Paraguay: Everything you need to know about the new president Mario Abdo Benítez

Benítez assumes the presidency of Paraguay backed by the political tradition of that country, but faces poverty and corruption scandals

Paraguay: Everything you need to know about the new president Mario Abdo Benítez

Mario Abdo Benítez, also known as "Marito", will reach the presidency of Paraguay this Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The new president will remain in office for five years (in the period 2018-2023). Benítez was a candidate for the conservative Partido Colorado party in the April elections, where he won with 46.49% of the votes.

Politics is not something new in Benítez' life, since his father Mario Abdo Benítez was private secretary for 25 years of the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner. The dictatorship in Paraguay lasted 35 years and was characterized by suppressing the constitutional guarantees, having under strict control the activities of the political parties and exerting a strong repression.

Given the context of the time, where the communist threat worried the Latin American governments, Stroessner did not allow the entry of that regime to his country, instead he strengthened his ties and interests with the United States. In addition, his dictatorship was supported by the army and by the Colorado party.

Faced with his connections with the dictatorship, Benítez told reporters before the ceremony of possession that he wants to "heal wounds for reconciliation among Paraguayans. We have many more things that unite us than those that divide us."

The trajectory of "Marito"

The new president began in the political world as a member of the movement "Reconstrucción Nacional Republicana" ("Republican National Reconstruction"), “Paz y Progreso” ("Peace and Progress"). In 2005, Benítez was elected as vice president of the Colorado party.

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In 2013, he was president of the Upper House and, therefore, of the National Congress. His career as president began when, in December of 2017, he won the presidential elections of the Colorado party against former finance minister Santiago Peña, with 51.01% (570,921 votes).

Among his proposals he expressed the need to control the borders, the strengthening of the National Police and the Armed Forces. He also proposed reforms in the judicial branch, carry out a structural and administrative reorganization of the penitentiary system and proposed to fight against corruption and improve policies against impunity.

The Paraguayans will also have to see what are the policies that "Marito" will have about homosexual marriage, abortion and soy export business, considering his conservative political affiliation.

Benítez' main challenges

Undoubtedly, one of Benítez' main challenges will be to try to get Paraguay out of poverty, since it affects 26% of the population. For the analyst Estela Ruiz, according to declarations to 20 minutos, Paraguay is a nation with a macroeconomic stability, but with "an external debt of 7.600 million dollars, 60% more than in 2013."

Also, according to the analyst Ignacio Martínez in dialogue with The Associated Press, other problems that the new president will find are "the growing public insecurity, including the actions of the guerrilla group calling itself the Paraguayan People's Army that has been operating in the north of the country since 2008, and external factors that violate local controls such as money laundering, smuggling and drug trafficking."

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The Paraguayans came out to protest against corruption, as a series of audios were revealed where the Electoral Tribunal official, Miguel Iturburo, exposed an alleged vote buying scheme in the April presidential elections, as reported by Infobae.

In the recordings, the official affirmed that he can increase the number of votes of a candidate in exchange for a sum of money: "If they order me to protect the colored votes, I am going to have to protect the colored votes."

For the political analyst Horacio Galeano Perrone, the challenges of the new president will not be easy to take because "he does not have a clear management model and he does not choose the members of his cabinet correctly," said to El Litoral. Galeano concluded that "the avalanche of problems will include major social, economic and political conflicts."

Again, the Colorado party

The Colorado party has been at the forefront of Paraguay for many years, as the media France24 affirmed: "If it were not for the irruption of a period of leftist government in 2008, the Colorado party would have been in power for more than 70 years in Paraguay." It was characterized as the only political party until 1962 and consolidated its government by supporting the dictator Alfredo Stroessner.

It was inside that same party, that in 1989, they organized a coup against the dictator and took Paraguay to political modernity. As mentioned by France 24, in 2008 the representative of the leftist coalition, Fernando Lugo, rose to power but was dismissed in 2013 for impeachment. Immediately, the Colorado party took the reins of the country once again in charge of Horacio Cartes.


LatinAmerican Post | Laura Viviana Guevara
Translated from "Paraguay: Todo lo que debe saber del nuevo presidente Mario Abdo Benítez"