News / Americas

Center-Right Cartes Wins Paraguayan Presidential Election

Colorado Party's presidential candidate Horacio Cartes, waves to supporters in Asuncion, Paraguay, April 21, 2013.
Colorado Party's presidential candidate Horacio Cartes, waves to supporters in Asuncion, Paraguay, April 21, 2013.
Reuters
For Horacio Cartes, a millionaire cigarette and soft drink magnate who won Paraguay's presidential election on Sunday, the challenge now is to run a country where most people can only dream of having a sliver of the wealth he does.

The 56-year-old, who won the election with 46 percent of the vote and will take office in August, campaigned as a center-right conservative at a time when most of Latin America is run by leftists.

Indeed, Cartes has touted a pro-business agenda that includes modernizing the bloated state, which employs about 10 percent of all workers in Paraguay. He also wants to attract up to $2.7 billion in private capital to refurbish Paraguay's airports and build new highways.

Yet Cartes himself has acknowledged that, to be successful, he must also cater to Paraguay's poor masses. Poverty runs near 40 percent and per-capita gross domestic product was just $5,413 in 2011, the second-lowest in South America behind only Bolivia, according to International Monetary Fund data.

Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo in Asuncion, June 21, 2012 (AP).Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo in Asuncion, June 21, 2012 (AP).
x
Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo in Asuncion, June 21, 2012 (AP).
Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo in Asuncion, June 21, 2012 (AP).
The country of 6.6 million has long been one of the region's most politically unstable, with a fragile economy dependent on agriculture. The last elected president, Fernando Lugo, was impeached last year following civil unrest.

"We all want infrastructure, airports, ports, highways, hospitals. But the government will be a failure if we have so many poor people," Cartes told local radio on Sunday.

A political novice who never even voted before 2009, Cartes will have strong support from Congress as well as the political machinery of the center-right Colorado Party, whose 60-year reign was interrupted by Lugo's election in 2008.

On Sunday, the Colorado Party won control of the lower house and 19 of 45 Senate seats, preliminary election results showed. The Liberals had the second-biggest showing and leftist coalitions came in third place, with Lugo elected senator.

Cartes has promised to reform the Colorado Party, infamous for corruption and whose long period in power included General Alfredo Stroessner's 1954-1989 dictatorship.

Nonetheless, analysts think the Colorado Party will try to cling to its system of political patronage and resist changes or job cuts.

"It's very difficult to know what Cartes wants to do," said political analyst Jose Carlos Rodriguez. "In principle, he has a neo-conservative project that gives a strong impulse to private companies and nothing to the state. But there's a major inconsistency there and he'll also have a powerful party that will demand certain benefits."

Notorious for Contraband

Paraguay relies heavily on soybean and beef exports but it is also notorious for contraband trade and money laundering. Growth is seen at 13 percent this year after a severe drought caused a contraction in 2012, according to the central bank.

Land conflicts have intensified in recent years and the small, violent left-wing Paraguayan People's Army operates in northern regions.

In January, the Liberal government took an unprecedented step to tap global debt markets, selling $500 million in 10-year bonds that were nearly 12 times oversubscribed.

Efrain Alegre, the ruling party's presidential candidate, had said he would seek to issue more debt to finance infrastructure. But Cartes has not taken a stance one way or the other.

On Monday, Paraguay's global bond was trading largely steady. A New York-based trader said it was yielding at 4.37 percent, or 26 basis points tighter than when it was first issued at par, but he said the paper was very illiquid.

The leftist bloc is especially strong in the Mercosur trade group, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Uruguay. Mercosur suspended Paraguay in June when Lugo was ousted, arguing the two-day impeachment trial was tantamount to a coup.

Soon after, Mercosur brought in socialist Venezuela even though its inclusion was never approved by Paraguay's Congress.

Cartes told reporters on Sunday that he had already made contacts with Mercosur officials to ensure Paraguay's full return to the group. The presidents of Argentina and Uruguay welcomed Paraguay back into the fold after Cartes' victory.

One of the country's richest men, Cartes primarily made his fortune in the financial and tobacco industries. Rivals tried to link him to drug running and money laundering, but he has never been charged with those crimes and denies any wrongdoing.

Fiona Mackie, Paraguay analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit research firm, said she did not think Cartes would pursue plans to open airports and state utilities to private investment due to resistance within the Colorado Party.

"That said, a Cartes government would be relatively open to foreign investment in mineral resources," she wrote last week, noting the recent discovery of a major titanium deposit and plans for an aluminum smelter by Rio Tinto Alcan.

  • Colorado Party's presidential candidate Horacio Cartes and VP-elect Juan Afara, wave to supporters in Asuncion, Paraguay, April 21, 2013. Cartes won a five-year term over Efrain Alegre of the Radical Liberal party.
  • Paraguay's Colorado Party's Presidential candidate Horacio Cartes shows his ink-marked finger after voting in Goethe School, Asuncion, Paraguay, April 21, 2013.
  • Residents walk inside the "Quintina Paredes Silva" school serving as a polling station during general elections on the outskirts of Asuncion, Paraguay, April 21, 2013.
    .
  • A man drives a motorized tricycle past a billboard picturing Colorado Party's presidential candidate Horacio Cartes, right, in San Lorenzo, Paraguay, April 19, 2013.
    .
  • A man casts his vote during general elections on the outskirts of Asuncion, Paraguay, April 21, 2013.
  • Horacio Cartes, presidential candidate of Colorado Party, waves to supporters during a campaign rally in Capiata, Paraguay, April 5, 2013.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

3 Mexican Journalists Assassinated in Week

Rights groups call on Mexican authorities to thoroughly investigate recent murders in Oaxaca, Veracruz and Guanajuato
More

Ecuador Is Prime Example at Heart of Pope's Climate Stance

Pope Francis begins his South America tour this weekend in country that is prime example of tensions between politics, business and environment
More

Experts: US-Cuba Moves Likely to Deepen N Korea’s Isolation

Korea University professor sees US-Cuba normalization as 'quite an ideological eye-opener' for Pyongyang, a longtime Havana ally
More

Pope to Tour 3 South American Countries

Grueling, week-long trip will showcase Francis at his unpredictable best: speaking his native Spanish on his home turf about issues closest to his heart
More

Congress Aims to Keep Bans on Dealing with Cuban Military

Proposed legislation would ban Americans from engaging in any financial transactions with the Cuban military or the Cuban Ministry of the Interior
More

Video Rapprochement Opens New, Uncertain Chapter in US-Cuba Relations

Change is result of months of secret negotiations that culminated in December with decision to resume ties, but critics say nothing has changed in Cuba’s human rights record
More