Paraguay: The Ignored Election



The Paraguayan election on 30 April 2023 was swiftly passed under the rug by international press and the landlocked South American put back on the shelf in the cupboard where other ignored topics are placed until further notice. Had the media displayed any interest of conducting any sincere investigative journalism, Paraguay has a lot to offer.


First, to sum things up: prior to the pilgrimage of 63 percent of Paraguay’s electorate to the ballot boxes, the election was mostly mentioned as a stand-off not primarily between domestic political forces, but rather as a set geopolitical battle where China and Taiwan were hoping to checkmate its opponent by using Paraguay as its chessboard (The Diplomat).


Taiwan, having lost diplomatic ground all over Latin America — in the wake of a lucrative charm-offensive by the Mainland Chinese regime — seriously feared losing access to its most cemented export hub for Taiwanese goods. In the end, though, the Paraguayan election — to steal the narrative used by prominent international media outlets — turned into a mereSunday walk in the park for the Colorado Party, a stroll guided by the party’s Presidential candidate Santiago Peña.


The President-elect Peña not only fished for votes by praising the “years of stability” during the Stroessner dictatorship (Folha do São Paulo) between 1954 and 1989 — he also placed himself atop a political platform built out of pledges of “500,000 new jobs” (Le Monde) and a continuation along the path of traditional Colorado policymaking (El País) by enforcing the country’s oligarchy tied to cattle ranching, hydropower, and soy production.


Non-reporting of a failing state

Besides this superficial reporting, international news outlets pretty much left Paraguay on its own, in the media shade. The evident current affairs that have shaken Paraguay the last years were not deemed newsworthy enough to make way for any investigative journalism.


The assassination of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci in Colombia, in May 2022, surfaced the South American country’s sad but blatant voyage towards the abyss where failed states linger. The conspiracy behind the tragic killing — witnessed by Mr. Pecci’s pregnant wife during their honeymoon — not only displayed the involvement of Colombian hitmen (Deutsche Welle), but also Brazilian mafia money (AP News) and parallel power structures that now governs many Paraguay–Brazil border-towns.


In a “partly free” society (Freedom House) formed by the post-Stroessner Colorado Party, Paraguayan citizens have been forced to cope with a reality drenched in increased organized crime (Financial Times), widespread violence (Freedom House), and rampant corruption (Paraguay is ranked 137 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s global index) is seldom deemed “newsworthy” in the eyes of the global community — and thus, its media outlets has seldom bothered to reflect the complex reality that is modern-day Paraguay.


Where right-wing victories are considered Nature’s Path

Leading up to the election there were the bunch of obligatory articles mentioning ex-President Horacio Cartes, as the Colorado spin doctor — along with many of his family members names — who was placed on the U.S. blacklist (Al Jazeera) due to documented corruption and bribing allegations of congress members and financial influence over Paraguayan news outlets (InSight Crime) — but other than that, the election outcome on 30 April 2023 was told as a return to normal, where the hegemony of “Los Colorados” is as natural as the Earth’s gravitational force.


The Colorado Party’s “easy election win” (AP News) is, however, not only a simplified conclusion — it is unfair both to the Paraguayan electorate as to media consumers worldwide.


A reach-out to various sources in both urban and rural areas all over Paraguay bear witness of yet another election down the drain due to purchased votes and systematic “vote assistance,” although never mentioned as the delegation of election observers from the European Union, Canada, and Norway proclaimed the election outcome as fair and without serious incidents.


Fertile soil for investigative journalism

Incidentally, that very conclusion is counterattacked in the same analysis as Paraguay held elections “in a highly polarized environment where distrust in state institutions and political structures prevailed.”


A fertile soil for conflict, in other words — and poetry to ears of every serious investigative reporter assigned to cover an election in a post-dictatorship where the same party has enjoyed a monopoly on political, cultural, and economic power ever since the fall of General Stroessner in 1989 (save for a few years between 2008 and 2012, when a progressive government ruled before being ousted in a parliamentary coup).


Obviously, chief election observer Gabriel Mato added, “there are challenges that need to be addressed to improve future electoral processes,” and between the lines this can be regarded as an unsaid acknowledgement of the very form of irregularities that maintains Paraguay’s political status quo, with the Colorado Party as the eternal ruler of the first South American nation to break free from colonial rule.


History can be a burden and elections that are politically and economically directed can be ignored by the press. For Paraguay, it is true in both cases, and even though media coverage enlightened the global public on the official outcome of the election held on 30 April 2023, it said surprisingly little of the circumstances, turmoil, and desperation behind the image of a whitewashed reality painted by the Colorado Party. There, on the other side, another world remains veiled and ignored.



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