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Fires destroy one-third of voting machines in Paraguay

One person died, and around 7,700 electronic voting machines were destroyed after the headquarters of the Superior Court of Electoral Justice of Paraguay (TSJE) caught fire last week, local authorities confirmed.

Senator Desirée Masi, who has been discussing the issue with TSJE representatives, said on Monday that the damaged machines account for nearly a third of the country’s total. “And we can’t guarantee that the [roughly 14,000] remaining machines are protected,” Ms. Masi added.

The number was slightly lower than the original estimate, which suggested up to 8,500 machines could have been damaged in the incident. Ms. Masi demanded the resignation of TSJE judges, saying the fires were the result of “negligence.”

The sole fatal casualty was identified as Aníbal Ortiz, a TSJE staff member who escaped the fire but re-entered the building for reasons that remain unknown, according to eyewitnesses.

The disaster came at a particularly inconvenient time, as the country’s primary elections are scheduled to take place in just two months’ time. Paraguay is also scheduled to hold presidential elections in April next year, leaving authorities skeptical about whether they will have the appropriate infrastructure to hold the vote smoothly.

Some officials even suggested splitting the primary voting into two separate dates, but the opposition complained that this could result in irregularities.

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