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Reasons to Celebrate in Paraguay and Kansas
Today Paraguayans are celebrating the end of the 61 year rule of the Colorado Party. It has the distinction of having been the longest ruling party in the world. Not a good thing in this case.Paraguay has been working on developing democracy since the removal of Alfredo Stroessner the dictator who ruled from 1954 until he was deposed in 1989. In 1993 Paraguay had their first free election since 1928. However, this year's election was the first time a non-Colorado candidate won. It is a hallmark of democracy when ruling parties change through free and fair elections. Fernando Lugo is the new president and is more personality than party. He was a Catholic Bishop who resigned his clerical position to run for president. The Vatican still does not recognize his resignation. He is considered a leftist but what that means is yet to be determined.What does this have to do with Lawrence? Well in addition to being interested in the peaceful spread of democracy, the Lawrence League of Women Voters had a small role in the development of democracy in Paraguay. After the 1993 election several Paraguayan women's groups were eager to have contact with the League of Women Voters in the U.S. The women presented their proposal to the Kansas-Paraguay Partners and Partners of the Americas. They were put in contact with the League of Women Voters of Kansas and Mary Miller a member of both Kansas-Paraguay Partners and the Lawrence League was the lead Kansas person in this project.In 1995 Mary traveled to Paraguay to become acquainted with the women's groups and their needs. In 1997 five Paraguayan women came to Kansas to spend two weeks hosted by five of the local Leagues. Their purpose was to see government in action and the participation of women in governmental and non-governmental organizations. Their project on returning home was to carry out a series of surveys in five public markets in and around Asuncion to determine and prioritize the concerns of thousands of women who work in the markets. Forums were held and the market women gained confidence in their ability to voice their grievances. The final forum was held before the municipal elections of November 1996, and was attended by a League member from Kansas. The candidates for mayor were invited and heard the women's complaints. The candidates then signed contracts to better conditions. Now that is democracy at work.By the way it is also the birthday of AsunciÃ³n the capital of Paraguay. AsunciÃ³n was founded on August 15, 1541 and is one of the oldest cities in the Americas.