Paraguay ends one-party rule

Leftist ex-bishop Fernando Lugo shoved aside Paraguay's infamous 61-year history of one-party rule as he took office yesterday with promises to end corruption and hunger in the poor South American nation.

Almost shouting to swear that he would uphold the constitution, the typically mild-mannered Lugo was met with thundering cheers from more than 50,000 Paraguayans crowded around a stage outside Congress.

Lugo spoke in Spanish and the indigenous Guarani language, pledging to end the extreme poverty, institutional political corruption and trade in black market goods that defined Paraguay under the Colorado Party, which had ruled continuously since 1947 and was the only party tolerated by the anti-communist Gen. Alfredo Stroessner during his brutal 1954-1989 dictatorship.

"Today Paraguay breaks with its reputation for corruption, breaks with the few feudal lords of the past," said Lugo, dressed in leather sandals and his trademark white, mandarin-collared shirt to set himself apart from the nation's traditional politicians.

After the inauguration to a 5-year term, he gave warm bear hugs to the continent's three most prominent leftists, Bolivia's Evo Morales, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

US Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierez got a handshake. While Lugo has warned he won't accept US meddling, he also said he wants Paraguay to maintain warm relations with Washington.

He later told reporters that his country seeks relations with all nations small and large, mentioning a few but not the United States. Lugo also said he has brushed off warnings that he should fear Chavez, the continent's most strident critic of the United States.

"I'm not scared of anyone," Lugo said at a news conference attended by Chavez, Correa and prominent Brazilian liberation theologist Leonardo Boff.

At home, Lugo faces pressure to make changes fast to ease the deep divide between Paraguay's rich and poor.

But experts don't expect him to govern with sudden decrees or heavy-handed management of the economy like Morales and Chavez. They predict he will seek broad support for reforms, in the style of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's center-left president — who also got a hug.

The inaugural address made it clear that Lugo's ideas about justice for the poor are drawn from leftist South American luminaries. He cited Boff — who was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II — and Salvador Allende, the freely elected Marxist President of Chile toppled in a bloody 1973 coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

"Today marks the end of an exclusive Paraguay, a secretive Paraguay, a Paraguay famous for corruption," said Lugo, who will donate his US$72,000 salary to the poor.

"We dream of a Paraguay with social justice, without hunger."

Elements of the political left and right already have challenged Lugo's authority, raising the specter of political chaos and civil unrest.

Landless peasants who have been seizing private property are threatening a much larger wave of takeovers. The new administration also suspects the outgoing government tried to undermine his presidency by allowing critical supplies of fuel and medicine to disappear.

The Colorados still control most government institutions and will likely frustrate efforts to redistribute land in the small, landlocked country, where an estimated 1 percent of the people control 77 percent of the land.

Lugo has promised to respect private property in his bid to grant land to the poor, but told cheering Paraguayans his administration "will work boldly to obtain better living conditions for the peasants, whether they have land or not."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick