Latin America & Caribbean

Paraguay's President Horacio Cartes sworn in

Horacio Cartes before his inauguration as president of Paraguay on 15 August 2013
Image caption Mr Cartes owns more than 20 companies ranging from tobacco to soft drinks

Multi-millionaire businessman Horacio Cartes has been sworn in as the president of Paraguay in a ceremony in the capital, Asuncion.

In his inaugural speech, Mr Cartes, of the centre-right Colorado Party, promised to wage war on poverty.

Paraguay is one of the poorest countries in South America.

Mr Cartes, a relative newcomer to politics who had not voted before 2008, was elected with 45.8% of the ballots in April.

Equal opportunities

He defeated his closest rival, the Liberal Efrain Alegre, by nine percentage points.

"I'm not in politics to make a career of it or become wealthier," Mr Cartes, who is one of Paraguay's richest men, said.

"I'm in politics to serve my people, improve the future of new generations and treasure our identity as a free, independent and sovereign people," he added.

He also promised to "put the fatherland first" and to "create opportunities for all" to combat Paraguay's rampant inequality.

Mr Cartes had campaigned on a platform of poverty reduction and job creation.

Choosing his cabinet, he broke with the established tradition of naming senior party members to key posts, instead choosing technocrats and business people.

His Colorado Party was in power for 60 years and played a key part in supporting the military rule of Gen Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989.

In 2008, it was beaten by a left-wing coalition headed by Fernando Lugo.

Neighbourly relations

Mr Lugo was controversially impeached by Congress over his handling of a land eviction in which 17 people died.

The impeachment process took less than 48 hours and was deemed unfair by many of Paraguay's neighbours and led to the country's exclusion from the Mercosur trading bloc.

Image caption Five Latin American leaders attended but Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro was absent

The presidents of the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela) said in July that they would lift the suspension after Mr Cartes' inauguration.

However, Paraguay said it would not return to the Mercosur fold as long as Venezuela held its rotating presidency.

Paraguay has objected to Venezuela's inclusion in the trading bloc.

Asuncion says that a new member can only be included after a unanimous vote and argues that such a vote should not have been held while Paraguay was suspended.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was not invited to Mr Cartes' inauguration.

Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga said he would rather deal with Paraguay's neighbours individually at first.

"We have pending issues with Argentina, with Uruguay; we have to recompose all that," he said. "Mercosur will be later because our priority are the bilateral relations," he added.

Venezuela holds Mercosur's rotating presidency until July 2014.

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