Horacio Cartes has been elected as the new president of Paraguay.
Wealthy businessman and political newcomer Horacio Cartes beat the Liberal Party’s Efrain Alegre by nine percentage points.
The result restores the Colorado Party to power after its defeat by the left-wing candidate Fernando Lugo in 2008.
Horacio Cartes faces the challenge of fighting high levels of poverty and of ending the country’s isolation in the region following last year’s disputed impeachment of President Fernando Lugo.
Regional bodies Mercosur and Unasur suspended Paraguay over the issue.
Horacio Cartes won 45.8% of the votes, compared to 36.9% for Efrain Alegre of the governing Liberal Party. Efrain Alegre conceded defeat shortly after the results were announced.
In his victory speech, Horacio Cartes said that that he would lead Paraguay in “a new direction”.
With tears in his eyes and the Paraguayan flag wrapped around his neck, Horacio Cartes said he would be the president of all Paraguayans.
“I didn’t come to work alone, this country is going to make strong progress once we all realize we have to work together,” he said.
Horacio Cartes has been elected as the new president of Paraguay
Horacio Cartes is a newcomer to politics, who only joined the Colorado Party in 2009.
He is a powerful businessman with controlling stakes in dozens of companies, including a bank, Paraguay’s largest tobacco company and a variety of agricultural businesses.
He is also the chairman of Libertador Football Club, which won last year’s Paraguayan championship.
Horacio Cartes was inspired to join politics in 2009 because he was “disappointed and restless about the political course of Paraguay under a left-oriented-Chavista-inspired government”, he said, referring to the government of President Fernando Lugo and its closeness to the late leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
During his campaign, Horacio Cartes had to confront accusations of fraud and links with drug trafficking.
He dismissed them all, saying that while he had spent time in prison on allegations of fraud in 1989, all charges against him had eventually been dropped.
Horacio Cartes has also been accused of homophobia after telling a radio station that talk of legalizing same-sex marriage made him think of “the end of the world”.
Fellow Colorado members have described him as “efficient” and determined to give the Colorado Party a “fresh start”.
The party, which came to power in 1947, governed Paraguay for 60 years. It played a key part in supporting the military rule of General Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989.
In 2008, it was beaten by a left-wing coalition headed by Fernando Lugo.
Fernando Lugo was controversially impeached in June 2012.
The move followed a land eviction at a farm that led to the deaths of 11 farmers and six police officers.
The incident sparked a nationwide outcry and the opposition declared President Fernando Lugo responsible.
Fernando Lugo was replaced by Vice-President Federico Franco of the Liberal Party in less than 48 hours.
Neighboring countries recalled their diplomats calling the impeachment a “congressional coup”.
Paraguay was suspended from regional trade organization Mercosur and Unasur.
Horacio Cartes said he would make rejoining them one of his priorities.
On Monday, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, who currently holds the rotating presidency of Mercosur, invited Horacio Cortes to attend the next Mercosur meeting in June.
Governments in Latin America have reacted angrily to the impeachment of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in the wake of a land dispute scandal.
Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have condemned the move and recalled their ambassadors for consultations.
But Federico Franco, who replaced Fernando Lugo as president, denied that Lugo’s removal from office was a coup.
In his first news conference, Federico Franco said there had been no break with democracy.
A 39-4 vote in the Senate on Friday saw Fernando Lugo impeached, in a case stemming from his handling of clashes between farmers and police last week in which at least 17 people died.
Earlier, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez had said her country “would not validate the coup” in Paraguay.
Governments in Latin America have reacted angrily to the impeachment of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in the wake of a land dispute scandal
President Cristina Fernandez also said that the South American trade bloc, Mercosur, would take “appropriate measures” at next week’s summit in Argentina.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota condemned the impeachment as a “backward step” liable to be sanctioned by regional institutions such as Mercosur, Reuters news agency reports.
Federico Franco, who had been serving as Fernando Lugo’s vice-president, was sworn in as president immediately after the impeachment.
He insisted the proceedings had been conducted in line with Paraguay constitution.
“What was carried out was a political trial in accordance with the constitution and the laws,” he said.
Federico Franco acknowledged the impeachment had caused tensions with Paraguay neighbors.
“I am calm, we are going to organize the house, we are going to contact our neighboring countries in due time and I’m absolutely certain that they are going to understand the situation in Paraguay,” Federico Franco said.
The presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela, Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez, were also outspoken in their criticism of the move.
“The Ecuadorian government will not recognize any president that isn’t Fernando Lugo,” Rafael Correa said.
“We will not lend ourselves to these tales of alleged legal formalities, which clearly attack democracy,” he added.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez displayed a similar sentiment: “In the name of the people of Venezuela and in the name of the Venezuelan government and as commander-in-chief, I’ll say it.
“We, the Venezuelan government, the Venezuelan state, do not recognize this illegitimate and illegal government that has been installed.”
The governments of Colombia, Mexico and Chile have said they regretted the fact that Fernando Lugo had not been “given reasonable time to prepare his defense”.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said Fernando Lugo’s removal from office was an “attack on the legal foundation of the state”.
The United States and Spain have avoided publicly opposing or supporting the move, instead pressing the principle of democracy in Paraguay.
A statement from the Spanish foreign ministry said: “Spain defends full respect for democratic institutions and the state of law and trusts that Paraguay, in respect for its constitution and international commitments, will manage to handle this political crisis and safeguard the peaceful coexistence of the Paraguayan people.”
The United States took a similar stance.
US State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan was quoted as saying: “We urge all Paraguayans to act peacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay democratic principles.”