Leading article: Ballot-box revolutions

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The Independent Online

Across the length and breadth of Latin America, the old political elite classes are on the run. They have fallen in Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Peru, and yesterday in Paraguay, too.

The election of the former Roman Catholic bishop, Fernando Lugo, as president at the weekend has ended the 62-year reign of the Colorado Party in this landlocked country.

All over the continent, a generation of politicians prepared to reach out for the votes of indigenous communities and the economically dispossessed is displacing a class of pro-American politicians. A coterie of leaders that proved infinitely more adept at enriching themselves and their acquaintances than their populations has been voted out of power.

Mr Lugo's victory is all the more remarkable considering that he only decided to run for office eight months ago and is a virtual political novice. In the ferment of Latin American politics, anything, it seems, is possible.

We should not be blind to the deficiencies of the new generation of radical political leaders. Hugo Chavez's demagogic and anti-pluralist tendencies in particular are a genuine concern. And those who campaign on a ticket of alleviating poverty will ultimately be judged on whether they deliver. The test is yet to come for many of these new leaders.

But Latin America's long series of peaceful ballot-box revolutions – and the effect this is already having on the distribution of wealth in this most unequal of continents – have made it the most fascinating region in the democratic world.