Paraguay. The year ended with the political temperature rising before the presidential and congressional elections in April 2018. In September, the two largest opposition parties PLRA (The True Liberal Radical Party) and Frente Guasú (FG) entered into an election alliance to try to defeat the ruling ANR PC (National Republican Organization- Colorado Party), which ruled Paraguay for a total of 70 years. In the primary elections on December 17, Senator Mario Abdo Benitez was elected ANR-PC’s presidential candidate. He is a controversial politician with ties to the former Stroessner dictatorship (1954–89). The election was seen as a direct challenge to incumbent President Horacio Cartes, whose faction within the deeply divided party supported another candidate. PLRA was also fragmented but managed to agree with FG to elect attorney Efraín Alegre as the alliance’s presidential candidate.
According to Countryaah.com, a strong contributing reason for the split in both parties was that supporters of President Cartes in the Senate at the end of March sought support for a change to the Constitution so that he could be re-elected in April 2018. The proposal met with great opposition from both opposition parties, who claimed that it was illegal and launched a campaign for a judicial process against the president, and among Carte’s opponents in his own party. After a month of street protests and attacks on the congress building, the proposal was withdrawn.
A massacre in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero on the border with Brazil at the end of July focused on the influence of organized Brazilian crime in Paraguay. Four people were killed and six injured when members of Brazil’s largest narcotic Primeiro Comando da Capital opened fire on a nightclub in the city in what is believed to be a deal between leagues. Similar events occurred in April in Ciudad del Este, another border town further south. Tensions between the EPP guerrilla group (Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo) and paramilitary militia groups also increased during the year with kidnappings and disappearances.