Thursday, April 24, 2008

Paraguayans Elect Left Wing Bishop as President

Fernando Lugo plans to meet Hugo Chavez soon
Fernando Lugo, a 57-year-old Roman Catholic bishop will begin his term of office as president of Paraguay on august 15, 2008. Lugo obtained the first majority during the elections held on April 20 as candidate of a left wing coalition called “Patriotic Alliance for Change”. Lugo was able to break the 60 year monopoly exerted by the “Colorado Party” on Paraguayan politics by obtaining 40% of the votes while his nearest competitor, Blanca Ovelar of the Colorado Party got 21%. The third candidate, a former Army general called Lino Oviedo got a little more than 10 % of the votes. In 2007 Lugo formally submitted his resignation as Bishop to Pope Benedict XVI, that instead suspended him “ad divinis”. This means that Lugo continues to belong to the Roman Catholic Church but is not allowed to carry out ecclesiastical activities and be President of Paraguay at the same time.

During his first interview given to local press on April 22, Lugo stated that his priority will be to get a fair deal with Paraguay’s two powerful neighbors, Brazil and Argentina regarding the distribution of electricity generated by two hydroelectric dams. Together with those countries Paraguay has built the Itaipu hydroelectric dam (Brazil) and Yacyreta dam (Argentina). At present Paraguay sells US$100 million per year to Electrobras (the Brazilian Electricity Company) that in turns resells the energy for US$2 billion within Brazil. The case of Yacireta is similar, where Paraguay sells electricity to Argentina at only US$8 per megawatt.
“The hydroelectric dams are binational. We want a fair price for the energy, at the real market price, not the cost price, so that the Paraguayan economy can improve substantially,” said Lugo.

President Lugo has also stated that he plans to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as soon as possible and denied that the Venezuelan leader supported his election campaign with financial donations.
During Spanish colonial rule Paraguay was one of the most advanced countries in the region, mainly due to the work of the Jesuit religious order that established a peaceful relation with the native Guarani ethnic group. However, after independence from Spain in the first decade of the 19th century, Paraguay lost large portions of its territory in a war waged against an alliance formed by Brazil and Argentina, and since then has become a landlocked country with a population near to five million.
After World War II, Paraguay was condemned worldwide after its then head of state, General Alfredo Stroessner granted refuge to many Nazi war criminals, including Josef Mengele, that became Stroessner´s personal doctor.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Manchester United Holds Barcelona to Goalless Draw at Nou Camp

English club near to playing final of UEFA Champions League

Barcelona and Manchester United played the second semifinal of the UEFA Champions league on April 23 at the Nou Camp Stadium in front of 98,700 spectators. The other was played the day before in Liverpool where the home team drew 1-1 with Chelsea. Manchester United had not played at this stadium since 1999 when it won that year’s edition of the UEFA Champions League after defeating Bayern Munich of Germany. This was the English club’s second time to win the European competition, the first being in 1968. Barcelona have also won this trophy twice (1992 and 2006) and the local fans are certainly eager to win it a third time. The match could have begun disastrously for Barcelona if Cristiano Ronaldo had scored the penalty that was awarded to him in the second minute of play. The Portuguese national team player and currently the player with the highest transfer fee in world football headed the ball towards the Barcelona goal but Gabriel Milito blocked it with his hands and referee Massimo Bussaca pointed to the penalty spot. Amazingly, Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot missed the goal completely and also squandered a great opportunity for his team to go ahead in the scoreboard. This missed chance lifted the spirits of the Barcelona players that headed by Argentine star Lionel Messi began to constantly attack the Man.Utd goal. However, Messi and his teammates were unable to finalize the many chances they created for themselves, while Man.Utd were satisfied to stay in its own half and prevent Barcelona from scoring. Apart from Messi, there were two other Argentineans on the field, Carlos Tevez (Man. Utd) and the before mentioned Milito. There were no goals scored in the first half and the only clear chance for Barcelona occurred in the 51st minute when Messi and Samuel Etoo made a good combination of passes that the Cameroon striker was unable to convert from close range. In the 61st minute the Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard realized that Messi had tried all his tricks against Man.Utd and so substituted him with Bojan Krcic. The final twenty minutes continued that usual trend as Manchester United´s disciplined defenders kept the locals at bay and obtained its objective of getting a goalless draw. After this result, Man.Utd has to beat Barcelona by a one-goal difference at Old Trafford in order to advance to the final. In theory that match will be played on May 21 in Moscow but the Russian Football Federation has declared that if two English teams qualify, it will renounce to staging the final of the 2008 UEFA Champions league.