Pro-Taiwan candidate wins Paraguay election

Lazy eyes listen


Santiago Pena, a former IMF economist and Paraguayan ex-finance minister, won the presidential election on Sunday, extending the hegemony of the Colorado Party, which has ruled virtually constantly since the mid-nineteenth century.

With nearly all ballots counted as of 10 p.m. on Sunday evening, Santiago Pena led with 43% of the vote. Pena and his running mate Pedro Alliana won the single-round winner-take-all presidential election when his two top challengers shared the remaining vote.

Efrain Alegre of the Authentic Radical Liberal (PLRA) party received approximately 27.5% of the vote, while ex-Senator Paraguayo “Payo” Cubas of the National Crusade party received approximately 23%.

While the electoral authority has yet to officially confirm the results, incumbent leader Mario Abdo Benitez, who was ineligible for re-election, has already congratulated and referred to his successor as president-elect.

“We will work to initiate an orderly and transparent transition that strengthens our institutions and the country’s democracy,” Abdo stated on Twitter.

Throughout the campaign, Pena, 44, was chastised by his center-left opponent Alegre for being a “servant” of Abdo’s predecessor Horacio Cartes and a member of a deeply corrupt political force. The US Treasury Department has sanctioned Cartes and his current vice-president, Hugo Velazquez, for “significant” wrongdoing. Both have denied all charges.

In an interview with AFP prior of the vote, Pena indicated he would re-locate Paraguay’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In one of Cartes’ final decisions, Paraguay temporarily relocated its embassy to Jerusalem in 2018. When Abdo gained office, he quickly reversed the decision.

Paraguay is the only country in South America that maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and it is one of just 13 countries in the world that recognizes the island as the “Republic of China.” The opposition supported local farming industries’ calls to reconsider the program and increase trade with Beijing, but Pena, a technocrat and former central bank board member, ignored the commitments and promised to retain connections with Taipei.