Paraguay: New President Sworn In
Horacio Cartes, 57, who has faced down allegations of drug trafficking, cigarette smuggling, money laundering and currency fraud, was sworn in as President of Paraguay on Thursday.
A successful businessman in several industries ranging from tobacco to soft drinks, Cartes has accumulated vast wealth about which he offered few details during his campaign. Paraguay, which ranks 150 of 176 nations in perceived corruption by the NGO Transparency International, does not have transparency laws.
Cartes's predecessor, former bishop and current senator Fernando Lugo, was impeached in 2012 for "poor performance of duties". Lugo's supporters saw the impeachment as a political coup.
Paraguay is host to a massive wealth disparity. Thirty-nine percent of citizens live in poverty. The public hopes that Cartes, who received 45.8 percent of the votes, can spur economic growth and attract foreign investment.
Documents published by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that the US State Department suspected Cartes of heading drug trafficking and money laundering operations. US Drug Enforcement Administration agents infiltrated Cartes's companies to disrupt believed illegal drug smuggling activities. He was also jailed for 60 days in 1986 during a currency fraud investigation which was ultimately dropped, The Associated Press reported.
Cartes is the target of criminal investigations in Brazil as well.
"I wouldn't want to be president if I had ties to drug traffickers," Cartes said. "I'm in politics to serve my people, make the future better for new generations and build up our identity as a free, independent and sovereign people."