The World Today for April 28, 2023


Change and Its Discontents


Presidents from the Colorado Party have ruled Paraguay for all but five years since the South American country adopted democracy in 1992. Now, however, as Paraguayan voters head to the polls to elect a new president on April 30, Colorado Party candidate and Finance Minister Santiago Peña might be in trouble.

Last year, as reported by the Associated Press, the US slapped sanctions on Paraguay’s former President Horacio Cartes Jara and current Vice President Hugo Velázquez Moreno due to corruption allegations and ties to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed, US-designated terrorist organization that operates primarily in the Middle East. Both men have rejected the American claims.

Around 70 percent of Paraguayans now say their country needs change, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas wrote. The opposition Concertación political coalition hopes their nominee, Efraín Alegre of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party “can ride voter frustration” to office. He is now running neck and neck with Peña.

Despite his center-left credentials, Alegre recently promised the country’s powerful agricultural industry that he would opt for an austerity budget that would favor cutting government spending over raising taxes on farmers. Adding that bribery and embezzlement were rife in the government under Peña and current President Mario Abdo Benítez, who can’t run for reelection due to term limits, he pledged reforms.

“It is very difficult for the private sector to feel comfortable paying more taxes if the public sector does not make an effort to properly use the available resources,” he told Reuters in an interview.

A string of high-profile killings has also fueled the sense that the government has lost the ability to impose the rule of law onto the people, according to Americas Quarterly. Last year, after the country’s top prosecutor closed a prison drug laboratory, he was murdered on his honeymoon. Paraguay is also a major conduit for cocaine bound for Europe, InSight Crime added.

Alegre has also questioned his country’s links with Taiwan. As one of a handful of nations that recognize Taiwan as the legitimate government of China, Paraguay can’t sell its beef and soy to China, the world’s biggest market. Taiwanese officials have expressed dismay over his comments, noted Focus Taiwan. Honduras, for example, recently switched sides in order to curry favor with officials in Beijing. Peña, meanwhile, has pledged to keep snubbing the powerful communist country.

Paraguay rarely sees a toss-up election, wrote Foreign Policy. It will this time.

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