Lugo, Fernando

▪ 2009
Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez 
born May 30, 1951, San Pedro del Paraná, Itapúa province, Para.

      On Aug. 15, 2008, former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo was inaugurated president of Paraguay after having led an opposition coalition (the Patriotic Alliance for Change [APC]) that broke the Colorado Party's 62-year hold on power. Lugo won the April 20 election with 41% of the vote, while Colorado candidate Blanca Ovelar de Duarte earned 31%.

      Lugo rose to prominence in Paraguay as the “bishop of the poor,” leading landless peasants in his poor rural diocese of San Pedro Apóstol de Ycuamandiyú in a campaign for agrarian reform against wealthy landowners backed by the Colorado Party. After 11 years Lugo resigned his bishopric in January 2005 to step more directly into politics. In a country that was infamous for corruption and in which a third of the population of 6.7 million live in poverty, his reputation for honesty and his work for the poor made the priest, who invariably campaigned in sandals and open-necked shirts, enormously popular. Unions, agrarian groups, and others opposing Colorado Party rule united behind him, as did the APC. After Lugo defied a December 2006 canonical admonition against becoming a presidential candidate, the Vatican suspended him a divinis in January 2007, barring him from practicing as a priest.

      Lugo promised to push for land redistribution, political and economic transparency, and new social programs to help the poor. He called for renegotiating Paraguay's share of revenues from Brazil for power from the huge Itaipú hydroelectric dam.While cast in the media as part of a leftist “revolution” sweeping Latin America, Lugo described himself as a moderate compared with his left-leaning presidential counterparts in Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela. “I am not Hugo Chávez, I am Fernando Lugo. I am not Evo Morales, I am not [Rafael] Correa, and I am not Fidel [Castro],” he told the BBC.

      Lugo was the nephew of Epifanio Méndez Fleitas, a Colorado Party leader who was forced into exile in 1956, during Gen. Alfredo Stroessner's 35-year dictatorship (1954–89). After briefly working as a primary-school teacher, Lugo began (1970) a novitiate with the Divine Word Missionaries. In 1977 he gained a degree in religious studies from the Universidad Católica in Asunción and was ordained a priest. He worked the following five years in Ecuador's Andean region under the bishop of Riobamba, Leonidas Proano, a leading South American liberation theologist. After a brief return to Paraguay, Lugo was sent to Rome in 1983 for further studies. He returned to Paraguay in 1987, and in 1992 he was appointed the provincial superior, or head, of the Divine Word community in Paraguay. He was consecrated bishop of San Pedro in 1994.

Robert Ortega

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▪ president of Paraguay
in full  Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez 
born May 30, 1951, San Pedro del Paraná, Para.

      former Roman Catholic bishop who became president of Paraguay (2008– ). His inauguration ended the conservative Colorado Party's 62-year hold on power.

      Lugo was the nephew of Epifanio Méndez Fleitas, a Colorado Party leader who was forced into exile in 1956, during Gen. Alfredo Stroessner (Stroessner, Alfredo)'s 35-year dictatorship (1954–89). After briefly working as a primary-school teacher, in 1970 Lugo began a novitiate with the Divine Word Missionaries. In 1977 he earned a degree in religious studies from the Catholic University in Asunción and was ordained a priest. He worked the following five years in Ecuador's Andean region under the bishop of Riobamba, Leonidas Proaño, a leading South American liberation theologist. After a brief return to Paraguay, Lugo was sent to Rome in 1983 for further studies. He returned to Paraguay in 1987, and in 1992 he was appointed the provincial superior, or head, of the Divine Word community there. He was consecrated bishop of San Pedro in 1994.

      Lugo rose to prominence in Paraguay as the “bishop of the poor,” leading landless peasants in his economically disadvantaged rural diocese of San Pedro Apóstol de Ycuamandiyú in a campaign for agrarian reform against wealthy landowners backed by the Colorado Party. After 11 years Lugo resigned his bishopric in January 2005 to step more directly into politics. In Paraguay, a country infamous for corruption and in which one-third of the population lives in poverty, his reputation for honesty and his work for the poor made the priest, who invariably campaigned in sandals and open-necked shirts, enormously popular. Unions, agrarian groups, and others opposing Colorado Party rule united behind him, as did the centre-left opposition coalition Patriotic Alliance for Change (Alianza Patriótica para el Cambio; APC), which he had helped form. After Lugo defied a December 2006 canonical admonition against becoming a presidential candidate, the Vatican suspended him a divinis in January 2007, barring him from practicing as a priest.

      Lugo defeated Blanca Ovelar of the Colorado Party in the country's 2008 elections and was inaugurated in August, promising to push for land redistribution, political and economic transparency, and new social programs to help the poor. Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez (Chávez, Hugo), a close ally, joined Lugo at the ceremony. Lugo has called for renegotiating Paraguay's share of revenues from Brazil for power from the huge Itaipú (Itaipú Dam) hydroelectric dam and for reforming the country's military.

Robert Ortega
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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