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Former bishop elected president of Paraguaycomment (0)

May 8, 2008

ASUNCION, Paraguay — A former Roman Catholic bishop was elected April 20 as the new president of Paraguay after being criticized by his church for running for the office.

Fernando Lugo, 56, defeated the Colorado Party, which had reigned in the country for 62 years. The party was once headed by right-wing strongman Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, who was ousted in 1989. That party’s candidate, Blanca Ovelar, conceded defeat April 20.

"You have decided what has to be done in Paraguay," Lugo told thousands cheering his election in the inland South American country. "You have decided to be a free Paraguay."

The Vatican opposes clergy members holding political office and had demanded that Lugo halt his political pursuits. The man known as the "Bishop of the Poor" said he resigned from the church and no longer must follow its laws.

"Real structural change — social revindication — goes through politics, not the church," he said last year.

While he was bishop of rural San Pedro, Lugo worked with peasants, some of whom had formed groups to protest unequal land distribution.

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