Maybe Bush Can't Flee to Paraguay After All 
by DebtorsPrison 
Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 06:48:56 PM PDT
Maybe Bush won't find Paraguay so appealing after even that corrupt and 
undemocratic country manages to elect a leftist candidate as president.

You've no doubt heard the unproven rumors of the Bush family's purchase of a 
huge tract of land in Paraguay.  Do a tag search on PARAGUAY  and you'll find 
plenty of diaries. It's a joke that crops up frequently in the comments as 
well.  For one quick and suitably skeptical diary, try Elwood Dowd's from a 
month or so ago.

But we aren't here to talk about that.  Rather, I'd like to offer a brief look 
at Fernando Lugo Méndez, the liberation theology ex-priest who leads in the 
polls for Paraguay's presidential election next year.

Follow me below the fold for more (and OK, we can have a little fun with the 
rumors, too...)

  a.. DebtorsPrison's diary :: :: 
Paraguay has been ruled for over sixty years by the Colorado Party. The most 
notable stretch of those years is, of course, the 35 years state-of-siege 
dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner.  But now,  a former priest is challenging 
opponents of both church and state to take Paraguay in a different direction:

  Known as "the bishop of the poor," Msgr. Fernando Lugo Méndez has been 
strongly influenced by liberation theology, which emerged in Latin America in 
the 1960s and contends that the Roman Catholic Church has a special obligation 
to defend the oppressed and downtrodden. But he is reluctant to position 
himself on the political spectrum, saying that he is interested in solutions, 
not labels.

  "As I am accustomed to saying, hunger and unemployment, like the lack of 
access to health and education, have no ideology," he said in an interview 
here. "My discourse, my person and my testimony are above political parties, 
whose own members are desirous of change and want an end to a system that 
favors narrow partisan interests over those of the country...."

  Monsignor Lugo, 55, is a spellbinding orator in both Spanish and Guaraní, the 
indigenous language spoken by the peasants and urban poor who make up a 
majority of the population in this landlocked country of 6.5 million. In 
speeches, he rails against corruption and injustice, saying, "There are too 
many differences between the small group of 500 families who live with a 
first-world standard of living while the great majority live in a poverty that 
borders on misery." 

The Financial Times has this to say:

  Lugo's own beliefs and policies have yet to be clearly defined, although his 
social commitments are clear and he is influenced by liberation theology, which 
holds that the church is obliged to help the poor. He admits to being "inspired 
by some elements of socialism" as well as admiring certain policies of 
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

  "It's one thing to respect Chavez, but we cannot follow that model here as we 
don't produce 3m barrels of oil a day like Venezuela does. We can't go around 
nationalising everything," says Lugo, who says he also respects the more 
moderate models of Brazil and Chile. "The large majorities here are excluded, 
the workers, the indigenous people - I don't want anyone to be left out, not 
the industrial leaders and private businesses either." 

Lugo currently leads in the polls, but the presidential elections aren't until 
April 20, 2008.  Meanwhile, both the Catholic church and the reining political 
powers in Paraguay are seeking to derail Lugo's candidacy.

In announcing his campaign for the presidency last December, Lugo renounced the 
priesthood, saying "From today on, my cathedral will be the nation."  This step 
was necessary, as the Vatican threatens priests who become involved in politics 
with excommunication, and the Paraguayan Constitution forbids clergy from 
running for office.  However, the two sides have put him in a double bind, with 
the church declaring that the priesthood is a sacred lifelong commitment that 
can never be fully renounced, and current Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte 
threatening to have Lugo's candidacy declared unconstitutional because 
according to the church he remains a priest.

What seems to be keeping his candidacy alive thus far is his strong support 
among the Paraguayan people, restive after decades of oppression, corruption 
and poverty.  A  recent poll "in the Asunción newspaper Última Hora indicated 
that 40.8% of Paraguayans intended to vote for Lugo, against just 9% for the 
probable ruling party candidate supported by the current president, Nicanor 
Duarte."  As the Angus Reid Global Monitor puts it:

  Lugo is steadily winning popular support with his soft-spoken style. The 
prospective candidate claims he is no saviour of the poor, but insists he will 
address poverty, hunger, and the lack of proper health and education systems if 
elected. He asserts he will pay special attention to the marginalized 
indigenous majority, too. He is fluent in Guarani, Paraguay's official 
indigenous language. He refuses to enter the superficial discussion on whether 
he would align Paraguay with the left-leaning governments of Bolivia and 
Venezuela, saying he admires their social policies but disagrees with their 
taste for authoritarianism.

  If Lugo manages to surmount the fierce battle the government is about to 
fight against him-both the Church and the Supreme Court are strongly influenced 
by the Colorados-Lugo could lead Paraguay into an appealing new era of 
renovation. His seemingly apolitical discourse, contrary to what Duarte and his 
allies insist, is prudent and sophisticated, and his sole participation in a 
presidential campaign would already be a victory for Paraguay. 

OK, I promised a little bit of fun over the rumors of the Bush family purchase 
of a huge tract of land in the remote Chaco region of Paraguay.  There are all 
kinds of conspiracy theories about the buy...that the Bush family is in cahoots 
with the Reverend Moon (who also supposedly own a lot of land down there) to 
establish a global dominion regime, or that he's after the natural gas reserves 
in adjacent Bolivia, or that he's looking for a base to overthrow Evo Morales 
in Bolivia, or that he wants to control the Guarani Aquifer, the 
largest-in-South-America source of fresh water that lies below parts of Brazil, 
Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Yes, it's easy to imagine all sorts of nefarious plots.  But you know, if it 
were true that Bush planned to flee to Paraguay, maybe there is a simpler 
explanation.  Maybe he just likes the way politics works there.  We already 
know about Stroessner's brutal 35 years.  But even before that, Paraguay had 
it's share of extreme strongmen.  From 1814-1840, Paraguay was ruled by "El 
Supremo" Gaspar Rodriguez Francia, who closed colleges, post offices and 
newspapers, who closed borders and imprisoned opponents, who banned parties and 
who decreed that every marriage be personally approved by him.  In other words, 
such men as Stroessner and Rodriguez Francia are just the sort of leaders 
George W. Bush most admires.

The legacy of these centuries of brutal rule continue to warp  life in Paraguay 
today.  The Financial Times puts it succinctly:

  The Colorado party is divided between politicians who indulge in "unbridled 
corruption", and those who prefer "to administer corrupt practices in a more 
rational and sustainable way", he says. 

C'mon!  Isn't that the perfect description of the Bush administration! It's no 
wonder that Bush fantasizes about living in what to him must sound like 

Here's hoping Fernando Lugo Méndez can break the cycle and confiscates Bush's 

If you read Spanish, Lugo has an occasional blog on the Paraguayan newspaper 

Reply via email to