Reports indicate that on October 12 Paraguay’s Ministry of Interior requested Congress permission to intervene in the Municipality of Ciudad del Este following a request submitted by the executive branch, supposedly backed by the Municipal Board of said locale. The request comes amid alleged irregularities in Ciudad del Este’s local administration, especially surrounding Mayor Sandra McLeod, who is suspected of embezzlement and unruly practices. McLeod had already faced the prospect of federal intervention in 2016, but the request to temporarily suspend her from office failed given that Congress failed to support the motion. The House of Representatives is reportedly slated to form a special commission on October 17 to decide whether to intervene in Ciudad del Este. The commission will supposedly have 15 days to come to a decision. Reports further indicate that a small group of demonstrators protested outside Congress to support McLeod, whose mandate in Ciudad del Este lasts until 2020.
The motion to intervene in Ciudad del Este could potentially carry due to considerable political pressure against McLeod. Unlike the situation in 2016, and despite belonging to the same political party, incumbent President Mari Abdo Benítez does not support the contested mayor. McLeod had previously managed to benefit from the political support of former President Horacio Cartes, who finished his term in August 2018. With this in mind, and taking into account that the opposition has pledged not to support McLeod, her standing in Congress is weaker than it was two years ago. Should authorities decide to intervene, the Ministry of Interior would only be allowed to instruct staff on general issues and day-to-day transactions. McLeod would be suspended for 90 days while investigations proceed, and she could potentially be removed from office if proven guilty of embezzling public funds. In turn, federal intervention would likely limit the municipality’s functions, constraining its capacity to hold government meetings or approve budgets. In any event, this development underscores persistent corruption and lack of accountability in Paraguay and Ciudad del Este, which is especially known for an economy partly based on the illicit trade of counterfeit merchandise.