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PARAGUAY
Fernando Lugo takes office
8/21/2008
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Former bishop vows to combat corruption and launch agrarian reform.

Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop-turned politician, took office as Paraguay s new president on Aug. 15, promoting to put an end to rampant corruption and social exclusion in the country.

Lugo s inauguration into his five-year term in office put an end to six decades of ruling by the right-wing Colorado Party.

Lugo, 57, a center-leftist, was elected on April 20 with 41 percent of the vote, a lead of more than 10 percentage points over his rivals Blanca Ovelar of the Colorado Party and former Gen. Lino Oviedo.

Lugo requested that the Vatican free him of his clerical status to run for president in December 2006. Pope Benedict XVI granted the request in July this year.

The new president heads the Patriotic Alliance for Change movement – a grouping of nine political parties including left- and center-left parties and 20 social movements.

“A sign of these times will be austerity,” Lugo said in his inaugural address. “We will put a special emphasis on the control of public goods” to avoid pilfering.

One of Lugo s biggest challenges will be to forge alliances in Congress, in order to pass his reforms.

Land reform is another pressing issue. Only 351 landowners in Paraguay hold 9.7 million hectares, while more than 350,000 campesina families are landless or have an insufficient amount of land.

Lugo said one of his government s first tasks will be a land census. He denied claims that there would be any forced expropriations of land. —Latinamerica Press.


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