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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 22:10 GMT 23:10 UK
Liberal wins Paraguay's vice-presidency
Julia Cesar Franco
Mr Franco had the narrowest of victories
By South America correspondent Stephen Cviic

Paraguay's Liberals have been celebrating their candidate's victory in the country's vice-presidential election - their first major electoral victory in more than 50 years.

Map of Paraguay
Julio Cesar Franco defeated his rival in the governing Colorado Party rival by a margin of fewer than 10,000 votes.

The Colorado Party has governed Paraguay since the 1940s and it doesn't like losing.

Between election night eleven days ago and the release of the final results, Colorado officials made strenuous attempts to prove that the poll had been rigged, but the authorities accepted only a few of their complaints.

The previous vice-president, Luis Maria Argaņa, was shot dead last year and this election was held to find a replacement.

Coup leader

Mr Argana's son, Felix, was the Colorado Party's candidate.

The choice of the new vice-president is particularly significant as he is now the country's most senior elected official.

Felix Argana
Felix Argana: His father was vice-president until his murder last year
President Luis Gonzalez Macchi took office last year following a constitutional crisis, and he has never had to face the voters.

With its economy in deep trouble, Paraguay badly needs a period of political stability - but that is not necessarily going to happen.

Some observers are concerned about the kind of support Mr Franco received during his campaign.

He probably wouldn't have won without the endorsement of Lino Oviedo, the former army commander and coup leader who is currently languishing in a Brazilian jail.

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See also:

14 Aug 00 | Americas
Opposition man leads Paraguay poll
19 May 00 | Americas
Paraguay uprising foiled
20 May 00 | Americas
Arrests follow failed Paraguay coup
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