Paraguay President-Elect Apologizes For Gay Slurs
Paraguay’s president-elect, Horacio Cartes, said Monday that he’ll urge Congress to approve Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur, and he apologized for making anti-gay comments during the campaign.
A millionaire businessman, Cartes said he transferred his interests in his dozens of companies before the campaign began to avoid conflicts of interests after he takes office Aug. 15.
Cartes said his sister Sarah now runs the family’s businesses, which include vast plantations of soy, tobacco and ranching to a soft drink distributor, Paraguay’s Banco Amambay and the nation’s championship football team, Libertad.
"In our government there won’t be anything that isn’t in the public interest, and none of my relatives will be in the administration," Cartes said at his first news conference, the day after winning the presidency with nearly 46 percent of the vote against six competitors.
Cartes, 56, is one of Paraguay’s biggest employers and revenue producers. His tobacco company alone pays $146 million a year in taxes to the government.
But he’s faced allegations of a darker side to his businesses. The newspaper ABC in Asuncion published an article recently describing seizures of marijuana and cocaine on his properties. A secret 2007 U.S. Embassy cable, published online by WikiLeaks, reported to Washington that Hugo Ibarra, Paraguay’s drug czar at the time, alleged that Cartes and Banco Amambay were responsible for 80 percent of money laundering in Paraguay.
Asked Monday if he’s involved in money laundering, drugs or cigarette smuggling, Cartes said: "Go to judicial power and check. There’s nothing, there’s not a single complaint against me. I’ve been a public figure for years in football, but as soon as I enter politics, all these stories surface, spread by bad people."
His victory will return the conservative Colorado Party to the presidency it held for 61 years before former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo was swept into office in 2008 on promises of land reform. A bloody struggle over land gave the Colorados and their allies the ammunition they needed to impeach the left-leaning Lugo last year, before his five-year term was over.