- Title: PARAGUAY: Paraguayans wake up to a shift in power
- Date: 21st April 2008
- Summary: CLOSE OF NEWSPAPER
- Embargoed: 6th May 2008 13:00
- Location: Paraguay
- Country: Paraguay
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA8444GHD7GNBCCAD2SYGTOFYAN
- Story Text: Paraguayans on Monday (April 21) woke up to a major change in power after a former bishop won the presidential election, ending 61 years of one-party rule.
The news of Fernando Lugo's victory dominated the headlines and was on the minds of many out and about in the morning.
Lugo, a mild-mannered leftist who quit the cloth three years ago saying he felt powerless to help Paraguay's poor, ousted the ruling Colorado Party in Sunday's election with promises to tackle inequality and stamp out corruption.
Many voters expressed frustration with the current administration of Nicanor Duarte.
"I am a Colorado (meaning member of the Colorado party) but I voted for Lugo because we are fed up with the Colorados. We are fed up with Nicanor mainly," said citizen Licelda Machuca de Velazquez.
Another said the new government had a lot of work to do.
"We want them to fulfill (their promises). That they truly pay attention to the people who are suffering, who are hungry, whatever. That they see them for once. That they keep this in mind - that for this reason they have risen to govern the country," said Juan Sanchez.
Local media trumpeted Lugo's victory. Daily newspaper ABC carried a banner headline proclaiming "a dirty and degrading transition" under the Colorado Party had finally been buried. Two other newspapers led with the headline "Amen!".
Lugo calls himself an independent and has steered clear of Latin America's more radical left-wing leaders, such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales in Bolivia.
He is however seen as a likely ally of moderate leftist presidents in the region, which has steadily turned away from the right-wing dictatorships, extremely corrupt governments and Marxist rebellions that were so prevalent in the late 20th century.
On Monday, he told Reuters he expects the transition to begin quickly.
"I believe that the technical team has to begin to work now, already. I hope that there is an opening and the possibility of working jointly for a transition, a peaceful transfer of power, without trauma or difficulties. I believe that the President of the Republic has already expressed his willingness - which makes us happy - and I believe that from there we will form the technical teams to launch the priorities," he said.
Lugo will take office on Aug. 15 and has vowed to carry out agrarian reform to ensure poor peasant farmers can till their own land in a country where a small, wealthy elite owns the vast majority of farmland and cattle ranches.
The Colorado Party has dominated Paraguayan politics since it took power in 1947, and it backed Gen. Alfredo Stroessner's brutal 35-year dictatorship until helping to oust him in 1989.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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