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Vote-buying video casts shadow on Paraguay poll

A woman passes by a sign reading, 'Don't sell your ID. It is a crime' in Asuncion on April 20, 2013
A woman passes by a sign reading, "Don't sell your ID. It is a crime" in Asuncion on April 20, 2013, the day before general elections in Paraguay. A video in which an opposition legislator and government officials discuss purchasing votes created a stir o

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 corruption woes.

The video clip, broadcast on the ABC news website, shows a conservative Colorado Party senator striking an agreement with two members of the governing leftist Liberal Party to pay $25 per vote in the central Caaguazu department.

Senator Silvio Ovelar, who was suspended Friday for two months without pay, told a press conference 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 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 mostly rural country of 6.5 million bordering Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia is seeking a replacement for Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop turned politician who was impeached and ousted by the legislature 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.

On Sunday, 3.5 million voters will choose Paraguay's president and vice president, some lawmakers in the legislature, and 17 governors.

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