Juan Carlos Wasmosy Monti
By Rebecca DiTrolio

Before Juan Carlos Wasmosy Monti, Paraguay’s government had been run as a dictatorship under the rule of military generals turned dictators. With the coming of the first free elections on May 9, 1993, Paraguay reached a turning point. Just as stunning in its novelty was the fact that Wasmosy was the first civilian president since 1954. Although August 15, the day Wasmosy was sworn in, signified a milestone in Paraguay’s government, history would show whether or not the old triangle of influence—the government, army, and the political party Colorado—had lost any of the power it had maintained since 1947.

Wasmosy was born in Asunción on December 15, 1938, to doña María Clotilde Monti Paoli and Dr. Juan Bautista Wasmosy, veteran of the Chaco War. At the young age of two, Wasmosy was orphaned by the death of his mother. His father enlisted the aid of two aunts to help raise and educate him and his two siblings. Very early on, Wasmosy was forced to begin working in order to help support his family, while he tried to continue his studies. Even still, Wasmosy was able to finish high school at age 17 from a school in the capital called San Jose de Asuncion, and go on to college.

He majored in civil engineering and emerged to become the head of a committee working on a huge project to span a dam across Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, called the Itaipu Dam. It was during this time with his work on the Dam that Wasmosy became very wealthy. There exists great speculation as to the legality of the source of his wealth.

The president before Wasmosy who appointed him as his successor was President Andrés Rodríguez. Wasmosy served as president from 1993 to 1998 and was a member of the political party Colorado. While Rodríguez had started many reforms, Wasmosy did not continue very many of them and thus became unpopular. This was also due in part to his electing of many of former dictator Alfredo Stroessner’s supporters to offices in the government.

In April of 1996, Lino Oviedo, at that time the head of the Paraguayan army, attempted to stage a coup d'état and take over. In an effort to stem the rise, Wasmosy offered Oviedo a position in the government, but later had him incarcerated. Raúl Cubas successfully opposed Wasmosy in 1998, supported mainly by his plan to free Oviedo. Later, in 2002, Wasmosy was sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of defrauding the Paraguayan government.

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