Paraguay’s Conservatives Score Big Election Win, Defusing Taiwan Fears

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ASUNCION, Paraguay—Paraguayan conservative economist Santiago Peña, 44, won the country’s presidential election on April 30, tightening the ruling Colorado Party’s political grip in the country and defusing fears about the end of diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Peña, who has pledged to maintain Paraguay’s long-standing Taiwan relations, had 42.7 percent of the vote with 99.9 percent of ballots counted, a more than 15-point lead over center-left rival Efraín Alegre, who has argued for switching the country’s allegiance to China.

“Thank you for this Colorado victory, thank you for this Paraguayan victory,” he said in a speech.

Alegre acknowledged the result. Current President Mario Abdo congratulated Peña as “president-elect,” as did the leaders of Brazil and Argentina.

Colorado and right-wing party candidates also performed strongly in congressional elections and governor races, with some provinces recording a historic Colorado majority over opposition rivals.

The election result leaves Peña facing a challenge to rev up Paraguay’s farm-driven economy, shrink a major fiscal deficit, and navigate rising pressures from soy and beef producers to ditch Taiwan in favor of China and its huge markets.

“We have a lot to do, after the last years of economic stagnation, of fiscal deficit, the task that awaits us is not for a single person or for a party,” he said in his victory speech, calling for “unity and consensus.”

It also underscores the dominance of the Colorado Party, which has ruled for all but five of the past 75 years and has a fierce campaign machine, despite rising discontent from some voters over the slowing economy and corruption allegations.

“Once a Colorado always a Colorado,” said Eugenio Senturion, 65, as he voted on April 30 at his local polling station in the area of Jara, Asunción.

Dry weather helped voter turn out with lines to cast ballots long after polling stations were formally meant to close at 4 p.m. local time, analysts said.

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