Paraguayans have reacted with indignation over a society wedding where scores of guests from the country’s political elite flouted social distancing rules and failed to wear obligatory facemasks, despite a surge of Covid-19 deaths in the country.
The lax official response to the wedding of the daughter of Horacio Cartes – a former president and one of the country’s wealthiest people – contrasts strongly with the police’s strict enforcement of lockdown rules, which has included the use of physical punishment and tasers.
Paraguay had been praised as one of the best examples of pandemic management in Latin America after the swift imposition of quarantine – after just two confirmed case of Covid-19 – maintained extremely low infection rates early in the pandemic.
But a recent surge of cases and deaths – now at 13,233 and 205 respectively – has left the country with the highest transmission rate of 68 countries analysed in an Imperial College and Sussex University study.
Hours after authorities announced containment measures would be tightened on 20 August – leaked videos showed that health protocols had been broadly ignored at the wedding reception of Sol Cartes five days earlier.
Footage showed scores of wedding guests – far more than the 20 allowed by protocol – with facemasks and social distancing ignored as partygoers took to the dance floor.
Dr Antonio Arbo, an epidemiologist and former health minister, said that the government’s indifferent reaction to incident had further weakened citizens’ trust in the administration of President Mario Abdo Benítez.
Arbo said the situation was exacerbated by public distrust, driving the population to ignore protocols. “The wedding’s consequence has been for all government measures controlling gatherings to lose credibility”, he said.
While authorities have been swift to crack down on others disobeying protocols an investigation into the Cartes-Bendlin wedding was only called after extended outcry; it was announced that any legal responsibility would lie principally on the couple’s wedding planner. Both the public prosecutor’s office and the ministry of health had formerly strongly rejected responsibility for taking action.
César Gómez, a journalist, said former president Cartes used the wedding as “a demonstration of impunity before the law and society”.
“Wealthy businesspeople can do whatever they want without repercussions in Paraguay”, said Marcello Lachi, political scientist at the Germinal Research Centre in Asunción. “It’s part of the system of corruption – not just corruption, but economic domination”.
Source: The Guardian