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Paraguay Country Report

Country Risk Level

Medium

Overview

Executive Summary

Mario Abdo Benítez’s government of the ruling Colorado Party (Partido Colorado: PC) remains committed to pro-market policies, including low taxation. Abdo Benítez faces security challenges, including the occupation of large farms by landless peasants and insurgency by the Paraguayan People's Army (Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo: EPP). The threat to government stability, caused by the opposition’s attempt to impeach Abdo Benítez in July 2019, has now receded because of the government’s success in containing the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus. Consequently, support for the government has recovered considerably. The government lacks a majority in Congress. The two main opposition forces, Broad Front (Frente Guasú: FG) and the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico: PLRA), together with other smaller parties, hold sufficient votes to block bills. An abortive effort by former president Horacio Cartes to change the Constitution to permit his re-election has spilt the PC government; efforts by Cartes to undermine the administration have been unsuccessful thanks to Abdo Benítez’s ability to take advantage of a deep division within the PLRA.The economy is entering recession because of the impact of the COVID-19 virus on output and the sharp contraction experienced by key trade partners Brazil and Argentina. In April, the economy contracted by 12.2%, highlighting the disruptive effect of the virus lockdown. However, growth recorded in the first quarter will mitigate the economic fallout, with annual GDP forecast to contract by 2.6% in 2020, but rebound to 3.7% of GDP in 2021, aided by strong growth in agribusiness.Low inflation, forecast at 2.0% for 2020 and 2.9% in 2021, has provided scope for monetary stimulus. Paraguay’s strong external and public-debt positions mitigate currency risk. This has permitted the country to easily access capital markets and secure the funding needed to provide a relief package of about 4% of GDP to contain the fallout from the COVID-19 virus.

Operational Outlook

The business environment is undermined by weak political and legal institutions, reflected in high levels of corruption and undue interference of powerful local economic groups. This is compounded by inadequate infrastructure, including telecommunications and highway connectivity, which remains one of the least efficient in the region, as well air transportation. Paraguay ranked overall 95 out of 140 countries in the 2018 Global Competitiveness Report released by the World Economic Forum. Its best score was on market liberalisation and macroeconomic stability, where it was ranked 68 and 74 respectively. However, on institutional strength and infrastructure it fared poorly at 112 and 101 respectively.

Terrorism

The small insurgent group Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo (EPP) poses the main terrorist threat; it operates in the northeastern departments of Concepción and San Pedro. The EPP sporadically attacks security forces and landowners, with cattle ranching and soybean producers facing arson attacks, extortion, and kidnapping. The previous government promised to dislodge the EPP but without much success. The current government of Mario Abdo Benítez, which appears to favour continuity of this policy, is facing similar challenges. The number of police and civilians killed by the EPP under the former administration exceeded that of its predecessors. EPP’s activities are likely to remain highly localised, posing a limited threat to major business assets.

War Risks

Paraguay’s growing economic integration with Brazil and Argentina, together with its membership of the Mercosur economic bloc, has helped the country to foster good relations with its immediate neighbours. Despite sources of potential friction with Brazil over smuggling (drugs, weapons, and contraband), these are highly unlikely to lead to military confrontation. Brazil has instead deepened intelligence co-operation with Paraguay to combat Brazilian gangs involved in drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, and contraband along their common border; the gangs have made Paraguay base of operations. The upcoming renegotiation of the Itaipú Treaty with Brazil over binational electricity generation is likely to generate diplomatic disputes since it is a highly sensitive issue in Paraguay.

Social Stability

Demands for land reform constitute the main source of unrest in Paraguay. The high concentration of agricultural land in a few hands and the failure of successive governments to implement land reform have been key grievances behind the most disruptive protests in recent years. The umbrella National Peasants’ Confederation (Federación Nacional Campesina: FNC) has been the leading force, vowing to escalate land takeovers to press for the acceleration of settlements. The departments with the largest number of land occupations are Alto Paraguay, Caaguazú, Caazapá, Guairá, and Itapúa. Protests against Paraguay’s high levels of corruption have also seen an increase, but they are unlikely to become violent.

Health Risk

Vaccines required to enter the country

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travelers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease; it should be taken ten days in advance to be fully effective.

Vaccines recommended for all travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines recommended for most travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Vaccines recommended for some travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is generally recommended for travelers visiting areas outside the capital Asunción. 

Natural Risks

Flooding is relatively common in the country, especially along its main river (the Paraguay River) and in the capital region, in large part due to inefficient drainage systems. Flooding in Asunción in late 2015/early 2016 forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Transportation

Ground transportation is often hazardous due to the poor quality of roads and highways and the often-risky driving habits of locals. Many streets flood and/or become impassable during the rainy season (November-April). It is best to avoid driving on tertiary roads at night.

Foreign visitors should also be aware that tourist infrastructure (hotels, restaurants), while decent in the capital, may be significantly less developed - even nonexistent - in other areas.

The country's electrical infrastructure is outdated and in need of upgrading. As such, power outages are relatively common, including in the capital, particularly on hot summer days when increased use of air conditioner units puts a major strain on the electrical network. 

Practical Information

Climate

Paraguay's climate is hot and humid. Summers (January to March) are very hot (with temperatures reaching 40°C and sometimes even 50°C); winter temperatures, much more pleasant, can fluctuate wildly (between 5°C and 25°C in a single day). Humidity levels are high throughout the year, unpleasant in the winter as well as in the summer. The rainy season, which extends from October until April, often sees torrential rains and floods. Autumn and spring are pleasant.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +595
Police, Ambulance: 911
Fire Dept.: 131

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal