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.

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