Paraguayans vote in presidential election, jeopardizing ties with Taiwan  


ASUNCION(AFP)-Paraguayans are readying to head to the polls in what could be the biggest electoral challenge to the ruling conservative Colorado Party in over a decade and with the country’s near 70-year ties with Taiwan potentially at stake.

The ballot marks the sternest challenge in a decade for the Colorado Party, which has dominated Paraguayan politics since the 1950s and ruled for all but five of the last 75 years, but has been hit by a slowing economy and graft allegations.

“I want change, yes, but not with Colorado, because it’s been them for over 70 years and we are suffering,” said Miriam Sanabria, a food vendor in Asuncion. “We need work, better security, and free medicine at hospitals.”

In the streets and news debates, the political build-up has been dominated by the economy, corruption allegations and the candidates’ views on Taiwan. Paraguay is one of 13 countries that have formal diplomatic relations with the democratically controlled island claimed by China.

Alegre has criticized Paraguay’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which makes it difficult to sell soybeans and beef to China, the world’s major buyer.

Peña said he would maintain ties with Taiwan.

Nearly 5 million people are registering to vote in Sunday’s first-round presidential election. Paraguayans also elect members of parliament and governors.

At a recent campaign rally, Alegre has targeted corruption allegations that have plagued his Cartes leader, Horacio of the Colorado Party, who has been sanctioned by the US Treasury this year. He called him “Pablo Escobar of Paraguay”. Kurt denies the charges.

In his closing remarks, Peña acknowledged the party’s division and vowed to become “a symbol of party unity.”

Paraguayan student Catherine Gonzalez felt that none of the candidates offered what most ordinary people needed.

“I think they’re a far cry from the daily lives of people who have to take public transportation, earn minimum wage, survive, pay rent, and feed their families,” she said.