Date: Sun, 17 May 98 15:12:50 CDT
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: PARAGUAY: Imminent Split in Ruling Party
Article: 35079
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 494.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS-PARAGUAY: Imminent Split in Ruling Party **
** Written 4:12 PM May 15, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Imminent Split in Ruling Party

By Carlos Montero, IPS, 12 May 1998

ASUNCION, May 12 (IPS)—After the triumph will come a split, predict two prominent local analysts with respect to the internal situation in Paraguay's Colorado Party, which added a new five-year term to its half century in power in Sunday's elections.

Former army chief Lino Oviedo will be released from prison through a pardon or an amnesty, and his exclusive hegemony over the Colorado Party, ensured by the victory of his crony Raul Cubas, means an imminent rupture in the party, says Jose Morinigo with the Catholic University.

Political scientist Line Bareiro with the Centre of Documentation and Studies agrees that a split will soon be seen in the ruling party. Until the last minute, the party's internal disputes had made it uncertain as to whether the elections would even take place.

Now that the party has successfully overcome one of the only real threats to its hold on power in the past 50 years, and defeated the opposition Democratic Alliance, the friction will not take long to re-emerge among the Colorado Party leadership, especially if a supposed internal accord to offer Oviedo the presidency of the party is confirmed, says Morinigo.

The heads of the armed forces are opposed to Oviedo serving in the new government, to enter office on Aug. 15. The compromise solution reportedly hit on by the various factions of the Colorado Party would be to offer the party leadership to Oviedo, who would thus replace Luis Maria Argana, Paraguay's future vice-president.

The military chiefs fear reprisals from Oviedo, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a special military tribunal in March after being found guilty of leading an April 1996 attempted coup against President Juan Carlos Wasmosy. The former general is currently being held in the first Infantry Division.

I don't believe that any officer need worry, because we are not here to avenge ourselves on anyone, president-elect Cubas said Monday.

According to the votes tallied so far—around 7,000 of the 10,000 voting circuits—Cubas garnered 54 percent of the vote against the opposition Democratic Alliance's 42 percent.

Cubas' victory was recognised Monday by the Democratic Alliance, which replaced its denunciations of fraud with a milder warning that it would keep a close eye on the election results.

Members of Cubas' political team and Colorado Senator Arnaldo Rojas announced that in the new legislature—which begins to session on Jul. 1—they would sponsor an amnesty law that will release Oviedo from prison and allow former dictator Alfredo Stroessner (1954-89), in exile in Brazil, to return home.

Oviedo, a sworn enemy of President Wasmosy, was poll favourite until disqualified as presidential candidate in April, when the Supreme Court upheld the sentence handed down by the military tribunal and confirmed his dishonourable discharge from the army.

The new political winds, favourable to the former general, also affect the Supreme Court. The president of the Court, Raul Sapena, whose vote was decisive in upholding the military tribunal's ruling, announced Monday that he was withdrawing from the case against Oviedo.

President-elect Cubas, a 54-year-old business tycoon and former finance minister, thanked the Democratic Alliance for accepting his victory and proposed a broad-based dialogue. We should sit down and talk, because this country belongs to all of us, said Cubas, who thus toned down a previous statement that democracy in Paraguay begins with and depends on the Colorado Party.

Cubas invited Democratic Alliance presidential candidate Domingo Laino to meet with him to see how we can all together make this country a better place.

According to the votes tallied so far, the Colorado Party once again will enjoy an absolute majority in parliament, which it had not achieved since the 1989 elections.

But Cubas said that there is no granitic unity, and the divisions among ruling party legislators will help the government be more democratic. He also admitted that the accord between the various Colorado factions was precarious.

Analysts point out that Cubas is aware that he will have to work hard to obtain the votes of the nine senators allied with Argana for his privatisation initiatives, which will affect the vice-president-elect's influence in the public administration.

Wasmosy, backed by only a portion of his party, has been able to govern thanks to the support of Laino's Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), which voted in favour of the key draft laws submitted by the Wasmosy administration.

The so-called governance pact dating back to 1995 allowed the opposition to place men of confidence in the Supreme Court, the General Comptroller's office, the Superior Court of Electoral Justice and other key state entities.

But the scales have also shifted within the opposition Alliance. Criticism for Sunday's defeat centred on the scarce electoral pay-offs obtained by collaborating with the Wasmosy administration, which has governed since 1993.

Local analysts say voters saw Oviedo's Colorado faction as an alternative for change even better-defined than the Democratic Alliance. Laino thought that his figure alone was enough for the opposition to win, said PLRA leader Felino Amarilla, a radio commentator.

The Democratic Alliance's campaign manager, Senator Luis Guanes, assumed his share of responsibility for the defeat: Defeat rarely has parents, so I'll keep the baby, he joked.

But he added that this country lost a lot, and we all lost, because we staged a positive, well-programmed campaign with a clear platform, while the press was only interested in the Colorado Party's internal problems, on whether there would be a coup or whether Oviedo would be released.

Paraguay began moving backwards in time on Sunday, said Guanes, who warned that the Colorado Party will have to learn to govern on its own.

The centrist PLRA and social democratic 'Encuentro Nacional', the two pillars of the Democratic Alliance, said the coalition would not give up the fight. The Alliance, which controlled the out-going Senate, will have only 21 seats in the new legislature, against the Colorado Party's 24.