Franco, Federico (Paraguay)

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Federico Franco became president in June 2012 after the impeachment of his predecessor, Fernando Lugo. Franco had been vice-president since 2003.

Early Life

Luis Federico Franco Gómez was born in Asunción on 24 July 1962. The son of a physician active in the Liberal Party, he attended the San Jose Apostolic College before graduating in medicine from the National University of Asunción in 1986.

After postgraduate study in Cuba, he qualified as a surgeon and established a practice in Fernando de la Mora, a suburb of Asunción. A supporter of the centrist Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA) since his student days, Franco was elected to represent them in the municipality of Fernando de la Mora in 1991 and became mayor in 1996.

In 2000 Franco’s brother, Julio César, was elected PLRA party vice president. In the general election of April 2003, Franco was narrowly elected governor of the Central department but his brother lost the presidential race to Nicane Duarte Frutos of the Colorado Party. As governor of Central, Paraguay’s most populous and prosperous department, Franco reformed its health services.

In Jan. 2008 Franco was elected leader of the PLRA, taking it into a new 12-party coalition, the Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC). The APC leader, Fernando Lugo, won the presidency on a platform of social reform, bringing an end to 61 years of Colorado Party rule. Franco became vice-president but policy differences with Lugo soon emerged, notably over land reform. Franco accused the president of failing to respect the law in his drive to push through measures to give land to poorer farmers.

Amid growing hostility from Congress and the armed forces, Lugo’s authority was further undermined by paternity claims made against him by three women in 2009. In mid-2012 there were violent clashes between police and farmers occupying land that they claimed had been taken from them during the Stroessner dictatorship. Seven police and 11 farmers were killed. Parliament launched an impeachment of the president over his handling of the crisis and a vote on 21 June ended his mandate. In accordance with the constitution, Franco took over as president until Aug. 2013.

Career Peak

Progress on Franco’s promised land, tax and energy reforms has been undermined by weak support in Congress and a lack of recognition of his administration by regional neighbours. The governments of Venezuela and Ecuador were particularly critical, arguing that Lugo was not given sufficient time to present the case against his impeachment and that his removal was tantamount to a coup.

Franco did not contest the presidential and parliamentary elections in April 2013. On 15 Aug. 2013 he was succeeded as president by Horacio Cartes.

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