a seven-year absence. Second, the administration feared that decertification could jeopardize the Peace Corps' substantial presence in Paraguay. In 1987 US$2 million was earmarked to support Peace Corps activities in Paraguay. Finally, the administration contended that certification enhanced the ability of the United States to encourage democratic reform in Paraguay.

Economic relations between the United States and Paraguay were minimal in the late 1980s. The United States invested only a small amount in Paraguayan banking and agriculture and conducted little trade. In January 1987, by an executive order of President Reagan, Paraguay was suspended from receiving benefits through its membership in the Generalized System of Preferences. Although Paraguay still belonged to the system, it could no longer take advantage of the preferential tariff treatment for its exports to the United States. Despite the relatively low level of its exports, observers regarded the suspension as symbolically important. As of mid-1988, the suspension remained in effect.

At the end of 1988, both continuity and change marked the Paraguayan political system. The government continued to take a strong stand against political dissidents, and PLRA leaders were periodically detained to prevent them from staging rallies. The PDC suspended its planned national convention after the minister of interior refused to authorize it. Students belonging to the MDP were arrested for putting up the movement's posters. Police arrested five former priests from Western Europe, accused them of belonging to an extremist organization, and deported them to Argentina. At the same time, however, signs of political change appeared. A silent protest march sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church attracted an estimated 50,000 participants, making it the largest opposition event of the Stroessner era. When Chilean voters rejected the bid by Augusto Pinochet Ugarte to extend military rule well into the 1990s, the prospect of a civilian president in Chile by 1990 only served to further isolate Stroessner from the democratic trend sweeping South America. Finally, the seventy-six- year-old general's cancellation of public appearances in September because of health problems caused many to speak openly of a postStroessner Paraguay.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress