Paraguayan senate expels opposition voice who called out corruption

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 3:06 PM

By Daniela Desantis and Lucinda Elliott

ASUNCION (Reuters) – Paraguay’s senate on Wednesday expelled one of the few opposition voices in national politics, sparking protests in the capital Asuncion and concerns over the fragile state of the country’s democracy.

Senator Kattya Gonzalez from the center-left National Meeting Party was dismissed from her position during an extraordinary session on Wednesday for the “misuse of influence” while in office.

The 46-year-old senator, elected in 2023, is among a small cadre of left-leaning opposition politicians in Paraguay and has called out widespread corruption and spoken publicly about how the South American country is falling further into the grip of organized crime.

Senators who voted in favor of her dismissal accused Gonzalez of administrative misconduct related to three state officials she supervised. The evidence is “compelling and irrefutable,” said Senator Dionisio Amarilla, a government ally.

Gonzalez did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Paraguay’s right-wing Colorado Party has a majority in both chambers of congress, holds the presidency and oversees 15 of the 17 state governments following elections in April last year.

Critics accuse the Colorado party, which has been the dominant political force for the last three-quarters of a century, of trying to silence any opposition to their rule by dismissing Gonzalez without just cause.

“Paraguay is at risk,” Gonzalez said as she addressed the senate. “Our concern should focus on how emaciated and beaten up our republic is, our democracy … all because of a temporary majority functional to organized crime,” she added as a small group of anti-government protesters gathered in her support outside the legislative building in Asuncion.

The protesters said they feared that her expulsion represented a step back toward Paraguay’s dictatorship past. Several people holding signs chanted, “dictatorship never again!”

During the 2023 election Gonzalez was the fourth most-voted senator, garnering public support for directly addressing lawmakers suspected of wrongdoing. She will be replaced by her deputy, a lesser known member of the opposition.

On Saturday Gonzalez began a hunger strike in protest against what she considers an attempt by President Santiago Pena and his Colorado administration to promote constitutional changes that would allow for presidential re-election.

(Reporting by Daniela Desantis in Asuncion and Lucinda Elliott in Montevideo; Editing by Josie Kao)