Paraguay Revokes U.S. Military Immunity

(Editor’s note: Article updated, corrected on 10-13-06)

On October 2, the Paraguayan government announced its decision to revoke U.S. immunity as soon as their current contract expires in December 2006. The US military has carried out military exercises in Paraguay since  July 2005. Since then the troops have enjoyed technical and administrative immunity, exempting them from trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC).   

Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said that the US will not continue to provide military support without immunity for its soldiers. However, on October 3, 2006 President Bush signed a waiver  allowing for military aid in countries that have refused to sign immunity agreements with the US military. The waiver affects 21 countries, including Paraguay.
Historically, Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos and President  George W. Bush have enjoyed what Brazilian President Lula calls a  "political matrimony." (quote from Ultimahora)  Paraguay´s decision represents a political alliance with the countries in the MercoSur trade block, which includes Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile,  and Venezuela.
Orlando Castillo, director of SERPAJ, a human rights organization based in Paraguay, stated that Frutos´decision does not necessarily represent an ideological shift of Paraguay´s center-right government. Castillo explained that regional solidarity would require major reforms in all sectors of the Paraguayan government. Furthermore, military representatives from the CIA, DEA, and FBI will continue to hold immunity in Paraguay.