Paraguay's President Survives Impeachment - 12 February, 2003 - News

Luis Gonzalez Macchi had been accussed of corruption and wrongdoing by the opposition

After ten hours of debate the opposition could not obtain Senate's two thirds of votes necessary to remove Macchi from power. The President will continue on functions until 15 August 2003, legal expiring date of mandate.

As the debate carried on, Gonzalez Macchi went to work as usual, saying he had "great hope and a clear conscience" that his supporters in Congress would defeat the attempt. At the moment of voting, 25 members of the upper chamber required Macchi's removal, while 18 supported the President. Therefore, the opposition could not eject the 55 years old former Senate leader by five votes.

Gonzalez Macchi was formally accused of wrongdoing and corruption. He is suspected of wiring $ 16 million from the Central Bank of Paraguay to a bank account in the Citibank of New York and bribing on the privatization of the National Telecommunications Company, COPACO.

Macchi has been also prosecuted for possessing a stolen luxury car. Indeed, 40% of Paraguay's automobiles have been stolen in Argentina and Brazil. However, Gonzalez Macchi has repeatedly denied all the accusations, calling the trial "politically motivated".

Taking into account country's recent history, it is quite remarkable that Macchi will end his mandate as originally stated. He is, indeed, a former Senate leader who jumped to Presidency after the resignation of his predecessor, Raul Cubas, suspected of being engaged in the assassination of his former Vice-President, Argana. Cubas faced a similar impeachment proceeding amid deadly street protests and riots.

Over the last year, Gonzalez Macchi has faced large-scale street protests and worker strikes while struggling to stem an escalating economic crisis in one of South American's poorest countries. Paraguay's currency, the guarani, has fallen by more than 50 percent against the dollar and the economy is expected to shrink by 4 percent this year.

As member of the Mercosur block, Paraguay faced the tremendous consequences of the Argentine crisis and Brazilian tortuous transition. Country's impoverished economy depends on the trading with its bigger neighbors and, mostly, on the black market.

According with the last financial reports, Paraguay will face serious problems to meet foreign debt obligations during 2003. If the political crisis is not quickly solved, the country may follow Argentine's fate and default.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

Photo: A farmers protest in Paraguay.

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