Mario Abdo Benitez, the presidential candidate of the ruling Colorado Party, won Paraguay’s presidential election on Sunday, data released by the country’s election tribunal showed.
According to results released by the Superior Court of Electoral Justice (TSJE) of Paraguay, Benitez garnered 46.44 percent of the vote, compared with 42.74 percent for his main rival Efrain Alegre from the opposition Ganar Alliance, after 99.67 percent of ballots were counted.
Below is a profile of Benitez.
Benitez was born in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, on Nov. 10, 1971.
He is the son of the late private secretary of dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled Paraguay with an iron fist for 35 years. He was 17 years old and was living in the United States when the regime of Stroessner fell in February 1989.
In the same year, he joined the Paraguayan Armed Forces and obtained the rank of second lieutenant in the airforce reserves before training as a paratrooper.
Benitez later obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Teikyo Post University in Connecticut, the United States in 1995.
His first marriage was to Fatima Maria Diaz Benza, with whom he had two children. After they separated, he married Silvana Lopez Moreira.
He entered politics in 2005, according to the biography published on his website “maritoabdo.com,” as a member of the Republican National Reconstruction movement within the Colorado Party.
In 2008, after the Colorado Party lost power, Benitez was elected vice-president of the party, a position he held until 2011.
In 2013, he was elected to the Senate and became known as a close ally of outgoing President Horacio Cartes. He was then elected leader of the Colorado caucus in the Senate, a position he held for the 2015-2016 legislative session.
In June 2017, he announced his candidacy for the presidency of the Colorado Party and faced off against another strong contender, Santiago Pena.
On Dec. 17, 2017, Benitez defeated Pena and won the primary from Colorado Party members.
On March 1, 2018, he resigned from the Senate to focus on campaigning ahead of the elections.
Benitez will take office and begin a five-year term in August when he succeeds Cartes.