|Paraguay Changes: Elections End 60 Years of Right Wing Rule|
|Written by Michael Fox|
|Monday, 21 April 2008 11:46|
"I came here to vote for Lugo, and now I'm here for him. I came here to vote, and I voted, and now I'm here, present for my president. President Lugo, President Lugo!" chanted an elderly Graciela Bogadin in both Spanish and Guarani. The people around her cheered. Bogadin is a Paraguayan who has lived in Argentina for many years. She is one of the thousands who came back to vote in yesterday's historic elections and who descended on Asuncion's Heroe's Pantheon last night for the victory celebration.
"I want to pray that the good god bless our Paraguay, that deserves better horizons, better times, for absolutely all of her children, those who are in Buenos Aires, or New York, or Spain or Brazil, in whatever part of the geography of the planet, here is a country that recognizes them, appreciates them, and we also count on them," said a powerful President-elect Fernando Lugo only an hour earlier at a nearby press conference, as if talking directly to Bogadin.
"We are convinced that this country has the right to better horizons," said Lugo. "We've felt it in the pain and tears of so many mothers, and the hopelessness of so many youth, and the suffering of so many children, and a special invitation to all of the Paraguayan political class, to join together for this country, which was great, and together we believe will once again be great in the concert of Nations."
In the pressrooms, and television and radio studios across the city of Asuncion, the question is - what is the future of the Paraguayan political class, in other words, the Colorado party? Word on the street has it that current President Nicanor Duarte Frutos is going to get the blame for the electoral defeat.
In a highly contentious move, the former Vice-President, and Washington-backed Colorado party member, Alberto Castiglioni, made controversial statements yesterday afternoon, in what appeared to be an attempt to shake up the party. "We will see who is the true Colorado party," said Castiglioni. The comments have caused an uproar in the Paraguayan press.
Yesterday's final results give Lugo a victory of more than ten points over his closest challenger, Colorado candidate Blanca Ovelar.
The six-decade reign of the Colorado party was riddled by corruption and widespread fraud, something many Paraguayans feared would plague yesterday's vote.
Although observers witnessed Colorado coercion and vote buying, international observers congratulated Paraguay on its elections and confirmed that "in general", things ran smoothly. Violence and fraudulent acts, they said, did not play a decisive role.
"I'm happy that, generally speaking, it's been a legitimate event, without the violent altercations, which some people with certain interests were calling for," said Mariano Arana, former Uruguayan Minister of Housing, after the press conference at the posh Hotel Granados in downtown Asuncion. Arana was one of hundreds of international observers in town for the elections.
On top of the presidential elections, hundreds of local seats were up for grabs yesterday across the country. While many of the contests are still being counted, early results suggest that the left may have also won new victories in the Paraguayan congress, including Camilo Soares, head of the Movement to Socialism Party.
Lugo takes the reigns of the country on August 15th. He has promised to fight corruption, and support Paraguay's poor, but he has his work cut out for him. While Paraguay is energy-rich, it is also considered one of the poorest and most corrupt in Latin America. Forty percent of the population is without potable water, forty percent live in poverty and less than ten percent have medical insurance.
But for now, none of that seems to matter to the revelers in the Asuncion streets: "Many thanks to all of you, and long live Paraguay!" cries Lugo.
Michael Fox is reporting for UpsideDownWorld.org on the Paraguayan elections.
Click here to listen to this report by Fox on Free Speech Radio News on the Fernando Lugo victory in Paraguay.