Wasmosy, Juan Carlos

▪ 1994

      In the first free elections in Paraguay's history on May 9, 1993, Juan Carlos Wasmosy was elected president. When he was sworn in for a five-year term on August 15, he also became the first civilian president since 1954. How much change this transition really signaled was unclear. The triangle—government, army, and ruling Colorado Party—that had governed Paraguay since 1947 remained intact. Yet there were fissures. In what appeared to be a vote for continuity and stability, Wasmosy, the Colorado Party candidate, won approximately 40% of the vote in the May general elections. He did not, however, have the backing of a unified party.

      Wasmosy had contested the party's late December 1992 elections and had wrested the nomination from rival Luis María Argaña. A controversial Colorado Party electoral tribunal ruling on March 4, 1993, narrowly proclaimed Wasmosy the winner of the party's nomination. He was backed by then president Andrés Rodríguez, party president Blas Riquelme, and powerful forces within the military, while Argaña had the support of exiled former president Alfredo Stroessner. The Colorado Party won the largest number of seats in both chambers of Congress in the May elections, but the united opposition bloc held a majority. Meanwhile, supporters of Argaña held more seats than those of Wasmosy and vowed to follow their own agenda. The new president faced a challenge in the passage of each piece of legislation.

      The 54-year-old president came to the office with little government experience; his only post had been as the minister of integration under outgoing President Rodríguez. Trained as a civil engineer at National University in Asunción, Wasmosy was known as one of Paraguay's wealthiest businessmen—a leading cotton exporter, cattle rancher, and construction magnate. He made his fortune in the 1970s with construction contracts for the Paraguayan-Brazilian Itaipú Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric dam. As president Wasmosy hoped to renegotiate the Itaipú treaty to allow Paraguay to sell to Argentina some of its shares of electricity. A solid conservative who supported market-oriented economic policies, Wasmosy favoured Paraguay's participation in Mercosur, a regional common market. He also pledged to accelerate privatization of the national airline, merchant fleet, and steel company, among others. His allegiance to the status quo was made clear by his support of Gen. Lino Oviedo, the country's military strongman, who had alarmed some with his emphatic preelection declarations that the Colorados would win.

      (ELLEN FINKELSTEIN)

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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