Paraguay: this has been the presidency of Mario Abdo Benítez

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Mario Abdo Benitez received a divided country in September and distrust of the institutions. These have been some of the actions of the president

Paraguay: this has been the presidency of Mario Abdo Benítez

A few months before Abdo Benitez celebrates a year as president of Paraguay, his policies have sought to focus on giving priority to the poorest and restore trust in institutions, which has been largely lost due to the permanence of members. corrupt in the Government.

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On the eve of their possession, in September 2018, citizens took to the streets to protest against the institutions, because they did not feel represented by their members. Likewise, according to CNN, people needed a president who was close to them and who focused on the economy, focusing on poverty that amounts to 27% (extreme poverty, that is, those who do not have access to basic resources as water, health, food).

After its first months, union in an unequal country remains the biggest challenge; however, it has focused on several points mainly. On the one hand, the educational and tax reforms have been two of its main drivers so far in 2019, making new proposals, which have even been highly criticized. On the other hand, foreign relations have been its priority, especially in Latin America, with the intention of positioning itself better internationally.

Also read: Nicaragua: Ortega vs. the opposition

The controversial tax reform

Last April, Abdo Benitez presented to the Congress a proposal that had been speculating since the end of 2018. First, the changes were cataloged by the president as a "modernization" of the tax system, but not radical changes in the. "The idea resides in prioritizing the direct taxes on the indirect and in increasing the collection by a greater formalization", published the Latin American Strategic Geopolitics Center (CELAG).

With this reform, the intention is to continue strengthening the economy, which has increased by 5% in recent years, which has left it as a stable economy. However, EFE says that its "growth forecasts begin to slow down, at a rate of 3.5%, in an uncertain regional context." With this in mind, the reform aims to increase GDP by at least 1%.

Despite these attempts, the reform has attracted the attention of the opposition, because this sector criticizes it because it ensures that it will affect the Paraguayan people, specifically the common worker. This indignation has not only been spread by the people but in the different business associations. The questioning is directed towards the change in Personal Income Tax (IRP), "paid by people who earn more than three minimum salaries and are charged in relation to their income," says CELAG.

Despite criticism, Mario Abdo Benitez has said that the reform will have "zero impact on the working class."

A visionary educational reform

The changes in education seek to leave Paraguay well off in educational terms worldwide. Since September 2018, Abdo Benitez sat down in what he called "the process of social dialogue to transform education," according to ABC Paraguay, where alternatives were raised in current education. After this, in February 2019, a government spokesperson presented the first proposal, assuring that the president would present it later to discuss its approval.

According to EFE, the proposal will focus on "increasing the training of teachers in order to implement a new pedagogical method." Regarding this, there will be continuous training for the more than 80,000 public teachers in the country. Likewise, following World Bank guidelines in a report published in 2018, the changes will also focus on allocating more public budget to education. Thus, it is estimated that they would raise at least a couple of points to 3.4% of the GDP that is currently invested in education. This, since the report, suggested that Paraguay was below the average of countries with similar capacities, which hovers around 5.4%.

In this way, with more investment and training to teaching, we seek to improve the quality of education. On the one hand, continue the fight against poor academic results, as well as the dropout in secondary education, which is currently 64%, according to the Citizen Education Observatory. Likewise, it would change the system of educational financing, although the "social dialogue" still continues and will be presented, it is expected, at the end of the year.

Paraguay and Latin America

One of the president's main efforts has been to position Paraguay in a stronger international arena, which is why it has focused on strengthening its relations, especially with its neighbors and in general with the region. Among his efforts, for example, he highlights the overwhelming role he has had in the face of the crisis in Venezuela, where he has decided to break diplomatic relations with Nicolás Maduro and has openly supported Juan Guaidó. This position has made him one of the leaders in the fight against the so-called "dictatorship" of Nicolás Maduro, along with Brazil and Colombia.

These actions have led him to strengthen his relationship with Jair Bolsonaro, which has benefited him since, besides being his neighbor, it turns out to be a great economic support for the country, like Argentina. On the one hand, both countries have agreed on the construction of a binational bridge with which both countries will join through the Paraná River. In addition, the presidents have taken the opportunity to advance an agreement to regulate the power distribution of the Itaipú hydroelectric plant. According to El País, "the work seeks the development of the Triple Frontier, as it is called at the point that unites both countries and Argentina".

Read also: Protests in Brazil: a country divided in two by Bolsonaro

However, the neighborhood with Brazil has not brought you only good things. As a result of the development of the Brazilian border, the Paraguayans are demanding that there be an agrarian reform that gives back their land to the peasants of the small country since many have been lost due to the lack of clarity in the territories and the distribution of their lands. This is why both peasants and indigenous communities have repeatedly expressed their demands to Mario Abdo Benitez to help their communities.

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

Translated from "Paraguay: así va la presidencia de Mario Abdo Benítez"

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