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Mario Abdo Benitez sworn in as new President of Paraguay

Colorado Party’s Mario Abdo Benitez was sworn in on August 15, 2018 as the new President of Paraguay for a five-year term.

Benitez clinched the top spot after defeating his closest rival, Efrain Alegre from the liberal opposition alliance, by four percentage points in the nation’s elections, which were held in April 2018.

The 46-year-old conservative took the oath of office at a ceremony in the capital Asuncion, attended by hundreds of dignitaries including seven heads of state. He replaces Horacio Cartes, who was also from the conservative Colorado Party.

With the results, the right-wing Colorado Party, which has dominated Paraguayan politics for decades, will maintain its hold on power.

Key Highlights

Abdo Benitez is the son of a close aide to ex-military dictator Alfredo Stroessner. He has faced criticism for defending the former leader's record.

In his election campaign, Abdo Benitez promised to retain low tax policies and boost agricultural exports.

He also said that he will take a law-and-order stance and implement business-friendly policies. He also pledged to work with the opposition to push through reforms.

However, one of his immediate priorities will be bridging the rift within his ruling Colorado party, which has been in power almost continuously since 1947.

The rift is so deep that outgoing president Horacio Cartes skipped Benitez’s swearing-in ceremony. Seven Colorado senators and 20 MPs joined Cartes' boycott of the ceremony.

The factions clashed last year over Cartes' unsuccessful bid to change the constitution to allow him another term.

The Colorado party has a minority in Congress, with 41 of 80 seats in the lower house but only 17 of 45 seats in the Senate.

Significance

The presidential inauguration came a week after thousands took part in street protests in Asuncion against political corruption.  

Benitez had campaigned on a pledge to tackle corruption in the judicial system.

Economy-wise, Paraguay has enjoyed strong economic growth in recent years.

Paraguay under former President Horacio Cartes became the third country to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, after the United States and Guatemala.

 

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