Cartes campaign has centered on his pro-business track record and his success with ventures that range from the tobacco industry to meat production. Hes also the president of Libertad, one of the most popular soccer teams in the country.
But the accusations against him have continued to swirl, despite his efforts to focus on key problems such as health, education and, above all, poverty in a country where about a third of the population is considered poor.
Wikileaks cables from the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires in 2010 suggest that Cartes was the head of a gang operating out of the Triple Frontier, a lawless area bordering Argentina and Brazil, and was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. Back in February 2000, a small plane was intercepted on one of his farms containing cocaine and marijuana.
The businessman also has been investigated for tax evasion and contraband cigarettes that have flooded into the Brazilian market.
Cartes declined a request for an interview with The Miami Herald, but Julio Velázquez, a Colorado senator standing for reelection, responded to the allegations from party headquarters.
When it comes to drug trafficking, Horacio has made it very clear what his position is, he said. Theres no concrete allegation against him. Horacio also has significant investments in the U.S. Do you think the Americans would allow a narco to bring money into their country?
After the high of 2008 when Lugo won election on a promise to reform the country and its land rights issues, the ex-presidents new coalition, Frente Guasú, is trailing in fourth place. Lugo, barred from standing for president again, is running for the Senate.
Chiqui Ávalos, author of The Other Side of HC a recent book about Cartes, compared the Colorados to the PRI in Mexico and the powerful grip both parties continue to hold.
Lugos government was not what people had hoped for, he said. He eliminated the hope for change and lots of people who voted for him [in 2008] have returned to the Colorado Party.
For Ávalos, Cartes represents conservative big business and corruption, which landlocked and impoverished Paraguay has struggled to throw off throughout its history.
If Cartes wins, he said, it will be a return to the past.