Paraguay is holding presidential elections today, the first since Congress rapidly removed progressive politician Fernando Lugo from office via an institutional coup nearly one year ago. Though the Venezuelan elections (and their fallout) last week were higher profile, the outcome of the Paraguayan elections are no less important for regional politics and social change. of course, the removal of Lugo led to a sudden halt in social programs and reforms that were designed to address the gross inequalities and decades of corruption from the Colorado Party, which was allied with former dictator Alfredo Stroessner. Unfortunately, it looks like that interruption of social reform is going to be longer-term, as conservative candidate Horacio Cartes seems set to win (two of the three of the final polls have him with a solid double-digit lead, with only one putting him behind Liberal Party candidate Efrain Alegre, and even that gap is within the margin of error). While Alegre could perhaps pull off the upset, what seems certain is that Mario Ferreiro of the progressive Avanza País (“Forward, Country”) coalition, with its platform of more equal distribution of wealth, better social programs, workers’ rights, and more equal development for the entire country, is set to lose. Of course, whoever wins will face a number of challenges that face both Paraguay and the region, including massive poverty and grossly unequal distrubution of resources and development, as well as the little matter of Paraguay’s expulsion from Mercosur after the Lugo removal. All in all, today’s election, while not nearly garnering the headlines in the US that Venezuela’s did, is a highly important one whose outcome is worth watching.
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