Paraguay to have its first woman president

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Paraguay's Vice President Alicia Pucheta. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Paraguay's Vice President Alicia Pucheta. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Paraguay will have a woman president for the first time in its history, at least temporarily, after outgoing leader Horacio Cartes stepped down on Monday ahead of schedule.

Vice President Alicia Pucheta, 68, will complete Cartes's mandate after he resigned to become a senator.

On August 15, fellow conservative Mario Abdo Benitez, elected in April 22 polls, will begin his five-year term as president of one of Latin America's poorest countries.

The parliament is due to confirm Cartes's resignation and proclaim Pucheta as interim president on Wednesday.

Opposed to the legalisation of abortion, Pucheta is from the right-wing Colorado Party, which has been in power in Asuncion for decades.

Opposition Senator Desiree Masi said she does not see Pucheta's nomination as an advance for women in Paraguay.

"A woman who has shown her complete submission to those in power does not represent us," she said. "One day, a woman will come to power as she should, through the ballot box."

But Lilian Samaniego, a senator from the Colorado Party, hailed the former lawyer's accession to the position as an example to "motivate Paraguayan women to continue to fight for real equality of opportunity with men".

Paraguay has just eight women among its 45 senators, and 11 among the 80 members of the lower house.

Cartes's resignation had been expected since he was elected to the Senate in the April elections. The new senators are to be sworn in on June 30.

Landlocked Paraguay – sandwiched between Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil – enjoyed consistent economic growth during tobacco magnate Cartes's five years in power, but failed to shake off persistent poverty, corruption and drug trafficking.

It remains a land of contrasts, still marked by the 1954-1989 dictatorship of general Alfredo Stroessner.

Despite an official campaign against endemic corruption, Paraguay remains 135th out of 180 countries on the 2017 corruption index of Transparency International.

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