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Paraguay – Opposition to casino in Ciudad del Este linked to Duty Free Zone fears

By - 13 December 2016

Workers from Paraguay’s National Ports Authority (ANNP) in Ciudad del Este have met in order to discuss measures which they plan to take against a proposed casino and hotel in the city.

Workers plan to protest the granting of a building permit to the casino which will be located in a building belonging to the headquarters of Paraguay’s National Ports Authority (ANNP) at the head of the Friendship Bridge (Puente de la Amistad) – an arch bridge connecting the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad del Este. The building currently also houses a number of government offices including the Customs Office which will have to move to another site. In November 2015 trade unionists asked a judge to block the move arguing that there was a ban in place which prohibits further development in the area.

Lawyer speaking on behalf of the Union Nicolás Russo, announced that the union will request the annulment of the licensing process by which the building was granted building permission, and that they will denounce it before the Anti-Corruption Office and will also appeal to The Comptroller General of the Republic of Paraguay. The union also plans to denounce the actions of Paraguay’s Gaming Board (CONAJZAR) for calling a tender without the Port Authority’s authorisation first. At the same time a group of architecture students have also appealed to the Ministry of Culture and have asked that the site be declared a site of Historic Interest.

Much of the opposition to the project is being fuelled by speculation that the hotel could be a duty free zone which will lead to unfair competition for the other shops and businesses already established in the area.

Teodoro Mercado, President of the city council for Ciudad del Este said that should the casino be given the green light then it would be a huge blow to businesses and employment locally.

“This casino hotel will be like a filter, a sieve, where the people who visit the city will remain, they will no longer go to the downtown area. Our concern is not political and I believe that citizens and merchants must mobilise,” he said.

He added that while CONAJZAR had already approved a list of bases and conditions, and emphasised that it would not consider the hotel as a duty free area this could be changed later as documents could later be added to the initial terms. While he said that he was not against the building of the casino and hotel he said that it should be constructed outside of the centre and not in a space which puts jobs and other businesses at risk.

According to the terms of the new bidding process, total investment will stand between US$50m and US$70m and the licence will be granted for twenty years. While a tender process was not originally envisaged it is still positive news for the planned Hard Rock Hotel and Casino which may invest an much as US$70m in building a hotel and casino in Paraguay’s second largest city. The hotel will have a 200 to 300 people capacity hotel and will include swimming polls, shopping as well as other entertainment facilities.

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