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[latam] INSIGHT - PARAGUAY - Foreign Relations and non-govt, non-military actors

Released on 2012-03-13 09:00 GMT

Email-ID 1976380
Date 2010-07-06 18:38:26
ATTRIBUTION: Paraguayan politics, society
SOURCE DESCRIPTION: Consultant for Govt Commissions of IR, previous
experience Foreign Min
PUBLICATION: If desired but this is really just background

- In the past Paraguay used to use its relations with Argentina and Brazil
as leverage with one against the other. Now there's a general consensus
in Paraguay that the relationship with Argentina doesn't matter nearly as
much as it's relationship with Brazil and that it is pretty firmly set in
Brazil's sphere of influence. Brazil is seen as the #1 country of
importance right now for Paraguay.

- Trade with Brazil is problem for Paraguay, especially since the latter
doesn't produce value-added goods. Many time Paraguay soy and wood will
be bought in large quantities by Brazil and then exported (as is or with
value-added) as a Brazilian product.

- Paraguay is historical an unstable country and it does makes sense for
Brazil to have troop exercises along the border. He said that, in a very
exaggerated scenario, Paraguayans he themselves are the threat for
sabotaging Itaipu - either unrest getting out of control, some one just
doing something stupid or an extreme way of trying to get revenge on
Brazil. He said that, though he doesn't see something like this as
extremely likely, you can't discount it as a random possibility should
Paraguay become unstable again and for this reason it makes sense (to the
source) for Brazil to have troops along the Southern Border. Source said
that in his conversations with Brazilian officials he was told Brazil's
military has a contingency plan to secure Itaipu in the event its
production security is compromised (again this last sentence is secondary

- A delegation for Paraguay's legislature is expected to visit the
Brazilian Congress within the next week or 2 to discuss the approval of an
agreement made in July 2009. However, the general sentiment in Paraguay
is that Brazil will not do anything important regarding Itaipu until after
the October elections.

- In December Brazil will discuss its budget for next year. Paraguay sort
of views this as an informal deadline for approving the July 2009
agreement that alters prices/fees. The idea is that the 2010 budget will
reflect Itaipu profits/purchases. If the agreement doesn't get pass
through before the budget is designed, then the expectation is that 2010
budget won't take any price changes in to consideration.

- There is very little infrastructure currently in place for Paraguay to
export Itaipu electricity to customers other than Brazil come 2023.

- As mentioned, most Paraguayans don't care too much about foreign policy;
they do however care very much about domestics politics. The questions
regarding Paraguay's relationship with Venezuela (a phenomenon) has been
the source of so much debate because the issues has been internalized by
Paraguayan political parties thus making it a topic of national debate
(when ordinarily it'd go unnoticed). The debate centers around parties'
opinions abut Chavez (is he good or bad); if Chavez wasn't in office the
question of Ven's entrance in to Mercosur would draw little if any

- Paraguay feels that, to a large extent, it's in a position in which is
must choose between the US and Venezuela. It feels like you can't really
be friends with both countries at once. The fear is that, given the need
for unanimity in many Mercosur decision, the Chavez presence would
compromise possible future trade agreements with countries like the US.

- The Senate just started a new session July 1. The question of Ven's
Mercosur membership is expected to be put back on the table during this

- Within the past 4 or 5 years Colombia has shown an increased interest in
collaborating, supporting in areas of security with Paraguay.

- Paraguay is one of the biggest countries that recognizes Taiwan and the
Pres of Taiwan makes yearly visits to Taiwan. When Paraguay (government
or politician) needs funds for a project it many times can just outright
ask the Taiwanese for the money and it's freely handed over.

- Paraguay has a huge amount of interest in pursuing its economic/trade
agenda with China, especially in areas of investment. Right now there is
a popular belief that increasing commercial ties with China will not harm
political ties with Taiwan.

- Russia is a hugely important market for Paraguayan meat exports.
Paraguay saw the Russian Frgn Min's visit as a really big deal.

- Paraguay was looking to improve relations/get a Russian embassy as far
back as 2004. Russia was a lot of talk but did little action. In 2008
Paraguay started talking to Ukraine about having an embassy in Paraguay.
In 2009 Russia opened its embassy in Asuncion; next to no advancements
have been made with Ukraine. Many Russian embassy employees in Asuncion
still struggle with Spanish and the relations between the two were
described as in their beginning but with mutual interest for development.

- Paraguay doesn't have the money to buy many armament and often prefers
to get things as donations rather than pay. There is mutual interest on
both parts to introduce arms/security as a major theme of bilateral
interest but the relationship needs to develop further before such
discussion can seriously occur and advance.

(this is primarily in response to interest in Paraguay's business
community. I had no idea what the important business community consisted
of in Paraguay but at least now they are identified).

- The media is a powerful entity in Paraguay in terms of being able to
influence politics and controlling large amounts of money. Depending on
their own interests they will change who they support. ABC is the main
newspaper and was inaugurated by Stroessner. Radio Nanditu is the main
radio company that was back in the day run by a crony of Stroessner.
Telefuturo is the main television company. I was told these companies
have different owners but do communicate with one another.

- Importers are the big business players in Asuncion and the importers'
union does have political/financial weight. Since Paraguay has no
domestic industry it has no need for big tariffs on imported goods. That
said many importers bring in goods not only for domestic consumption but
also for export to Brazil as well as for the informal/black market. (that
is to say, they tend to import way more than Paraguay alone can consume)
In Paraguay a private company can set up its own port for trade along the
rivers. If you put the dock out there to send/receive shipments, you can
import goods. Customs officials will be sent from Asuncion these
particular locations; it's a system that leaves an open door for
corruption and smuggling. Those representing business within Paraguay
have also been able to amass small fortunes. For example, former
President of the Senate and influential politician Miguel Carrizosa
earned most of his wealth by being one of the Voklswagon reps in Paraguay.

- The Associacion Rural del Paraguay is also a group that can exercise
political power within Paraguay. The members tend to be wealth and pretty
large land owners. Right now they are asking the Government to redeploy
the military to the North to ensure security in the area; they are also
becoming more critical of the government for not taking this action.

- There are only about 5,400 people working in the banking sector in
Asuncion (according to an Ultima Hora news article yesterday). Main banks
in the country are: HSBC, Citibank, BBVA, Banco de la Nacion Argentina,
Interbanco, Sudameris Bank, Banco do Brasil, Integracion, Amambay,
Familiar, BNF, Vision Banco, Itapua and Promedio.