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 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.