A thorn in the side of Paraguay regime
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Zuccolillo says of the Paraguayan press: ``They write just the facts and . . . this is an improvement [over the same newspapers in the past] because it shows the real situation.''Skip to next paragraph
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Though several newspapers here still print at least one flattering front-page photo of Stroessner daily, they also print news of controversial issues, opposition response to government actions, and opinion pieces.
(ABC Color introduced opinion pages and modern newspaper printing and marketing techniques to Paraguay. A modern marketing technique was used to name the newspaper. Paraguayans were polled on their reaction to names used by other papers in the Spanish-speaking world and the most popular one was ABC Color -- the name of a paper in Spain. Zuccolillo says it has no particular meaning.)
Zuccolillo -- who runs his own empire, from ranching and publishing to hardware and department stores -- maintains an office at ABC Color and keeps the paper open with a skeleton crew. ``It's a paper without the paper. . . . It's in training'' for the day that it can be published again, he says.
That isn't likely under the Stroessner regime.
Though no government officials answered formal requests for interviews, one minister of state caught informally at a public meeting said Zuccolillo should have joined a legal political party as a means for change, rather than ``subverting order with lies'' in his paper.
With the perpetually furrowed brow of a frustrated man, Zuccolillo says Paraguay's problems center on the government's corruption. Academics, diplomats, and the general population agree that the dedication to stronismo -- Stroessner's personality cult -- is based on the parceling out of lucrative moneymaking opportunites.
Before the closure, ABC Color investigated government-related scandals such as a prostitution business at the 1970s boomtown construction site of the huge Itaipu dam on the Paraguay-Brazil border; the feudal monopoly of sugar production; and the double-invoicing of Algerian oil sales here.
``All the businesses in this country are forced to follow the same rules of corruption . . . and that's the worst thing Stroessner has done,'' Zuccolillo says. (Heads of business and manufacturing associations here confirm that business success is usually tied to cooperation in corruption.)
Zuccolillo explains, for example, that in his business he typically understates the amount of goods imported to avoid paying taxes that would make him less competitive on the local market, full of cheap contraband. Though he admits this corruption and close connections to Stroessner -- his brother is ambassador to London; his brother-in-law is the highest civilian in the government; and his wife was even the President's chef -- he denies ever supporting Stroessner.
Zuccolillo says that before his arrests in 1982 and 1984 he received subtle suggestions to tone down ABC Color reporting. He received calls from the President and his reporters were given bribes from ministers of state (the money was turned over to charity). He also says that his delivery trucks in remote regions of the country were often detained overnight to delay newspaper delivery. But Zuccolillo laughs as he notes that the paper sold out even when it arrived a day late.
``Acceptance is whether they buy or not, and that was one of the reasons for our closure. The government was afraid because every morning citizens voted for ABC Color.''