ASUNCION – Paraguayan Vice President Juan Afara announced on Wednesday that he is leaving Honor Colorado, the main movement of the governing Colorado Party, thus distancing himself from President Horacio Cartes with an eye toward the April 2018 general election.
The rumors that Afara was going to split with the party’s main current gained strength last week when Cartes said that his current pick for president in the upcoming vote is Finance Minister Santiago Peña.
“I’m withdrawing from the Honor Colorado. Today, I’m out of the Honor Colorado movement,” said Afara – who has been acting president since Tuesday when Cartes began his official visit to Portugal – at a press conference.
Afara added that he will continue with his duties as vice president but at the same time he will cooperate with other groups within his party to “create a consensus.”
He also said that in the Colorado Party’s internal election in December, out of which will emerge the party’s presidential candidate, he sees the possibility of just two contending forces, although he gave no details.
Analysts feel that although Cartes still has not confirmed it, he will support Peña in the 2018 election.
On Sunday, the finance minister asked for a leave of absence from his duties to be able to travel to several cities around the country to meet with political leaders of the Colorado Party amid rumors about his presidential candidacy.
Opposing Peña’s candidacy within the Colorado Party, besides Afara, are other figures such as Hugo Velazquez, the head of the lower house, who question his limited political career within the party.
The dispute within the party over its presidential nominee erupted after Cartes’ announcement that there were “no conditions” under which he would run in the upcoming election.
Cartes had become a “virtual candidate” after the Senate secretly voted for a constitutional amendment – sponsored by Colorado Party lawmakers – that would have allowed him to run for re-election.
Paraguay’s 1992 constitution bans presidential re-election, a popular feature in the wake of the fall of the lengthy Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship in 1989.
However, the move sparked widespread rioting in late March leaving an opposition activist dead, dozens of people injured, more than 200 arrested and the Paraguayan Senate a charred ruin.