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Conservative wins Paraguay's presidency, keeping ties with Taiwan 

This year’s elections were dominated by issues regarding the economy, corruption, and the country’s ties to Taiwan

Paraguayan and Taiwanese flags
Paraguayan and Taiwanese flags | Shutterstock

May 1, 2023 8:45am

Updated: May 1, 2023 8:45am

Santiago Pena, a conservative economist, and former finance minister, won Paraguay’s presidential elections on Sunday, ending fears that the country could cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan. 

During his campaign with the ruling Colorado Party, Pena vowed to keep Paraguay’s long-standing relationship with Taiwan, contrary to his center-left rival, Efrain Alegre, who campaigned to switch the country’s alliance to China instead. 

On Sunday’s elections, Pena had 42.7% of the vote with 99.9% of the ballots counted—a 15-point lead over Alegre. 

"Thank you for this Colorado victory, thank you for this Paraguayan victory," Pena said in a victory speech after the elections. 

"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," Pena added, calling for "unity and consensus."

Alegre, on his part, acknowledged the results of the elections and Current President Mario Abdo congratulated Pena as "president-elect" of the South American nation. 

This year’s elections were dominated by issues regarding the economy, corruption, and the country’s ties to Taiwan. Paraguay is one of the remaining 13 countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with the island, which Beijing considers to be part of its territory.  

Over the past few years, several Latin American countries have switched their ties from Taipei to Beijing, which does not allow them to maintain relations with both countries. This year, Honduras switched its allegiance to Beijing, preceded by Nicaragua in 2021, El Salvador in 2018, Panama in 2017, and Costa Rica in 2007. 

Alegre claimed that keeping the country’s ties with Taiwan would mean the loss of one of the largest markets, which is China.”

Taiwan’s ambassador to Paraguay congratulated Pena on behalf of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen. 

"Based on shared values such as democracy and freedom and the traditional friendship between the two countries, our country will continue to deepen cooperation and exchanges with the new government of Paraguay," the ministry said.

The Colorado Party has governed the country almost continually since 1947. The conservative candidates of the Colorado Party were also successful in winning congressional elections and gubernatorial races, with some provinces recording a historic Colorado majority.