ASUNCION (Reuters) – Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes said on Monday he would not be a candidate in Paraguay’s 2018 election regardless of whether or not Congress passes an amendment to allow second terms.
Cartes, a former soft-drink and tobacco executive, said he was inspired by Pope Francis’s call for peace and dialogue in a letter directed to the Archbishop of Asuncion shared on Twitter.
Protesters set fire to Congress On March 31 after the Senate secretly voted in favor of the amendment, and police later stormed an opposition political party and killed a protester. The lower house has not yet voted on the proposal.
Senator Lilian Samaniego said Cartes’s allies would continue to seek approval from the lower house, though a popular referendum would be required for re-election to pass.
Paraguay’s constitution has prohibited second terms since it was passed in 1992 after a brutal dictatorship fell in 1989. Many citizens in the land-locked South American nation are fiercely opposed to any sign of trying to hold on to power.
“The gesture that really matters would be retiring the amendment,” said Rafael Filizzola, head of opposition Progressive Democratic party.
Paraguay business groups had urged Cartes not to seek another term in order to preserve stability and economic growth in the world’s No. 4 soy exporter.
(Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Chris Reese, Bernard Orr)