Paraguayans celebrated the fall of the only ruling party most of the country’s six million inhabitants have ever known amid wild scenes of euphoria in the capital, Asunción.
Fernando Lugo, a softly spoken 56-year-old former Catholic bishop who comes across more as a priest than a politician, became the first opposition leader to win power peacefully in Paraguay’s history and brought to a close almost 62 years of Colorado party rule. He took more than 40 per cent of the vote, against 31 per cent for Blanca Ovelar, a former education minister bidding to become the country’s first female president.
The central pledge of Mr Lugo, who was backed by his 20-party Patriotic Alliance for Change, was to bring change to a country where most inhabitants feel humiliated by the blatant corruption and cronyism of the Colorados. Many people remain stuck in poverty or have been forced to emigrate in search of work.
“Things are going to change, and for the better,” Mr Lugo told supporters in front of the country’s Pantheon, which holds the tombs of national heroes. “We will build a Paraguay that will not be known for its corruption and poverty, but for its honesty.”