Tens of thousands of Paraguayans packed central Asuncion Saturday, reveling in new-found political freedom as candidates wound up their campaigns for the May 1 general election.

The reds and greens of the two main parties festooned the colonial plazas, street-corner speakers made last-ditch bids to convince voters, and vendors hawked corn cakes, fake watches and Guarani Indian trinkets.For many, Monday will be the first time in more than three decades they can vote for the candidate of their choice.

Acting President Andres Rodriguez, the army general who toppled dictator Alfredo Stroessner in a coup three months ago, lifted a ban on all political parties, except the Communist Party, in what he described as "pure and crystal clear elections."

Stroessner legitimized his 34-year regime by winning eight consecutive elections against a token, puppet opposition.

Rodriguez, 65, who has denied allegations that part of his vast fortune was earned from drug trafficking, is the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency.