The Organization of American States, OAS, will be sending 50 observers to the coming Paraguayan general elections next April 20, announced on Sunday the head of an OAS delegation currently visiting the country.
Maria Emma Mejia, a former Colombian Foreign Affairs minister said that the OAS observers will be arriving in Paraguay before the elections and will remain until the official proclamation "of who ever is elected" as the next president of the country. "The OAS delegation will monitor the elections and will later write a report", said Ms Mejia after meeting with Paraguayan electoral authorities and the different presidential candidates. OAS observers will be located in the country's main electoral districts. On April 20th Paraguayans will be voting for president, vicepresident, Congress members, governors, regional authorities and members of Mercosur Parliament. Three are the main candidates, a former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo, former teacher Blanca Olevar running for the ruling Colorado Party and an ex Army general, Lino Oviedo, once jailed for leading a coup attempt. The latest public opinion polls published over the weekend in the capital Asunción showed the former bishop ahead with 34.8% of vote intention but Ms Olevar was closing in with 28.9%. Oviedo trails with 23%. The Ati Snead survey was conducted among 1,500 people in 10 of the country's 17 provinces, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. In a country where politics for the last sixty years have been under the hegemony of the ruling Partido Colorado the election race is promising to be one of the closest in history. President Nicanor Duarte leaves office next August 15. Paraguay is landlocked has a population of 6.6 million, with a strong community (over a million) in Argentina and is one of the poorest of the region. The country's main industries are soybean farming, livestock and energy from South America's largest dam which the country shares with Brazil, plus contraband and counterfeiting. Lugo is seen as the champion of the poor and the anti establishment candidate. Ms Olevar has the support from the government well oiled in patronizing --and rigging elections if necessary--, while Ovideo who also belonged to the Colorado Party is running on his own ticket (Union of Ethical Citizens) with strong financial support from conservative groups. He has a relative on trail advantage, as a former Army commander he is well known in the entire country and is fluent in the indigenous population Guarani language. Oviedo is campaigning with musical pop shows trying to attract young people promising to review the constitution and putting an end to "women and young people's" discrimination by ensuring 50% of elected posts and government jobs for the 18 to 32 age group mandatory. Oviedo also promised that if elected he would not promote presidential reelection, a current trend in South America, and announced he would eliminate as candidate to the Higher House, Senator Jorge Oviedo Matto, who was caught on video, during a Senate session, caressing the hands and breast of Congress staff. His critics say Lino Oviedo knows he will loose next April 20 and evidence of this is the fact that he's filling his party's candidate lists with relatives and close friends.