Who is Santiago Peña, president-elect of Paraguay: the economist who promised “more money in the pockets” of the people

2023-05-01 00:10:18

He winning candidate of the presidential elections of Paraguay, Santiago Peñaof the ruling Colorado Party, will succeed Mario Abdo Benítez in the government of a country praised for its economic stability but plagued by corruption and organized crime.

The economist Peña, 44, is considered a technocrat with little political experience. He studied at Columbia University in New York and was Minister of Economy during the Cartes administration. Shis only electoral experience was in 2017, when he lost the Colorado Party primaries to Mario Abdo.

He defends Paraguay’s relations with Taiwan and was criticized for his view that dictator Alfredo Stroessner brought “stability” to Paraguay, despite human rights groups attributing between 1,000 and 3,000 deaths and disappearances to the regime.

The results of the Elections in Paraguay: Santiago Peña won by more than 15 points over Efraín Alegre

In the campaign he promised “more money in the pockets” of Paraguayans through the creation of 500,000 jobs and the formalization of the economy, but he did not explain how.

To attack him, his adversaries call him “Cartes’s secretary” “I feel very calm, with a lot of peace knowing that I have given everything humanly possible,” he said.

He also knows that he has well-oiled machinery. “The Colorado Party is by far the largest political nucleation in Paraguay: 55% of all national voters are affiliated with the party, registered in the Colorado Party“, he pointed.

Who is Santiago Peña, the next president of Paraguay

At 44 years old, this was the first time that Peña participated in a national election. His only previous experience had been when in 2017 he lost the presidential nomination in the Colorado primaries against the current president Mario Abdo.

Tall and athletic, Peña is seen as a technocrat with a brilliant academic career but little political experience. His entry into politics came from the hand of former president Horacio Cartes, who affiliated him with the Colorado Party and had him as Minister of Economy.

In the living room of his elegant house in Asunción, his photos are displayed embracing his wife Leticia Ocampos, whom he married when they were teenagers after she became pregnant. In addition to that son, now 26 years old, the couple has a 17-year-old girl.

“I became a father at the age of 17. It was a hard moment in life. It was not planned, but it led me to build on very solid principles of commitment, of responsibility, of honesty, of integrity, of knowing that there are people who depend on you. And without realizing it, at the age of 17 I began to develop a vocation for service,” he said.

Paraguayan opposition dreams of dethroning divided Colorado party for second time in 76 years

Peña remembers that the families of both helped them and that his father encouraged him to continue studying. He also acknowledges the support of his mother and his two older brothers. Today he rejects the legalization of abortion because it seems to him “the easiest, a shortcut.” And he declares himself determined to defend the family “in its traditional composition: mom, dad and children.”

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Peña was able to go to Columbia University in New York and worked for a time for the International Monetary Fund.. He was also part of the board of the Central Bank of Paraguay. He says that during the election campaign he received “great family support.” “I have a wonderful family nucleus that has accompanied me, that has been a containment throughout this period,” he commented in an interview.

Taiwan, Jerusalem, employment, dictatorship

Peña said that he will preserve diplomatic relations with Taiwan, despite the questioning of productive sectors, especially agribusiness and livestock, which ask to open exports to China. He also assured that he is united by “an enormous bond of brotherhood with Israel” and he intends to move the Paraguayan embassy to Jerusalem again.a measure that, in line with Donald Trump, Cartes had taken at the end of his government and that the current president Mario Abdo reversed.

Although he did not present a government program during the campaign, one of his main promises was the creation of 500,000 jobs. And in a country that suffered one of the longest dictatorships in Latin America, that of Alfredo Stroessner (1954-89), he was criticized for declaring that he brought “stability” to the country. “I think Stroessner is breaking the cycle of political instability,” he said. “Unfortunately, many freedoms and human rights were curtailed, under the pretext of stability,” he completed.

With Santiago Peña the dominance of the Colorado Party continues

The Colorado Party has dominated political life in Paraguay almost uninterruptedly since 1947. The dictator Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989) ruled under its aegis for 35 years, whose regime caused between 1,000 and 3,000 deaths or disappearances.

The only time Paraguay had a president who did not come from the Colorado Party was with the leftist Fernando Lugo, who came to power in 2008. A former Catholic bishop, Lugo was ousted in 2012 after an impeachment trial denounced as a coup by Argentina, Brazil , Uruguay and Venezuela.

In 2013, tobacco businessman Horacio Cartes, one of the richest men in Paraguay, returned the Colorado Party to power. President until 2018, he was sanctioned by the United States as “significantly corrupt” in 2022 along with the current vice president, Hugo Velázquez.


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