ASUNCION – Paraguayan Finance Minister Santiago Peña tendered his resignation to mount a presidential run for the Colorado Party in the April 2018 election, authorities said Monday.
The 38-year-old Peña informed President Horacio Cartes that he was stepping down after on Saturday the latter had officially declared him to be a candidate for the Honor Colorado movement, the majority faction within the Colorado Party.
Peña will vie for the party’s candidacy in internal elections in December.
In a letter to Cartes that was released to the media, Peña said that he was leaving the post after ensuring that Paraguay’s “productive muscle” continues to grow at the rate of about 4.5 percent a year.
He added that the growth rate comes “despite the uncertainty that persists on the world scene” and amid an economic slowdown that Paraguay had managed to navigate while “maintaining higher (growth) rates than our neighbors, among the highest in Latin America.”
“We’re carrying out fiscal policy ... to guarantee the quality of spending, a reflection of transparency. Now the public can see how the state invests its resources,” Peña said.
He said that during his tenure as finance minister beginning in January 2015 the country had consolidated its presence in the international financial markets.
After his resignation, Peña will devote himself full time to the Colorado Party primary campaign, in which his main rival grouping will be the Colorado Añetete movement headed by Sen. Mario Abdo Benitez, who also aspires to run for president in 2018.
That movement criticizes Peña for allegedly affiliating himself last year with the Colorado Party after having belonged to the opposition Liberal Party prior to that.
Peña will campaign in the primaries with Luis Gneiting, the governor of southern Itapua province, who is a precandidate for the vice presidency for Honor Colorado.
Meanwhile, Deputy Economy Minister Lea Gimenez was nominated by Cartes to replace Peña and will become the first woman in Paraguayan history to direct the Finance Ministry.
Gimenez holds a doctorate in economics from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and served as an international consultant and economist for the World Bank.