González Macchi, Luis Angel (Paraguay)
Angel González Macchi was president of Paraguay from 1999 until 2003, representing the Colorado party, which has dominated the country’s politics for more than half a century. Unelected, González was appointed president to follow Raul Cubas Grau who was forced to resign when he was linked to the assassination of Vice President Luís Maria Argaña. González struggled to combat a worsening economic situation, high inflation and unemployment, coup attempts and public discontent. He survived many calls for his resignation.
González was born on 13 Dec. 1947 in the capital Asunción. The son of a doctor, he studied law at the Universidad Nacional de Asunción before gaining a scholarship in 1970 to study in Madrid. A member of the ruling rightwing Asociación Nacional Republicana, or the Partido Colorado, he was president of the congress under Cubas’ leadership. The latter’s short term was ineffectual. When he refused to force his ally General Lino Oviedo to return to prison and see out a 10 year sentence incurred in 1996 for leading a failed coup, impeachment charges were brought. In 1999 Argaña was assassinated, allegedly under the command of Oviedo who feared Argaña was attempting to push out the president. Angry public demonstrators congregated outside the presidential palace to demand Cubas’ resignation. Four protestors were shot by snipers. Both Cubas and Oviedo fled the country seeking immunity in Argentina and Brazil.
In the ensuing chaos the government formed an all-party coalition, attempting to create a united front to restore stability to a democracy only 11 years old. It represented an alternative to the half century rule by the Colorado party, including 34 years of dictatorship. In the absence of a vice president, González was chosen to lead the coalition and took up the presidency.
González’s main challenges were to reignite the stagnant economy and give the people confidence in the government. Immediately González fell into dispute with his neighbouring MERCOSUR countries. There were calls for the arrest of Cubas and Oviedo and both Argentina and Brazil refused to extradite them. Several of their allies implicated in the assassination were arrested. Further disputes arose internally and in Feb. 2000 the opposition Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA) pulled out of the coalition. It claimed the dominant Colorado party was refusing to share power and blocking reforms, especially privatization schemes that were needed to boost the economy. This prompted the resignation of several ministers. González’s standing was further threatened by continuing support for the exiled Oviedo, especially from the large rural poor who believe that Oviedo would solve their economic problems. Policies proposed by González provoked popular protest supported by the trade unions. In May 2000 the precarious democracy was further tested when rebels took over radio stations and attacked the presidential palace with tanks. The coup was contained and González announced a 30 day state of emergency in which 70 suspected Oviedo sympathisers were arrested.
In Aug. 2000 a close run vice presidential election was won by PLRA candidate Julio Cesar Franco who beat the Colorado candidate and former vice president’s son Felix Argaña. Optimism was soon dampened by Franco’s inability to achieve change and González’s continued inability to reverse economic decline. A 4% fiscal deficit, high unemployment and a continued depreciation in GDP were not aided by stalled privatization. A loan by Taiwan in 1999 failed to ignite recovery. Internecine disputes led to more resignations.
In Aug. 2001 further pressure on González to resign followed claims that the president had been involved in bank fraud. He was further embarrassed when he was discovered driving a stolen car. While looking for an IMF loan in exchange for higher taxes and the long promised privatization, protesters gathered at the presidential palace in early Sept. 2001 calling once more for him to stand down, scenes which were repeated 12 months later. He narrowly escaped impeachment in Feb. 2003 by surviving a Senate vote to prosecute him for allegedly misspending 115.6 bn. guaranís ($17 m.) of government money. With voting 22 to 18 against him, the motion failed to attain the two thirds majority needed to oust him from power.
González did not stand for the presidency at the elections of 2003.