Incoming Paraguay president Abdo to name his brother Lopez as finance minister

FILE PHOTO: Paraguay's elected President Mario Abdo Benitez is seen after a meeting with Brazil's President Michel Temer (not pictured) at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Incoming Paraguay President Mario Abdo will name his half-brother and former central bank board member Benigno Lopez as finance minister when he is sworn in on August 15, the transition team said on Tuesday.

Lopez, a lawyer, ran the landlocked South American country’s social security agency under the administration of current President Horacio Cartes. Major changes to Paraguay’s economic policy are not expected under Abdo, who is a member of Cartes’ conservative Colorado party.

Abdo had previously announced that Lopez would play an important role in his government. Future interior minister Juan Ernesto Villamayor defended Abdo’s decision to name a family member as finance minister, arguing in broadcast comments that Lopez was qualified for the job.

Paraguay’s economy has grown under Cartes thanks to a booming agricultural sector and new infrastructure investments, financed in part by the country’s first international bonds. Gross domestic product grew 4.3 percent in 2017 and is expected to expand 4.5 percent this year, according to the central bank.

Still, the country remains one of the poorest and most unequal in the region.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Writing by Luc Cohen, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien