Paraguay’s Election Was an Unexpected Win for Taiwan

Paraguay’s Election Was an Unexpected Win for Taiwan
Paraguayan President-elect Santiago Pena addresses supporters after the voting closed for general elections in Asuncion, Paraguay, April 30, 2023 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

It’s hard to imagine that elections in a small, landlocked country in South America would have significant repercussions for China, or that the status of Taiwan would be of considerable interest to voters in Paraguay. But that is exactly what just occurred Sunday, when Paraguay held a national election in which one of the top issues before voters was whether or not to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan and establish them with China.

The leading presidential candidates had divergent issues on the many major challenges faced by the country of just 7 million people. Paraguay has struggled to recover from the pandemic. Its fiscal deficit has ballooned. Poverty has risen. And economic growth has all but stalled. In addition, the U.S. Treasury Department has put what it calls Paraguay’s “endemic corruption” in the spotlight by sanctioning the country’s former president and vice president.

Ahead of the vote, pollsters were predicting a close race, perhaps even a technical tie between Santiago Pena, a conservative economist from the right-wing Colorado Party, and his challenger, Efrain Alegre, a long-time legislator and former minister from the leftist Authentic Radical Liberal Party, running as the candidate for the Concertacion coalition.

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