Paraguayans, on Sunday, elected Santiago Pena, a 44-year-old conservative economist, as their new president, The New York Times reported. This keeps the South American nation in control of the right-wing Colorado Party that has run the country for all but five of the past 76 years, as per The New York Times.
Pena’s coming to power means that Paraguay, a landlocked nation of seven million people, has resisted the leftward shift across Latin America in recent years. Paraguayans have instead delivered victory to a right-wing candidate who made vague promises to add jobs, lower energy prices and clear drug addicts from the street. Pena had 43 per cent of the vote with 99 per cent of the ballots counted, defeating two challengers who split the opposition vote, The New York Times reported.
His election to the post can, however, complicate Paraguay’s relationship with the United States, a close ally. According to The New York Times, Pena is a political protege of a former Paraguayan president, Horacio Cartes, who is one of its richest men and the president of the Colorado Party.
In January, the American Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Cartes over accusations that he had doled out millions of dollars in bribes to pave his way to power and that he had built ties to the Islamist militant group Hezbollah. Pena in his victory speech on Sunday night, stood next to Cartes, hugged him and thanked him. He said: “Your contribution, president, can only be paid with the currency of respect, of appreciation and approval. Thank you for this Colorado victory.”
Pena’s victory shows that his party has retained a firm grip on Paraguayan society decades after the fall of the dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, a Colorado Party regime that ruled from 1954 to 1989.