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    Paraguay's National Republican Association candidate for president, Mario Abdo. | Photo: EFE

Published 17 December 2017

Leading the pack are the two candidates vying for the top spot in the right-wing National Republican Association, Mario Abdo and Santiago Pena.

Paraguayans are heading to the ballot box today to select their parties' presidential candidate for the general elections on April 22, 2018. Leading the pack, according to Americas Quarterly, are the two candidates vying for the top spot in the ruling, right-wing National Republican Association, or Colorado Party. Santiago Pena is a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) employee and finance minister. His opponent, Mario Abdo, is a senator who's the son of a private secretary to former dictator General Alfredo Stroessner.

Paraguay's Curuguaty Massacre: A Pretext for a Coup

Little separate the two in policy terms noted Andrew Nickson, an expert on Paraguay at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. “It's all at the level of vague rhetoric.”

While both candidates seek to spur the economy through foreign investment and austerity measures, they've expressed hazy commitments, at best, concerning issues related to healthcare and education. Nickson went on to say that “they can get away with it” because, in general, “there still isn't a social demand for the introduction of policy politics in Paraguay.”

The Colorado Party has dominated Paraguayan politics for almost seven decades. A four-year hiatus occurred during the presidency (2008 - 2012) of Fernando Lugo. His impeachment was preceded by a violent confrontation between 300 heavily-armed police officers and 70 landless campesinos in Marina Kue in the Curuguaty district. The campesinos had occupied the land asserting that it belonged to the state before Stroessner passed it on to its new owner, Blas Riquelme.

When the police operation to evict the occupiers was complete, 11 campesinos, the youngest being 18-year-old Luciano Ortega, and six policemen lay dead.

Paraguay's largely right-wing congress exploited the incident to oust the country's first progressive president in modern history. Immediately afterwards, they went about implementing measures that favored the agribusiness industry that had long-ruled the landlocked, South American nation.

Since then, the opposition alliance between the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, PLRA, and the leftist Guasu Front has remained weakened.

Five Years On, Paraguayan Campesinos Protest Curuguaty Massacre

Political commentator Estela Ruiz Diaz said that “none of the PLRA candidates standing for the presidency incites passion,” adding that they still have to settle their “own feuds.”

However, the Guasu Front announced last year that Lugo will run for president.

"The Guasu Front entered in the political arena to stay, we did not come to do a fashion show or exhibitionism in Paraguayan politics, we came to stay and transform our history," said Lugo.

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