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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Paraguay is a constitutional republic with three branches of government. The President is the Head of Government and Head of State; he is popularly elected to a five year term and cannot succeed himself. Colorado Party Senator Luis Gonzalez Macchi assumed the presidency in March 1999; in August 2000, voters elected Julio Cesar Franco of the Liberal Party to be Vice President. The bicameral Congress is made up of a 45-member Senate and an 80-member Chamber of Deputies, elected concurrently with the president through a proportional representation system. Deputies are elected by department and senators nationwide. In August the lower house voted down impeachment charges based on poor performance of duties and corruption against the President and Vice President.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The nine-member Supreme Court appoints lower court judges and magistrates, based upon recommendations by the magistrate's council. There are five types of appellate tribunals: Civil and commercial, criminal, labor, administrative, and juvenile. Minor courts and justices of the peace fall within four functional areas: Civil and commercial, criminal, labor, and juvenile. The military has its own judicial system.

The judicial system remains relatively inefficient and has insufficient resources. The March 2000 Penal and Criminal Procedures Code, provides the legal basis for the protection of fundamental human rights. The new Code introduced expedited oral proceedings, and requires prosecutors to bring charges against accused persons within 180 days. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, and defendants and the prosecutor may present the written testimony of witnesses as well as other evidence. The judge alone determines guilt or innocence and decides punishment. A convicted defendant may appeal his or her sentence to an appeals court, and the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over constitutional questions.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Paraguayan Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in most areas in 2001; however, serious problems continued in some areas. The police and military committed some extrajudicial killings. Incidents of torture and abuse of convicted prisoners and other detainees continued. Mistreatment of conscripts and poor prison conditions were problems. Other problems include arbitrary arrests and detention, lengthy pretrial detention, corruption and inefficiency in the judiciary, and infringements on citizens' privacy rights. The Government established an Inter-Institutional Commission to review human rights matters, particularly with regards to underage military recruits. The recruitment and conscription of underage minors continued, although a court convicted one military officer of enlisting minors. Police used force against nonviolent demonstrators. Violence and discrimination against women, abuse of children, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and indigenous people are problems. Worker rights are not adequately protected, and child labor exists.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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