Horacio Cartes resigned from the presidency of Paraguay on Monday — a long-expected step that paves the way for him to take a Senate seat. The recently approved Vice President Alicia Pucheta will take over as leader. The Senate now must vote on whether to accept the resignation, but approval seems likely. Cartes’ five-year term ends in August and Paraguay’s constitution says former presidents automatically become senators for life, with a voice but without a vote. But Cartes, 61, won a full Senate seat during last month’s elections, a post that would help him extend his political influence into the future, and the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional. He has to resign before his term ends so that he can be sworn in as senator for the coming sessions.
The candidate from Paraguay’s ruling Colorado Party won Sunday’s presidential election, according to official results with 96 percent of ballots counted, pointing to another five years of pro-business policies in the major soy producer. The country’s elections authority said Mario Abdo, a 46-year-old former senator who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, had an “irreversible” advantage over his main rival, Efrain Alegre, a lawyer from the center-left GANAR coalition. “My administration will be committed to gaining the confidence of those who did not accompany us,” Abdo said in his acceptance speech.
Paraguay’s lower house of Congress on Wednesday rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed for presidential re-election, ending a month-long political crisis that aroused violent protests. Under the measure, center-right President Horacio Cartes could have sought re-election in 2018. But last week, the former soft drinks and tobacco mogul who took office in 2013 said he would not run regardless of whether the amendment was approved.
Paraguay’s president has fired the country’s interior minister and top police official after the killing of young opposition party leader — a death that came amid violent clashes overnight sparked by a secret Senate vote for a constitutional amendment to allow presidential re-election. President Horacio Cartes said Saturday that Interior Minister Tadeo Rojas and National Police Chief Crispulo Sotelo had been let go. Rodrigo Quintana, 25, was killed at the headquarters of a liberal youth activist group, a different location than the congress building where most of the violence took place. Demonstrators set fires around the legislative building after the vote to allow Cartes to run again in a country haunted by the 35-year rule of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.
Paraguay: ‘A coup has been carried out’: Paraguay’s congress set alight after vote to let president run again | The Guardian
Protesters stormed and set fire to Paraguay’s Congress on Friday after the senate secretly voted for a constitutional amendment that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election. The country’s constitution has prohibited re-election since it was passed in 1992 after a brutal dictatorship fell in 1989. “A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us,” said Desiree Masi from the opposition Progressive Democratic Party. Firefighters managed to control the flames after protesters left the congress building late on Friday night. But protests and riots continued in other parts of Asuncion and elsewhere in the country well into the night, media reported. Earlier, television images showed protesters breaking windows of the congress and clashing with police, burning tires and removing parts of fences around the building. Police in riot gear fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
After months of behind-the-scenes preparations, Paraguay’s president, Horacio Cartes, has moved to amend the constitution to allow him to be re-elected in 2018, prompting warnings that the country where Alfredo Stroessner ruled for more than 30 years is once again sliding towards dictatorship. Members of the governing rightwing Colorado party – which has held power for all but four of the past 70 years – joined with several opposition legislators to propose changes to the senate’s procedural rules, a precursor to introducing a re-election bill after a similar attempt was narrowly defeated in August. “Paraguayans have to go out on to the streets to defend democracy, which is under attack,” Rafael Filizzola, a senator with the leftwing Democratic Progressive Party, told reporters.
Security forces surrounded Paraguay’s Congress on Tuesday while lawmakers argued over a possible change in law that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election, a move that the opposition says would weaken democratic institutions. Hundreds took to the streets of the capital in opposition-led protests of the proposed change, though no incidents of violence were reported. Police remained outside the building well into the evening, and streets surrounding the Congress and presidential palace remained closed off. A bill allowing presidents to run for a second five-year term was defeated in the legislature last year.
Electoral violations had been detected in Paraguay’s presidential elections that put millionaire businessman Horacio Cartes in power, the Organization of American States (OAS) said Monday. Oscar Arias, head of a mission sent by the OAS to observe the presidential elections, told a press conference that members of his delegation witnessed “vote buying” at some polling stations and the “roundup” of indigenous groups before they were taken to the polls. Both represented “serious electoral violations,” said Arias, a former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Horacio Cartes, a Paraguayan tobacco magnate, faced various challenges during his presidential bid. He was pressed to explain why antinarcotics police officers apprehended a plane carrying cocaine and marijuana on his ranch in 2000; why he went to prison in 1989 on currency fraud charges; and why he had never even voted in past general elections. Still, voters across the country seemed ready to give Mr. Cartes the benefit of the doubt, handing him a solid victory in Paraguay’s presidential election on Sunday. He took 46 percent of the vote against 37 percent for his main opponent, Efraín Alegre of the ruling Liberal Party, with about 80 percent of the voting stations reporting. Electoral authorities declared Mr. Cartes the winner.
Voters will choose a president and vice president, 45 senators, 80 deputies and the governors of 17 departments. The vote was precipitated by the impeachment of Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop who was laicized upon his election as Paraguay’s president in 2008 and removed from office by the legislature in Jun 2012. Lugo was voted out by Congress over his handling of a land dispute in which 17 people died. The top two presidential candidates are trading accusations of cozying up to drug traffickers and pilfering public funds.
A UNASUR technical mission that will observe the Paraguayan general elections to be held in April, is now employed in the verification of electoral rules and the organization of the elections. The mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) will continue this work until Monday, as announced by the general coordinator of the delegation, Alejandro Tullio, who is Argentina’s national election director.
A well-known candidate for Paraguay’s presidency died in a helicopter crash while on the campaign trail, authorities said Sunday.
Retired Gen. Lino Cesar Oviedo died late Saturday night when the helicopter he was traveling in plunged to the ground in western Paraguay, officials said. He was 69. Investigators found the charred helicopter wreckage Sunday morning and discovered that Oviedo, his bodyguard and the chopper’s pilot had perished, Paraguay’s civil aviation authority said.
Paraguay, rocked two months ago by the ouster of its president Fernando Lugo, will hold general elections in April 2013, the country’s superior court of electoral justice said. “Some 3.5 million people are registered to vote,” in the April 21, 2013 polls, court head Alberto Ramirez said during a ceremony attended by President Federico Franco, who came to power in June after Congress sent Lugo packing. “It has been rumored that this government would not organize elections, or that it intended to delay them to stay in power for a longer time,” Franco said. “The process will be completed when the new president takes office on August 15,” 2013, said Franco, pledging to step down on that date.
Voters in Paraguay have backed a proposal to allow citizens living abroad to vote in general elections. Electoral officials said the measure was approved by 80% of voters, but turnout was put at just 12.5%.
President Fernando Lugo had urged people to approve the constitutional amendment, saying it would strengthen Paraguay’s democracy. More than half a million Paraguayans live abroad out of a population of about six million. Most of them are in Argentina, followed by Spain and the US.