|Asuncion'Cathedral (Axou28th, Wikimedia Common)|
The above quote sounds like a description of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, or even a line from some Orwellesque sci-fi dystopian novel. It’s neither.
This is Paraguay in 2014, and this is just one of many listed items on an internal report of corruption within the Paraguayan armed forces conducted earlier this year. As Andrés Gaudín points out in this week’s issue of NotiSur, Paraguayan citizens are well-aware of the rampant corruption within the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. But, now, after internal reports have been released by the military as well as the Vatican, the armed forces and the Catholic Church have joined the ranks of Paraguay’s most blatantly corrupt institutions.
Paraguay's previous perception of the military and the church as institutions that were free of corruption coincides with a recent survey of 107 countries. In that survey, conducted by Transparency International, none of the countries ranked the military among the institutions affected by corruption. Only three of the 107 countries viewed religious bodies (which includes the Catholic Church) as one of the most corrupt institutions.
In his first year heading Paraguay’s government, President Horacio Cartes has made some gains in promoting transparency. Just this month, Paraguay became the 100th country to approve a freedom of information law. The Paraguayan government still has problems shaking off the perception of corrption, however.
There have been other efforts to fight corruption, including a legislative initiative approved by the Congress to address the widespread problem of nepotisim. A new law bans legislators from hiring or appointing to any public post "spouses, domestic partners, or relatives to the fourth degree of consanguinity and second degree of affinity." Nepotism has long been a concern for the Paraguay public. Last November, some businesses --restaurants, bars, and movie theaters--banned those officials publicly reported guilty of nepotism from entering those establishments Read More in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
While corrupt activities by institutions like the military and the church had been widely accepted in Paraguay for years, change might be coming. The transformation of the military might not be swift--as evidenced by the lack of action on the part of Cartes government against military officials renting out equipment to private enterprises and collecting informal "tolls." The fact that the practice has been exposed in an internal report is a very important first step. The corrupt activities by the Catholic Church cannot be overlooked, however, now that the Vatican has intervened. According to a recent report in The New York Times, Pope Francis sent investigators to the Diocese of Ciudad del Este. The investigators found sufficient evidence of corrupt activities and cover-ups to warrant the removal of Bishop Ricardo Livieres Plano.
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