ASUNCION—Three former presidents, leaders of the legislature and judiciary, and other national leaders of modern Paraguay solemnly renewed their commitment to the democratic process at a celebration of Paraguay’s bicentennial at the historic Hotel Guarani in Asunción on May 6, 2011.
Paraguay’s leaders were invited to the national unity bicentennial celebration by the Instituto de Desarrollo de Pensamiento Patria Soñada (IDPPS), a think-tank created by the Global Peace Foundation. In addition to the former presidents, 3 former vice presidents, the president of the Constitution Convention of 1992, 4 former presidents of the National Congress, 6 former presidents of the Supreme Court, the current president of the National Congress, the mayor of Asuncion, the president of the Football Association of Latin America, and former ministers and leaders from the private sector attended the celebration.
Leaders of modern Paraguay at the bicentenial event Paraguay’s modern era began in 1989, following the overthrow of General Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled Paraguay as a dictator from 1954 to 1989. During this time political opposition suffering harsh repression and the regime was blamed for wide-spread human rights abuses.
Especially remarkable was that some attending the celebration had been political enemies for many years, and this was the first time they sat together at one event and with a common purpose. The program was covered live by a major television channel and reported extensively in all of the nation’s media.
This bicentennial event and the signing of the “Ratification of Democratic Commitment” was the result of an unprecedented earlier convocation held in Paraguay in October 2010 during the Global Peace Festival. The event drew both national and international attention due to the signing of the Declaration of Asunción by distinguished leaders from inside and outside the continent. The spirit of that declaration, which elaborates the universal principles and values that must be the bedrock of any future roadmap for the nation and region, provided the guidelines for the new declaration.
In his speech, the president of IDPPS, Dr. Jose Altamirano, moved the audience as he summarized the single most important result of Paraguay’s 200-year existence as a nation, as well as the 20-year period since the ouster of President Stroessner. In spite of all the good and the bad, light and darkness, political strains and discord, he said, “what everyone in the room can be proud of and celebrate today is the fact that Paraguay has maintained and fully institutionalized the democratic process.” He called on everyone in the room to set aside their differences, and work together to make Paraguay a model nation for the world.
Following the celebration, many commented that this was the most significant political/civic event of the entire month-long series of bicentennial celebrations taking place across the country.