A video in which an opposition legislator and government officials discuss purchasing votes created a stir on the eve of elections in Paraguay, which has a long history of rampant corruption.
The video clip, broadcast on the ABC website, shows a conservative Colorado Party senator striking an agreement with two members of the governing leftist Liberal Party to pay $50 per vote in the central Caaguazu department.
The senator, Silvio Olevar, who was suspended Friday for two months without pay, told a press conference that he was trying to expose corruption on the part of his Liberal rivals but that the move had backfired.
Paraguay has long struggled with election fraud, and signs have been hung across the capital Asuncion telling voters not to sell their ballots, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Sunday’s election pits conservative tobacco baron Horacio Cartes, 56, who was briefly jailed in a currency smuggling affair in 1985, against the Liberal Party’s Efrain Alegre, 50, a self-styled crusader against crime and corruption, whom Cartes has accused of embezzling $25 million in government funds.
The country bordering Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia is seeking a replacement for Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop turned politician who was impeached and ousted by Parliament last year over a land dispute that turned deadly.
Paraguay is plagued by corruption, drug trafficking and pirating of copyrighted materials like music and movies.
The candidates have traded accusations of corruption and drug trafficking during the highly negative campaign.
The Colorado Party ruled Paraguay from 1947 to 2008 and was the pillar of support for dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who held power from 1954 to 1989.
Cartes, one of the country’s wealthiest men, did not join the party until 2009, and says he only voted for the first time the following year.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]