Under public pressure, Paraguay’s deputies backtracked on last-minute modifications that had left completely hollow a bill meant to address criminal infiltration of politics through campaign financing, an issue present throughout the region.
Following accusations that the modifications would allow drug money to finance political campaigns, Paraguay’s lower house voted on July 5 to annul amendments passed the previous day to a bill concerning general elections, reported La Nación.
On July 4, the legal limit of private campaign donations had been increased tenfold, allowing individuals to contribute a little over 3.9 billion Paraguayan guaranies (more than $700,000) instead of the 392 million guaranies (around $70,000) originally stipulated by the text, reported ABC Color.
Deputies had also blocked Paraguay’s anti-money laundering secretary and the comptroller general from being involved in campaign audits.
In addition, a rather sensible proposition to prohibit donations from individuals previously prosecuted for money laundering or drug trafficking was rejected, while one deputy unsuccessfully attempted to ease obligations to justify spending with invoices and to cancel the mandatory recording of donations in a centralized national registry.
The text was finally tabled for a month and sent back to relevant commissions, according to a congressional press release.
InSight Crime Analysis
Paraguay will hold general elections next year. Unfortunately, like many Latin American countries, the nation is far from ensuring elections free from criminal influence through political funding.
The attempt by certain deputies to effectively demolish campaign finance regulations is likely related to the fact that the legislature is plagued by corruption and the drug ties of some of its members, giving representatives little incentive to effectively crack down on themselves.
But while the extent of criminal infiltration in Paraguay’s congress — and its political elite more generally — renders financing regulations particularly vital for the country, this issue has affected many other countries throughout Latin America.
In Brazil, powerful state and private companies were able to use campaign financing to help grease the wheels of what may well be the largest corruption scandal in history. And in Guatemala, illicit campaign donations helped former President Otto Pérez Molina and former Vice President Roxana Baldetti get elected; once they were in office, they repaid their donors with lucrative kickbacks at the state’s expense.
The revelation of these schemes shows the importance of implementing and enforcing strong campaign finance regulations in order to cut off at least one path that organized crime can use to influence politics.