Country Listing

Paraguay Table of Contents


The Police

The police had a long history in Paraguay. Francia maintained the nation's first police establishment, using it to enforce his complete control of the state. Under him, the police maintained a wide-reaching spy network that moved ruthlessly to suppress dissent and generated an atmosphere of fear. The police have remained a powerful and politicized institution ever since. Until the mid1950s , the police often served as a counterweight to the armed forces, but after police officials were implicated in an abortive coup against Stroessner in late 1955, the force was purged, and police paramilitary units were sharply cut back. Since then, the police chief has almost always been a serving or retired army officer. Army officers have also held many key positions in the police hierarchy.

The Paraguayan police force was a centralized organization under the administration of the minister of interior. The force comprised two main elements, one for the capital and another for the rest of the nation. A separate highway police patrolled the nation's roads and was administered by the minister of public works and communication.

In 1988 police strength was estimated at 8,500 personnel; about 4,500 were assigned to the capital and the rest to the nation's 19 departments. The ratio of police to the rest of the population was one of the world's highest. Most rank-and-file police personnel were two-year conscripts who generally served outside their home area.

The capital police force was headed by a chief of police. Police personnel were assigned to headquarters or to one of twenty-three borough precincts. Police headquarters had three departments. The regular police, who dealt with ordinary crime, as well as having traffic-control mounted, and motorized elements, came under the administration of the Department of Public Order. The Department of Investigations, an internal security organ, dealt with political and security offenses. The Department of Training and Operations handled police administration and planning and ran police training establishments. Several directorates at police headquarters specialized in particular areas; among these were surveillance and offenses, identification, alien registration, and politics. A separate directorate specializing in political intelligence-- formerly the sole province of the army staff's intelligence section--was established in mid-1987. Police personnel also ran the capital's fire department.

A special unit of the capital police was the Security Guard, a 400-strong unit called up in cases of emergency and used in ceremonies and parades. About one-half of the unit, which had two rifle companies, was manned by conscripts.

Police in the interior were under the control of the government delegate heading the department in which police operated. For police functions, the delegate was in turn responsible to the minister of interior. Each delegate usually had a police chief who handled routine matters, an investigative section to process the identity cards carried by all citizens, and an additional person to supervise police arrests with a view to bringing charges. Departments were divided into districts in which a justice of the peace had several police conscripts assigned to him to carry out guard and patrol duties and other routine police functions.

All police training took place in Asunción. Basic training was given at the Police College, which offered a five-year course in modern police techniques. The Higher Police College offered specialized training. The police also operated a school for NCOs and an in-service training battalion.

Data as of December 1988