Former bishop Fernando Lugo scores historic win in Paraguay

Former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo won a historic victory in Paraguay’s presidential election Sunday, ending more than six decades of one-party rule with a mandate to help the nation’s poor and indigenous.

His rival, Blanca Ovelar, conceded defeat after a closely fought race to lead this poor, agrarian nation where Ovelar’s Colorado Party is the only ruling party most people have ever known.

News of the win by the gray-bearded Lugo, dubbed the “bishop of the poor,” set off massive parties in cities across Paraguay with horn-honking caravans of cars blaring music. Others stamped on torn-down banners of the Colorado Party, which many Paraguayans blame for decades of corruption by political elites.

A bishop since 1994, he resigned the post in December 2006 to sidestep Paraguay’s constitutional ban on clergy seeking office. Lugo says he was influenced by the liberation theology frowned upon by the Vatican. But he says he is neither on the left nor the right, but leads a pluralistic coalition.

Here is some background and context on Lugo.

For him to believe he can help the people of Paraguay more as a politician than as a bishop he must have strong plans for change.

I know little about the country, but if 43% are living in poverty, it sounds as if change is needed.

I recommend reading At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig by John Gimlette.
Random House

Thank you - it looks quite interesting. My local libraries don’t have it, so I will have to order it. But I may go cheap and buy a used copy. :o

oh oh… the Vatican isn’t happy with Lugo’s election:

He came to national prominence in March 2006 when he helped to organise and lead an opposition rally in the capital Asuncion. He resigned from the priesthood nine months later. But the Vatican refused to accept the resignation, arguing that serving as a priest is a “freely accepted lifetime commitment.”

Instead the Vatican suspended him from his duties “a divinis”, meaning that he could no longer say Mass or carry out other priestly functions such as administering the sacraments. This was enough to enable him to stand in the Presidential elections, but his victory now presents the Vatican with a dilemma over whether to “reduce him to lay status”.

Vatican officials said it was up to the Pope to decide, but that he would “take time to study the situation”. Mr Lugo’s decision to enter politics aroused fears in the Vatican of a return to “liberation theology” in Latin America. However, Pope Benedict is said to have privately made clear to the Paraguayan Bishops Conference that he intended to co-operate with Mr Lugo for the good of Latin America if he was elected.

The Vatican has said that Lugo’s election would not alter the Holy See’s diplomatic relations with Paraguay. Neither would it prompt his excommunication.

Lugo’s future religious aspirations are unclear. Media in Paraguay have even reported that Lugo expressed an interest in serving as bishop again once his presidential term ends in 2013.

“For that to happen, he’d have to pass through a period of penitence and reflection, if the Church were to accept that,” Gogorza told a radio program in Paraguay.

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