By Peter Tase
Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s largest and wealthiest city is living its worst moments since its founding in 1957. The city is also the capital of Alto Parana which is one of the three wealthiest departments of Paraguay. Ciudad del Este is considered to be the first city in the nation for the amount of taxes that are collected every year from its residents but unfortunately as the amount of money collected by Mayor Sandra McLeod de Zacarías grows every year, with that amount are also growing the acts of corruption, lack of transparency and an overwhelming tendency of abuse with the public money and public office.
Additionally, the Municipality of McLeod has had recently some critical problems with its former employees for not respecting the national labor laws, and is found to be in animosity with the local Association of Taxi Cab Drivers as well as with the public in general, due to her abuse of power, traffic of influence and poor administration of public works and infrastructure in the whole city. For more than thirteen years, local government of Ciudad del Este has been monopolized by the dynasty of Zacarias Irun family, causing an increase of poverty levels while the amounts of taxes that are collected goes up every year; spending money on infrastructure while the public works and the road system is deteriorating every day and is currently found to be at its worst conditions ever, even though high taxes are paid by grain producers who operate in this region and export throughout the world over 100 thousand tons of grain every month.Historically Zacarias Irun and his wife have proved to be arrogant and corrupt civil servants who have abused power every day they spent in public office.
On May 13, 2014, at least eight hundred taxi drivers participated in a peaceful protest in front of the court house of Ciudad del Este to show support to five taxi drivers who were accused by Sandra McLeod’s Municipality with charges of civil disobedience and for violating public order on April 24th. The suspected individuals were the leaders of the Federation of Taxi Drivers of Ciudad del Este (FETACE) and the United Taxi Drivers of the East (TAUDE), their names are: Herminio Corvalán, Enrique Rolón, Roberto Fletes and Valerio Martinez. According to Elias Fox, the attorney of the above mentioned suspects.
The accused are prohibited to approach the municipality on a two hundred meters radius or less. On the other hand Mayor Mcleod and her wealthy family are allowed by the Paraguayan court system to circulate freely even though large sums of money have been abused under both her and Zacarías Irun (her husband) administrations. According to Mr. Rolando Segovia Paez, a distinguished Colorado Party leader in Alto Parana, “the Mayor of Ciudad del Este and her husband, a corrupt politician, initiated an evil persecution against the taxi drivers of Ciudad del Este, who struggle to earn their daily living by doing an honest and decent work and driving on roads that are perhaps the worst inner city streets in Latin America.” Mr. Segovia adds that “there are a large number of young intellectuals in Alto Parana who are capable to contribute for a better life in Ciudad del Este and should say No to Sandra McLeod’s candidacy, instead they should support the other candidate of Colorado Party which will be determined in the next weeks, for the municipal elections of late 2015.”
In addition to the afore mentioned frustrated taxi drivers, Mayor McLeod is running into a very costly settlement with 23 public service workers and another group of 300 public employees who were fired from their job without any justifiable cause in 2001, during the administration of Javier Zacarias Irun. This compensation reaches over 300 thousand US Dollars and should have been allocated in the Municipality’s budget of 2012 and that amount goes up every year due to the accrued interest. Unfortunately McLeod’s municipality has not proceeded with the payments yet. The 323 public servants are waiting for more than 13 years such a compensation to be awarded by Sandra McLeod as the regional court judge has taken a decision in favor of the 323 former employees in Zacaria Irun’s administration. According to Mr. Hernan Romero “it seems that the judges have taken a staunch decision in favor of the 23 employees, but on the other hand the Zacarias Irun dynasty considers themselves to be above the law and have ignored the Paraguayan justice system for over 13 years by not paying the right amount of compensation to these former employees who have won the court case against such a corrupt political clan in Alto Parana.”