Paraguay finance minister Peña to run for president: ruling party

Paraguayan Finance Minister Santiago Pena speaks during an interview with Reuters prior to the Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank in Luque, Paraguay, March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguayan Finance Minister Santiago Peña will run for president in 2018 with the blessing of center-right President Horacio Cartes, leaders of the ruling Colorado Party told reporters on Monday.

That will require Peña, a 38-year-old economist who previously had roles at the International Monetary Fund and on Paraguay’s central bank board, to step down from his current role once his candidacy becomes official.

Investors favor Cartes’ low-tax policies and credit him with spurring one of the fastest economic growth rates in Latin America. But his attempt to change the constitution to allow a run for a second term sparked riots earlier this year.

Cartes said last month he would not run after all in order to preserve stability. There are few other obvious presidential candidates, though Peña faces concerns about his relative lack of political experience and will likely need to battle for the Colorado nomination against party veterans.

Peña has indicated in recent interviews that his policies would likely be similar to those of Cartes - keeping a lid on taxes, controlling the deficit and widening social programs in the world’s No. 4 soy exporter.

Peña’s candidacy is expected to be officially confirmed later this week. A spokesman for Peña said he did not have information on the timing of any announcement.

Party primaries will be held in December of this year before the general election next April.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Writing by Luc Cohen and Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Dan Grebler