Former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo won a historic victory in Paraguay’s presidential election Sunday, ending more than six decades of one-party rule with a mandate to help the nation’s poor and indigenous.
His rival, Blanca Ovelar, conceded defeat after a closely fought race to lead this poor, agrarian nation where Ovelar’s Colorado Party is the only ruling party most people have ever known.
News of the win by the gray-bearded Lugo, dubbed the “bishop of the poor,” set off massive parties in cities across Paraguay with horn-honking caravans of cars blaring music. Others stamped on torn-down banners of the Colorado Party, which many Paraguayans blame for decades of corruption by political elites.
A bishop since 1994, he resigned the post in December 2006 to sidestep Paraguay’s constitutional ban on clergy seeking office. Lugo says he was influenced by the liberation theology frowned upon by the Vatican. But he says he is neither on the left nor the right, but leads a pluralistic coalition.