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Costa Ricans elect economist president

Upset over high prices and inflation, Costa Rican voters have elected as president a conservative economist who had failed in two earlier runs for the job.

Joyous revelers, wearing the red and blue of the opposition Social Christian Unity Party, hung from the sides of trucks early Monday and screamed the name of the winner - Miguel Angel Rodriguez."It's party time!" yelled Jorge Gonzalez, 21, among dozens packed into the back of a flatbed truck as thousands of flag-waving celebrants urged them on from the sidewalks of the capital.

With reports counted from 91 percent of the country's ballot boxes, Rodriguez had 46 percent of the vote, compared with 44 percent for Jose Miguel Corrales of the National Liberation Party.

Exit polls put Rodriguez's lead as high as 10 percentage points, and Corrales conceded defeat soon after the first official results were announced. President Jose Maria Figueres - who is from Corrales' party - sent Rodriguez a congratulatory note.

Rodriguez didn't directly proclaim victory at his speech Sunday night, but told a cheering crowd: "I accept the will of the people, and I tell them that I will not fail," he said.

In addition to the presidency, Costa Ricans elected two vice presidents, 57 members of the Legislative Assembly and 571 mayors.

During the campaign, Rodriguez promised to turn around the nation's economic troubles - problems that were new for Costa Rica.

Rodriguez's victory was mainly due to voters' frustration with rising prices and dropping incomes under Figueres, and many hope his business savvy and economic training will help them make ends meet.

"He's going to open opportunities for Costa Ricans," said Daniel Campos, a 26-year-old industrial engineer dancing at Rodriguez's celebration. "He's going to bring inflation down to a reasonable level. He's going to make sure everyone has their basic needs met - and more."