The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar


TITLE:  PARAGUAY HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                        PARAGUAY


Paraguay, independent since 1811, has been ruled almost 
continuously by authoritarian regimes.  In May Juan Carlos 
Wasmosy became the nation's first freely elected civilian 
President.  Wasmosy took office in August, vowing to 
consolidate the nation's democratic transition, which began 
following the February 1989 overthrow of General Alfredo 
Stroessner.  Paraguay is a constitutional republic with a 
strong executive branch and an increasingly important bicameral 
legislature.  The President is the head of government and 
cannot succeed himself.  The Colorado Party and the armed 
forces hold substantial influence, but the combination of the 
changes brought about by the June 1992 Constitution and the 
election of an opposition-controlled Congress in May 1993 has 
improved political accountability.

The National Police Force, under the overall authority of the 
Ministry of the Interior, is responsible for maintaining 
internal security and public order.  The police continued to 
commit human rights abuses in 1993.  Paraguay's armed forces 
consist of an army, navy, and air force.  The President is the 
commander in chief.  Certain elements within the armed forces 
act with little political oversight and insert themselves into 
the political process in contravention of the Constitution, 
through intimidation, corruption, and influence wielding.  The 
presence of the first civilian commander in chief, and his 
nomination of a civilian Defense Minister, may lessen to some 
degree the traditional autonomy of the armed forces.  Some 
military officials were accused of human rights abuses during 
1993.

Paraguay has a market economy based on the export of primary 
agricultural products.  A substantial percentage of the work 
force is employed in the informal economy, which may account 
for 40 to 60 percent of the gross domestic product.  Efforts to 
begin privatization of state-owned enterprises continued.

Principal human rights abuses included extrajudicial killings, 
torture and mistreatment of criminal suspects and prisoners, 
police corruption, detention of suspects without judicial 
orders, general weaknesses within the judiciary, firings of 
labor organizers, and military interference into the judicial 
and political systems.  Although President Wasmosy has stressed 
his commitment to enhance respect for human rights, serious 
accountability problems continued as the Government often 
failed to prosecute perpetrators of recent abuses or 
investigate cases of abuse from the Stroessner era.


RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings in 1993.

There were extrajudicial killings involving criminal suspects 
detained by security force officials.  As in the past, there 
was little serious effort to investigate and prosecute these 
incidents.  At least seven extrajudicial killings are known to 
have occurred during the year.  On the eve of the May 9 general 
elections, a drunken army captain allegedly shot and killed 
Victor Perez Franco, a 20-year-old wearing a T-shirt supporting 
an opposition political party.  Following the incident, the 
officer and two noncommissioned officers were arrested and 
taken into military custody.  The case remained under 
investigation at year's end.

On August 30, police officer Angel Ayala allegedly shot and 
killed Cristobal Gamarra, a 37-year-old bricklayer in the city 
of Fernando de la Mora.  Gamarra had been drinking and behaving 
boisterously near Ayala's house.  Ayala, accused of shooting 
Gamarra after the latter refused to leave the area, turned 
himself into police authorities shortly afterwards.  The case 
remained under investigation at year's end.  In late May, a 
minor, Americo Villalba, escaped from prison during a riot 
mounted in reaction to alleged mistreatment by police officials.
Villalba had previously accused a police official of torture 
and mistreatment.  During Villalba's escape attempt, this same 
officer allegedly shot him at close range.  Villalba died 
8 hours later without receiving any medical treatment.  The 
official was not punished.

In December 1992 and January 1993, extensive government archives
were discovered that documented extrajudicial killings and other
human rights abuses and implicated many former officials of the 
Stroessner regime (see Section 1.e.).  Four Stroessner-era 
police officials convicted in 1992 of the torture and murder of 
Mario Schaerer Prono appealed their sentences; none of them 
served time in prison, but all remain under arrest.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reported cases of abductions by security forces.


     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Torture and brutal and degrading treatment of convicted 
prisoners and other detainees continued.  Police, military, and 
prison guards were implicated to some extent in the 
mistreatment of individuals in their custody; although some 
officials have been arrested and held for investigation, few 
were tried, convicted, or appropriately punished.  There were 
credible reports of mistreatment of women and minors and of 
brutal attempts to force confessions out of detainees.

A respected human rights group, Tekojoja, reported that 
children in police custody were particularly susceptible to 
physical punishment, with torture and abuse occurring against 
juveniles at a higher rate than against adult detainees.  The 
human rights group accused the police in several cases of 
torturing minors by placing plastic bags over their heads, 
knocking out their teeth, using a hammer to beat their backs, 
or scalding their hands and feet to force a confession.  Many 
minors reported being denied food, drink, or access to toilets 
for up to 3 days.  None of the many cases involving the torture 
of minors that were brought before the courts resulted in a 
conviction of the perpetrators.

During a surprise visit to the Encarnacion regional penitentiary
in August, the Congressional Committee on Human Rights 
discovered that several prisoners had been tortured by police 
officers.  The Congressmen acquired sworn statements 
implicating Chief of Investigations Juan de la Cruz Paredes and 
three other police officials.  The police officials were 
transferred to Asuncion and were under investigation at year's 
end.

Prison conditions remained poor.  Overcrowding and mistreatment 
of prisoners were the most serious problems.  Conditions were 
particularly poor in the Panchito Lopez youth prison.  The 
Government substantially improved formerly abysmal conditions 
in the Buen Pastor prison, the nation's largest women's prison, 
by creating a separate section for minor girls.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The authorities often violated provisions of the Constitution 
prohibiting detention without written order and stipulating 
that any person arrested must be presented before a judge 
within 48 hours of detention.  Nearly 90 percent of an 
estimated 3,000 prisoners are held without arrest warrants, 
orders of detention, or convictions.  Only 6 percent of the 
detainees at Tacumbu prison have been sentenced; virtually none 
of the detainees at the Panchito Lopez juvenile prison have 
been sentenced.

Throughout the year the authorities arrested and imprisoned 
individuals without legal process.  There were a number of 
cases similar to that of Tomas Leiva who was arrested by police 
officials without a judicial order on September 13.  Following 
his illegal arrest, he was taken to a police station and beaten 
in an effort to get him to confess to having stolen cattle, 
although there was little evidence implicating him in this 
crime.  The authorities did not present Leiva before a judge, 
and he was unable to communicate with family members for 
several days.  He was released from custody 2 weeks later, 
following intervention by a local human rights group, and never 
charged with a crime.

In September the Supreme Court ordered the release of over 20 
prisoners from the Tacumbu Penitentiary for lack of any legal 
process against them.  The court also released several minors 
during the same month for lack of detention orders.

Credible reports continued that landowners, many of them 
Brazilians living near the border in the Alto Parana 
department, armed their employees who removed squatters from 
the property of their employers without court orders.  Some of 
the evictions were violent, although there were no reports of 
fatalities.  No measures were taken to punish those committing 
abuses.

Forced exile is no longer used as a means of political control.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial branch is comprised of a five-member Supreme Court 
headed by a president.  There are four appellate tribunals: 
civil and commercial, criminal, labor, and juvenile.  Several 
minor courts and justices of the peace fall within these four 
functional areas.  There are only five public defenders 
available to the transient and the indigent; accordingly, many 
destitute suspects receive little or no legal assistance.  
Trials are conducted almost exclusively by presentation of 
written documents to a judge, who then renders a decision.  
Since there is no trial by jury, the judge alone determines 
guilt or innocence and decides punishment.


During the pretrial phase, the judge receives and may request 
investigative reports.  In this phase, the judge is also likely 
to make a personal inspection of the scene of the crime and of 
the available physical evidence.  The accused often appears 
before the court only twice:  to plead and to be sentenced.  
All verdicts are automatically reviewed by an appellate judge, 
and the law provides for appeals to the Supreme Court.  The 
military has its own judicial system.

Although the 1992 Constitution prescribes that judges be 
selected by a combination of an independent entity, the 
Congress, and the executive, many of the judges active during 
1993 were holdover appointments made by former dictator Alfredo 
Stroessner.  Several of them were alleged to make judicial 
decisions on the basis of bribery, intimidation, political 
motives, and friendship with senior military officers.

Notwithstanding the December 1992 discovery of government 
archives documenting various human rights abuses and 
implicating many former government officials of the Stroessner 
regime, no Stroessner-era officials were convicted of human 
rights abuses in 1993.  A judicial working group continued the 
task of reviewing and cataloging the documents for eventual use 
in court.  The Committee of Churches, one of the nation's most 
prominent human rights groups, had over 23 cases against 
Stroessner-era human rights abusers pending at year's end.

In January Colonel Luis Catalino Gonzalez Rojas was sentenced 
by a military tribunal to over 3 months of confinement for 
"breach of military discipline."  This alleged breach was 
linked to his implication of several high ranking military 
officials in a stolen car operation.  Most observers viewed his 
sentence to be punishment for his high-profile stand against 
military corruption rather than a response to the alleged 
breach of discipline.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or 
         Correspondence

While the Government and its security forces generally did not 
interfere in the private lives of citizens, there were 
exceptions.  The Constitution provides that police may not 
enter private homes except to prevent a crime in progress or 
when the police possess a judicial warrant.  There were 
complaints that at times the authorities ignored this legal 
guarantee, particularly in the country's interior.  The 
Government at times also spied on individuals and tapped phones 
for political and security reasons.  In October the press 
denounced the discovery of a political telephone tapping 
operation carried out in the offices of the state-owned 
telephone company in the department of Guaira.  Criminal 
investigations relating to a 1992 discovery of an officially 
sanctioned wiretap operation ceased without any judicial action.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression and the 
press.  The press exercised these rights more freely than at 
any time in the nation's recent history.  Opposition viewpoints 
were freely discussed and criticism of the Government was 
ubiquitous in the media.  However, two media groups linked to 
particular candidates practiced self-censorship in reporting on 
the 1993 electoral campaign.

During the early morning hours of May 9, election day, the 
Channel 13 television station was the site of an unsuccessful 
attack in which assailants fired automatic weapons and launched 
grenades.  At year's end, the attack was still under 
investigation by the authorities.  The owners of Channel 13, 
who also own a newspaper and radio station, alleged that the 
Government had singled out their media consortium for a tax 
audit in response to its particularly strong opposition to the 
then-incumbent President.

Some reporters were threatened and physically attacked during 
1993, although investigative reporting continued.  As in the 
past, threats were made against persons examining allegations 
of official corruption, the contraband trade, ties to the 
Stroessner regime, and electoral irregularities.  In October 
journalist Emilio Ortiz reported on corruption in the 
state-owned telephone company in Alto Parana.  This led to the 
dismissal of the company's local director, Mauro Corvalan.  
Ortiz subsequently was beaten by three men claiming to be 
acting on Corvalan's behalf.  On April 20, two journalists 
covering a political gathering in Ciudad del Este were beaten 
by pro-Colorado Party supporters working as security guards at 
the site where the event was taking place.  The two reporters 
were taking pictures of state-owned vehicles being utilized by 
Colorado Party supporters in an apparent violation of the 
nation's electoral law.

There were no restrictions on academic freedom in 1993.


     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution establishes the right of association and 
peaceful assembly for all citizens.  A law regulating 
demonstrations in Asuncion limits the areas where and the hours 
when they may take place and requires that the police be 
notified 24 hours before any rally in the downtown area.  The 
police may ban a protest but must provide written notification 
of such a ban within 12 hours of receipt of the organizers' 
request.  Under the law, a police ban is permitted only if a 
third party has already given notice of plans for a similar 
rally at the same place and time.  In addition, the law 
prohibits public meetings or demonstrations in front of the 
presidential palace and outside military or police barracks.

All of the various political parties held demonstrations and 
rallies during the electoral season without incident.  Many 
social groups, including labor organizations, held rallies 
without incident throughout the year.

An October rally to protest congressional consideration of 
military privileges blocked access to Parliament, and a few 
members of Congress were struck by the participants in the 
demonstration.  The Congressmen pressed criminal charges 
against demonstration leaders, and the cases remained under 
investigation at year's end.  Media and congressional criticism 
of the police centered on the failure of the police to protect 
the Congressmen.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of conscience for all 
persons and recognizes no official religion.  The Government 
continued to respect that freedom in 1993.  Roman Catholicism 
is the predominant religion, but all denominations are free to 
worship as they choose.  Adherence to a particular creed 
confers no legal advantage or disadvantage, and foreign and 
local missionaries proselytize freely.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

All Paraguayan citizens may travel freely within the country 
with virtually no restrictions.  There are no restrictions on 
foreign travel or emigration, although the Government closed 
the nation's border during the May 9 general elections pursuant 
to a judicial order, an action that was criticized by foreign 
election observers.  There are no established provisions to 
grant asylum or refugee status; the Director of Immigration 
determines each request on a case-by-case basis.  There were no 
reports of refugees forced to return to countries in which they 
feared persecution.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Paraguayan citizens exercised the right peacefully to change 
their government in the May 1993 elections.  Juan Carlos 
Wasmosy became the nation's first freely elected civilian 
President; a majority opposition Congress was also elected.  
Several parties contested the major leadership positions in the 
elections, although only three parties elected officials to 
national office.  The new opposition-dominated Congress quickly 
demonstrated its independence by rescinding legislation passed 
by the previous Congress which had the support of the 
President-elect.  General elections are to be held every 
5 years.  The Constitution and the Electoral Code mandate that 
voting be by secret ballot.

Although the elections were generally conducted in a peaceful 
and orderly manner, aspects of the nation's authoritarian 
tradition were evident during the primary and general elections.
International observers criticized the violation of the 
constitutional prohibition against the military's participation 
in partisan politics, citing in particular the activities of 
Army General Lino Oviedo after the December 27, 1992, Colorado 
Party primary elections, as well as before and during the May 
1993 general elections.

Some Paraguayans living outside the country were denied the 
right to vote by a judicial decision to close the nation's 
border on election day.  Many international observers witnessed 
intimidation of voters by Colorado Party members and other 
isolated irregularities and violations of the Electoral Code.  
Unlawful activities included the election day predawn attack on 
independent television Channel 13 and the deliberate cutting of 
telephone lines providing electoral data to an independent 
consortium of nongovernmental organizations conducting a 
parallel vote count.  During the election campaign, many state 
employees were pressured to pay dues to the ruling Colorado 
Party and attend its political rallies.  Many state employees 
were also threatened with dismissal if they did not support the 
Government's preferred candidate, and several were dismissed 
for supporting other candidates.  Virtually all independent 
observers of the general elections concluded that the 
irregularities were neither systematic nor extensive enough to 
alter the final results.  There were, however, credible 
allegations of misreporting of vote totals in the Colorado 
Party primary.

Paraguay has an unassimilated and neglected indigenous 
population estimated at 75,000 to 100,000.  Members of 
indigenous groups, as Paraguayan citizens, are entitled to 
vote, and the percentage of indigenous people who exercised 
this privilege in 1993 roughly doubled from years past.  
Nonetheless, the inhabitants of many indigenous communities 
were threatened or inhibited from fully exercising their 
political rights.  Some were threatened with death or with 
losing access to cooperatives and stores unless they voted for 
a certain candidate.  For example, indigenous people in the 
town of Laguna Negra were told by one candidate that he would 
execute them should they not support his candidacy.

While there are no formal legal impediments, women often face 
significant obstacles when they seek to participate in 
government and politics.  Participation by women in the 
political system, although somewhat improved in 1993, was still 
limited in the male-dominated society of Paraguay.  All major 
parties ran women as candidates in the 1993 general elections, 
although few women (four senators and two national deputies) 
were elected to national office.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Several human rights groups operate in Paraguay, including the 
Committee of Churches (an interdenominational group that 
monitors human rights and provides legal assistance), Prodemos, 
Tekojoja (a group dedicated to protection of children's 
rights), and the local chapter of the Association of Latin 
American Lawyers for the Defense of Human Rights.  The 
Government did not restrict the activities of any human rights 
group in 1993.

Former President Rodriguez met with representatives of local 
and international human rights groups during the year.  In his 
inaugural address, President Wasmosy told the nation that 
respect for human rights would be a hallmark of his 
administration.  The Chamber of Deputies elected as its 
president one of Paraguay's leading human rights advocates, 
Francisco Jose "Pancho" de Vargas.

The Office of the Director General of Human Rights, located in 
the Ministry of Justice and Labor, continued to sponsor 
seminars to promote human rights awareness.  This office has 
access to congressional, executive, and judicial authorities.  
It does not have subpoena or prosecution powers but may forward 
information concerning human rights abuses to the office of the 
Attorney General for action.  It also serves as a clearinghouse 
for information on human rights and trained thousands of 
educators in human rights law in 1993.  In January the 
Government accepted the jurisdiction of the Inter-American 
Court of Human Rights.  The Government has yet to show, however,
the determination to try and punish those, particularly within 
the police, who commit abuses.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Although the Constitution and other laws prohibit 
discrimination, certain groups faced significant discrimination 
in practice.

     Women

Wife beating and exploitation of women in employment continued 
to occur.  Most informed observers believe that wife beating 
occurs among a substantial minority of the population and that 
it is underreported.  Exploitation of women, especially the 
prostitution of teenagers, remained a serious problem.  Police 
frequently raided brothels in which minors were employed but 
never arrested the owners or operators.  The minor's court 
judge would usually attempt to persuade the minor not to return 
to prostitution, but no action would be taken against the 
owners.  Authorities also paid insufficient attention to 
sex-related job discrimination.  Some women complained that job 
promotions were conditioned on their granting sexual favors.

On the average, 16 cases of rape were reported to the Ministry 
of Health each month, although all women's groups believe that 
the incidence of rape is much higher.  It is becoming easier 
for women to initiate complaints against their husbands for 
domestic violence, although no perpetrators of domestic 
violence have been found guilty by a court to date.  The 
Congress passed a law creating the office of Secretary for 
Women, a cabinet-level position intended to initiate programs 
to enable women to have free and equal access to employment, 
social security, housing, ownership of land, and business 
opportunities.  The Secretary for Women is also responsible for 
programs to address violence against women.

     Children

The Constitution mandates that at least 20 percent of the total 
national budget be allocated to education.  Forty-six percent 
of all educational spending was earmarked for elementary 
education, while 22 percent of the Ministry of Health's budget 
was devoted to children's services.  The Constitution protects 
certain children's rights and requires that parents and the 
State care for, feed, educate, and support children.  
Nonetheless, approximately 26,000 children work in urban areas 
as street vendors, shoe shiners, or prostitutes.  The majority 
of these children suffer from malnutrition, lack of access to 
education, and disease.  Some young girls, employed as domestic 
servants or nannies, are denied access to education and are 
mistreated by their employers.  Some who seek to leave domestic 
jobs are charged with robbing their employers and turned over 
to the police.

Some minors were forced into obligatory military service prior 
to the constitutionally established minimum age of 17.  In one 
case, Cesar Meaurio, 15, was removed from a bus and taken to a 
nearby military training base because he could not present any 
documents establishing his age.  On August 28, Santiago Ignacio 
Machado, 15, was taken by military authorities while fishing 
with his parents in Puente Remanso.  Military authorities 
subsequently refused to provide the family with information 
concerning Machado's whereabouts.  The Chamber of Deputies 
Committee on Human Rights filed a formal legal request on 
September 10 that the minor be released.

     Indigenous People

Weak organization and lack of financial resources continued to 
limit access by indigenous peoples to the political and 
economic system.  Indigenous groups relied primarily upon 
parliamentary commissions to promote their particular 
interests, notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution 
guarantees indigenous peoples' rights to participate in the 
economic, social, political, and cultural life of the nation.  
The Constitution also contains protection for their property 
interests.  These constitutional rights, however, have still 
not been fully codified.

The Government's National Indigenous Institute (INDI) has the 
authority to purchase land on behalf of indigenous communities 
and to expropriate private property under certain conditions to 
establish tribal homelands, but the entity continued to be 
poorly funded.  In addition, many indigenous people find it 
difficult to travel to the capital to solicit land titles or 
process the required paperwork associated with land ownership.  
The problems of the indigenous population, particularly those 
involving land claims, continued to receive frequent media 
attention.  The main problems facing the indigenous population 
are lack of education, malnutrition, lack of medical attention, 
and economic displacement resulting from development and 
modernization.  In the community of Ca'aguay Pora in the 
Department of Canindeyu, for example, 80 local children did not 
have access to a school.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Korean and Chinese communities experience social and 
economic discrimination and are sometimes denied access to 
credit terms enjoyed by other Paraguayans.  They are also 
sometimes discriminated against in the housing market and do 
not have equal access to private institutions and schools.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution guarantees equal opportunity to people with 
disabilities and mandates that the State provide the disabled 
with health care, education, recreation, and professional 
training.  It further requires that the State formulate a 
policy for the treatment, rehabilitation, and integration into 
society of people with disabilities.  Legislation establishing 
such programs, however, has never been enacted.  Many people 
with disabilities face significant discrimination in employment;
others are unable to seek employment because of a lack of 
accessible public transportation.  Other than the 
constitutional provisions establishing equal opportunity, 
accessibility for the disabled has not been mandated by law; 
the vast majority of the nation's buildings, both public and 
private, are inaccessible to people with disabilities.


Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution allows both private and public sector workers 
(with the exception of the armed forces and the police) to form 
and join unions without government interference.  The 
Constitution contains several provisions that protect 
fundamental workers rights, including an antidiscrimination 
clause, provisions for employment tenure, severance pay for 
unjustified firings, collective bargaining, and the right to 
strike.  A new Labor Code meeting International Labor 
Organization (ILO) standards was enacted in October to 
implement these constitutional provisions.

In general, unions are independent of the Government and 
political parties.  However, one of the nation's three labor 
centrals, the Confederation of Paraguayan Workers (CPT), is 
closely aligned with the ruling Colorado Party.  The Government 
did not require the CPT to comply with a union election decree 
to the same extent that it required compliance from the other 
labor centrals.  Government officials were also accused of 
encouraging some of the recently organized public sector unions 
to affiliate with the CPT.

Although the Constitution protects the right to strike and bans 
binding arbitration, the Government's Permanent Council for 
Conciliation and Arbitration continued to function.  One of the 
Wasmosy administration's first actions was to forward 
legislation to the Congress to abolish the body.  Strikers and 
their leaders are protected by the Constitution against 
retribution, and several strikes occurred in 1993.  However, 
the Ministry of Justice and Labor took few steps to enforce 
these laws until after the Wasmosy administration took office.  
Many strikers and labor leaders were dismissed for either 
attempting to form unions or for carrying out routine union 
business.

Approximately 7 percent of Paraguayan workers are organized.  
Unions are free to form and join federations or confederations 
and affiliate with and participate in international labor 
bodies.  The ILO is currently considering 13 pending claims 
against the Government for alleged violations of international 
labor standards.


     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is protected by law, and collective 
contracts have been successfully concluded in many cases.  The 
number of successfully negotiated collective contracts 
continued to grow in 1993; however, collective contracts are 
still the exception rather than the norm in labor-management 
relations and typically reaffirm minimal standards established 
by law.  When wages are not set in free negotiations between 
unions and employers, they are made a condition of individual 
employment offered to employees.

Under former Minister of Justice and Labor Oscar Paciello, the 
Government took actions to discourage the realization of 
several collective contracts in 1993.  One collective contract, 
signed between the president of the state-owned electric 
company and the president of the electric company workers' 
union, was not recognized by Minister Paciello and declared 
void.  Following the Minister's departure from office, however, 
the courts ordered that the contract be implemented.  On March 
18, the executive issued Decree 16769, which suspended all 
trade union leaders in their functions pending new direct labor 
organization elections.  Although the Supreme Court found the 
decree to be unconstitutional on September 23, many business 
leaders, with the support of the former Minister, refused to 
negotiate with labor leaders unless their organizations had 
complied with the decree.

Minister of Justice and Labor Juan Manuel Morales took office 
on August 15 vowing to improve relations between the 
Government, labor, and management.  Organized labor viewed 
positively many of his early efforts, including presentation of 
draft legislation to disband the Permanent Council on 
Conciliation and Arbitration and his early and frequent 
consultations with labor leaders.

While the Constitution prohibits antiunion discrimination, the 
firing and harassment of some union organizers and leaders in 
the private sector continued.  Fired union leaders may seek 
redress in the courts, but the labor courts have been slow to 
respond to complaints and typically favor business in disputes.
The courts are not required to order the reinstatement of 
workers fired for union activities.  As in previous years, in 
some cases where judges ordered fired workers reinstated, the 
employers disregarded the court order with impunity.  There 
were a number of cases of trade union leaders fired 2 or 3 
years ago who had not yet received a decision from the courts.


There were 20 strikes by unions affiliated with the independent 
labor central CUT alone, 16 of which were directly related to 
the firing of union organizers, management violations of a 
collective contract, management efforts to prevent workers from 
freely associating, or demands for the payment of the minimum 
wage, contribution to the social security system, or other 
benefits established by law.  The failure to meet salary 
payments frequently precipitated labor problems, especially in 
the public health sector.  Principal problems included an 
unresponsive Ministry of Justice and Labor under the leadership 
of Minister Paciello and bottlenecks in the judicial system.  
There were also complaints of management creating parallel or 
"factory" unions to compete with independently formed unions. 
There were several cases of workers not receiving the legally 
established minimum wage or overtime pay who choose not to 
complain because of fear of reprisal or anticipation of 
government inaction.

Paraguay has no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law.  However, substantiated 
cases of abuse of national service obligations occurred during 
1993.  There were several documented cases of draftees forced 
to serve as laborers for military officers in their residences 
or privately owned businesses.  In April a local newspaper 
published interviews and photographs of military draftees 
forced to carry out a remodeling project at the private 
residence of Colonel Cirilo Velazquez.

Forced labor is not significant in any export industries.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Office of the Director General for the Protection of Minors 
in the Ministry of Justice and Labor is responsible for 
enforcing child labor laws.  Minors between 15 to 18 years of 
age may be employed only with parental authorization and may 
not be employed under dangerous or unhealthy conditions.  
Children between 12 and 15 years of age may be employed only in 
family enterprises, apprenticeships, or in agriculture.  The 
Labor Code prohibits work by children under 12 years of age, 
and all children are required to attend elementary school.  In 
practice, however, many thousands of children, many younger 
than 12, work in urban areas engaged in informal employment 
such as selling newspapers and sundries, shining shoes, and 
cleaning car windows.  In rural areas, it is not unusual for 
children as young as 10 to work beside their parents in the 
field.  Other than Paraguay's traditional agricultural exports, 
there are no export industries in which child labor is 
significant.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The executive, through the Ministry of Justice and Labor, has 
established a private sector minimum wage, regionally adjusted 
according to cost of living indices, sufficient to maintain a 
minimally adequate standard of living.  The minimum salary was 
adjusted by 10 percent in April (to $159 a month) in response 
to a loss in real purchasing power of about 42 percent since 
1989.  Most analysts agree that between 50 to 70 percent of 
workers earn less than the decreed minimum.

The Labor Code allows for a standard legal workweek of 48 hours,
42 hours for night work, with 1 day of rest.  The law also 
provides for an annual bonus of 1 month's salary and a minimum 
of 6 vacation days a year.  The Labor Code also stipulates 
conditions of safety, hygiene, and comfort.  In general, the 
Government did not effectively enforce the safety and hygiene 
provisions of the Labor Code, partially due to the lack of 
inspectors.  This led the labor movement to initiate inspector 
training programs designed to ensure that violations were 
registered with the Ministry of Justice and Labor.


[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.