frances y correa
Pope Francis (L) looks on as Ecuador's President Rafael Correa (R) makes his speech after he landed in Quito, Ecuador, July 5, 2015. Pope Francis flies to Bolivia on Wednesday and Paraguay on Friday, where police will enforce a ban against signs. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Paraguay will prohibit or at least inhibit protests against Pope Francis, ABC Paraguay reports. The Catholic Church’s leader will visit Paraguay on a five nation tour of the Americas which includes Cuba and the U.S. Paraguayan officials came under fire earlier this week for suppressing freedom of speech by banning signs for specific issues ahead of the pontiff's official visit. Officials from the National Commission of the Palpal Visit had released a list of “prohibited” sign topics, saying that citizens could not display placards for or against “abortion, gay marriage or peasant movements, etc.”

The sign ban is part of a list of security-related bans which includes masks, drinking and carrying weapons. The bans will be enforced by the National Police. Based on Francis’ trip so far, the prohibition was likely unnecessary to maintain security. So far, the Vatican’s top priest has been well-received, actually pausing protests (by anti-government activists in Ecuador) in some cases, though he’s inspired them in others. He’s expected to face a tough crowd of indigenous healers in Bolivia, along with a throng of “pregnant nuns.” In Ecuador, the only “trouble” that Pope Francis attracted were too many fans. They held a vigil and sang songs, prompting the Pope to ask them to go home and let his neighbors sleep.

On Tuesday, National Commission of the Palpal Visit officials backpedaled on the sign ban, saying that the focus was not to suppress expression but to facilitate viewing of the Pope as he passes. It roundly rejected accusations of censorship.

“[These rules] are meant only and exclusively to avoid cluttering the view of the participants at [Pope Francis’ and other] events,” the Commision said in a statement.

The Pope will arrive in Asunción, Paraguay, on Friday.

Per capita, Paraguay is Latin America’s most Catholic country; between 88 percent and 91 percent of residents are official members of Pope Francis’ church. The pontiff enjoys a strong approval rate among the faithful; 87 percent of Catholics have a “favorable” view of him, according to Pew Research Center. Among ex-catholics in Paraguay only 45 percent have a favorable view of the Pope.

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