Paraguayans Elect President in Vote That Evoked Dictatorship Era

Election officials declared Mr. Abdo Benítez’s victory shortly after 9 p.m., after more than 96 percent of votes had been tallied. He won by about four percentage points, an outcome far closer than polls had suggested.

Mr. Abdo Benítez struck a conciliatory tone as he thanked supporters on Sunday night. “We have built a project that touched the heart of the people and that seeks unity for Paraguay,” he said.

There was significant overlap in the initiatives that both candidates campaigned on. Mr. Abdo Benítez and Mr. Alegre vowed to strengthen the country’s judiciary with the aim of making Paraguay more attractive to foreign investors. And they promised to overhaul the tax system to improve the economy.

The candidates also backed a gender parity bill aiming to pave the way for women to play a more prominent role in politics. They also oppose legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage.


People lined up to vote at a polling station in Mariano Roque Alonso, near Asunción.

Eitan Abramovich/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The lack of radical policy differences made for an election in which the biographies and personal style of the presidential hopefuls loomed large.

During the campaign, Mr. Abdo Benítez, a former president of the Senate, did not overtly pay homage to the era when the country was ruled by a dictatorship.

But he refrained from disavowing the abuses carried out by the junta during the region’s longest military dictatorship, which included rape, forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions.

Mr. Abdo Benítez, 46, appeared keen to elicit the memory of his father, Mario Abdo, on Sunday morning after he cast his ballot. Trailed by reporters, the candidate visited the family mausoleum where his father is buried in Asunción’s Recoleta cemetery.

The dictatorship is an abstract idea for many voters in this country of nearly 7 million people, where the median age is 25. But the candidacy of Mr. Abdo Benítez clearly rattled young liberals.

On Friday night, at a concert featuring psychedelic cumbia and feminist reggaeton at a colonial house in Asunción, Pedro Lezcano, a percussionist, grabbed the microphone and said, “If your folks are Colorados, hide their cédulas,” a reference to the national identity cards required for voting. Attendants clapped and started yelling, “Dictatorship never again!”

But some young voters said they favored Mr. Abdo Benítez because of the stories they have heard about life under military rule.

“I didn’t live through the dictatorship, but I know that life was good and I think we could use another period like that,” José Rodríguez, a 19-year-old medical student, said on Sunday night. “There are too many thieves and assaults, and it wasn’t like that before.”

Paraguay’s economy has been among the top performers in the region in recent years, even as neighboring Brazil weathered a brutal recession. But the landlocked country remains one of the continent’s poorest and least equitable in terms of wealth.

Despite those factors, Mr. Alegre, a former congressman and minister in the Lugo government, said leftist parties have struggled to mount a strong challenge to the ruling party because its allies across government give it a built-in advantage.

“There are three or four generations of public servants who are Colorados, 95 percent of government officials are Colorados,” he said. “It’s a result of the dictatorship years and successive clientelist governments.”

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Paraguayans Elect President in Vote That Evoked Dictatorship Era was last modified: April 23rd, 2018 by admin

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