Bishop Deposes Paraguayan Dynasty

APFernando Lugo celebrating his presidential victory with his running mate, Frederico Franco, on Sunday in Asuncion.
ASUNCION, Paraguay -- The world's longest-ruling political party is about to lose its six-decade grasp on power in Paraguay after a former Roman Catholic bishop won the country's presidential election.

The Colorado Party's reign -- which began in 1947 and was marked by the right-wing dictatorship of the late Gen. Alfredo Stroessner until his ouster in 1989 -- was halted by Fernando Lugo, a 56-year-old who advocated an end political and economic corruption.

He beat Colorado Party rival Blanca Ovelar, a 50-year-old protege of President Nicanor Duarte who had sought to become Paraguay's first woman president in Sunday's election.

The triumph of Lugo's eclectic opposition coalition -- the Patriotic Alliance for Change -- is the latest in a series of electoral wins by leftist, or center-left, leaders in South America.

Mark Weisbrot, at the Washington think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research, said Lugo's election is a sign of "deep and irreversible ... changes sweeping Latin America."

But Lugo faces many challenges: 43 percent of the country's 6.5 million people live in poverty, illiteracy is high, 300,000 landless peasant farmers are clamoring for help and Paraguay's corruption is notorious. Lugo himself is a political newcomer, forging his anti-Colorado coalition just eight months ago.

For now, the opposition is basking in its victory, holding gleeful celebrations in the country's capital and outlying cities.

"You have decided what has to be done in Paraguay. You have decided to be a free Paraguay," Lugo told cheering thousands.