On April 5, Paraguay's President Federico Franco spoke to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States assembled at its headquarters in Washington DC. This followed his visit in Madrid with Spain's President Mariano Rajoy where he discussed Paraguay's burgeoning economy as well as its current diplomatic impasse with fellow South American republics.
Franco was invited by OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza and was received by other leaders of the OAS including the Permanent Council President and Deputy Secretary General of the OAS. Also present was Permanent Council president Arturo Vallerino, Panama's ambassador to the diplomatic assembly.
Franco's presentation was attended by diplomats of observing member countries, such as France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Holy See, Turkey, Sierra Leone, and a large number of Paraguayan expatriates living in the United States. Paraguayan residing in the U.S. arrived New Jersey, New York, Florida and Washington, D.C., led by the four presidents of the U.S. branches Paraguay's Authentic Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Radical Autentico)-PLRA. Present also was the President of the PLRA Committee in Virginia, Leoncio Cuttier.
Both Secretary Insulza and Ambassador Vallerino stressed Franco’s democratic reforms and his government’s successes in the war against organized crime and corruption. as well as in the area of human rights and education policy.
Franco affirmed his government’s commitment to preserve democracy and the rule of law, as well as free and fair elections coming on April 21. He gave reassurances that the election process in Paraguay will be transparent and fully democratic. He reiterated his commitment to handing over presidential power to the incoming President-elect on August 5, as prescribed by Paraguay's constitution. Following Franco's remarks, diplomats from the the American republics and observer countries gave him a sustained round of applause.
The absence of the Colombian and Chilean ambassadors at an OAS session of this nature was a surprise, according to observers on hand, since it does not happen frequently. Both Colombia and Chile have recently re-opened their embassies in the Paraguayan capital. Paraguay has been isolated, especially by neighboring Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, following the impeachment of former President Fernando Lugo in June 2012. Diplomats from most of the South American republics were recalled in protest. Even while the OAS later declared that Lugo's impeachment and removal were done in accordance with Paraguay's constitution and laws, the regional isolation persists. Also in 2012, members of the MERCOSUR regional trade bloc, of which Paraguay is a member, prevented founding-member Paraguay from voting on the admittance of Venezuela into the group.
Franco will continue on his diplomatic missions. Following his visits to Spain and the U.S., he is slated to go to Taiwan in May and then to Lebanon before he leaves office. Rumor has it that he and his ambassador in Washington have unsuccessfully requested interviews with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
During the April 21 presidential elections in Paraguay, the OAS observers’ mission will also have a separate team to monitor Paraguayan expatriates living in Argentina and the U.S. who will vote in the general elections process. There are over 16,000 Paraguayan voters living outside of the landlocked country, while there are 1,700 eligible Paraguayan voters in the U.S. Spain has over 4,000 Paraguayan voters. On April 6, Paraguay's Supreme Commission of Electoral Justice completed its inspection of 60 boxes that will be shipped abroad to allow expatriates the ability to vote.
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