Fernando Lugo
Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez (ferˈnando arˈmindo ˈluɣo ˈmendes; born May 30, 1951) is the current President of Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

 and a former Roman Catholic bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 of the Diocese of San Pedro.

Early life

Lugo's family was not particularly religious; by his own account, he never saw his father set foot in a church. However, the influences during his upbringing were distinctly political. His maternal uncle Epifanio Méndes Fleitas was a Colorado Party
Colorado Party (Paraguay)
The National Republican Association – Colorado Party is a political party in Paraguay, founded in 1887 by Bernardino Caballero. It is usually known as the Colorado Party...

 dissident and was persecuted and exiled by General Stroessner's regime. Lugo's father was imprisoned twenty times, and some of his elder siblings were sent into exile. He received his basic education at a religious school in Encarnación
Encarnación, Paraguay
Encarnación is the capital city of the Paraguayan department of Itapúa, located at the south of the department, on the right-hand shore of the Paraná River, opposite Posadas, Argentina...

, all the while he worked selling snacks on the streets.

At age 17 or 18, against his father's wishes of him becoming a lawyer, Lugo entered a normal school
Normal school
A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose is to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name...

, and began teaching at a rural community. He was well accepted within this people, who were very religious, but they had no priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

. He recalls that he was touched by that experience, discovering his vocation
A vocation , is a term for an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.-Senses:...

 to the Roman Catholic priesthood, and he decided to enter a seminary operated by the Society of the Divine Word at age 19. Lugo was ordained a priest on August 15, 1977. That year he was sent to Ecuador
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...

, where he served as a missionary for five years. In Ecuador he had the opportunity to learn about the controversial liberation theology
Liberation theology
Liberation theology is a Christian movement in political theology which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in terms of a liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions...

, a movement later criticized in large measure by the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...


Lugo returned to Paraguay in 1982, and after a year, the regime's police asked Church authorities that he be expelled from the country. The Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 complied and sent him to Rome for further academic studies. Lugo returned to Paraguay in 1987, two years before the Stroessner dictatorship's ultimate fall. Lugo was ordained a bishop on April 17, 1994, and received charge of the nation's poorest diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

, in the San Pedro department.

Lugo resigned as ordinary
In those hierarchically organised churches of Western Christianity which have an ecclesiastical law system, an ordinary is an officer of the church who by reason of office has ordinary power to execute the church's laws...

 of the Diocese of San Pedro
Roman Catholic Diocese of San Pedro
The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Pedro is a diocese located in the city of San Pedro in the Ecclesiastical province of Asunción in Paraguay.-History:* On June 5, 1978, the Diocese of San Pedro was established from the Diocese of Concepción-Leadership:...

 on January 11, 2005. He had requested laicization in order to run for office. However, the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 refused the request on the grounds that bishops could not undergo laicization, and also denied him the requested canonical permission to run for civil elected office. Subsequently, following his swearing-in as President, the Church granted the laicization.

Personal life

Since Lugo is not married, he announced the designation of his elder sister, Mercedes Lugo, as First Lady of Paraguay
First Lady of Paraguay
First Lady of the Nation is the official post of the spouse of the President of Paraguay...


2009 Paternity controversy

On April 13, 2009, Lugo admitted he is the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo, age 26, while he was still a Roman Catholic bishop. The revelation came five days after lawyers for Ms. Carrillo announced they were filing a paternity suit against the President. Ms. Carrillo's lawyers say the boy was born on May 4, 2007. Pope Benedict XVI did not relieve Lugo from his vows of chastity until July 31, 2008. A minor judicial investigation ensued as it was claimed that the woman was under 18 years old when the relationship started. Nothing was proven.

One week later, a second woman, Benigna Leguizamón, came forward in Paraguay alleging that President Fernando Lugo fathered one of her children in 2002 when he was serving as a Catholic bishop. However, Lugo did not acknowledge this child as in the first case. Leguizamón then filed a lawsuit against the President demanding a DNA test. Other Paraguayan bishops were reportedly informed of such allegations in 2004, but did not make them public at the time. A third woman, pro-government political activist Hortensia Morán, appeared a day after Leguizamón and also claimed President Lugo is the father of her child — this one a 16-month-old boy she claimed she named after late Pope John Paul II. Initially she waited for Lugo's spontaneous recognition of her child, but as this didn't happen after seven months, Morán became the third woman to sue the President.

BBC reports that DNA-testing has shown Moran's child to be not Lugo's.

Health issues

In August 2010 Lugo was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
The non-Hodgkin lymphomas are a diverse group of blood cancers that include any kind of lymphoma except Hodgkin's lymphomas. Types of NHL vary significantly in their severity, from indolent to very aggressive....

, a form of cancer. He will continue his duties as president of Paraguay while undergoing treatment.

Presidential candidacy

Lugo jumped to the national arena by backing peasants' claims for better land distribution. During 2006, wide-spectrum opinion polls published by Diario ABC Color
Diario ABC Color
Diario ABC Color is a major Paraguayan newspaper with offices in the city of Asunción.The editorial that publishes the newspaper was founded August 8, 1967. It is one of the most read daily newspapers in Paraguay. The director of the editorial is Aldo Zuccolillo, the founder of the newspaper...

 newspaper showed him as a possible choice for the opposition's presidential candidacy. Known as "the bishop of the poor", Lugo was seen in the subsequent months as the most serious threat to the dominance of the Colorado Party
Colorado Party (Paraguay)
The National Republican Association – Colorado Party is a political party in Paraguay, founded in 1887 by Bernardino Caballero. It is usually known as the Colorado Party...

 on Paraguayan politics. Although he has said he finds the presidency of Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

 in Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

 interesting, he has also made a point to distance himself from leftist leaders in Latin America, focusing more on social inequality in Paraguay.
On February 23, 2007, a Prensa Latina
Prensa Latina
Prensa Latina, legal name Agencia de Noticias Latinoamericana S.A. , is the official state news agency of Cuba, founded in March 1959 shortly after the Cuban Revolution.-Overview:...

article noted that the Paraguayan Interior Ministry offered Lugo protection because of the death threats he has received during the course of his political activities.

According to a poll released in February 2007, he was the leading contender in the April 2008 presidential election
Paraguayan general election, 2008
The 2008 Paraguayan general election was held in Paraguay on April 20, 2008. This includes presidential, legislative, and local elections. The presidential election was won by opposition candidate Fernando Lugo of the Patriotic Alliance for Change, who defeated Blanca Ovelar of the long-ruling...

, with more than 37% of the voters' intention. On October 29, 2007, he registered himself into the tiny Christian Democratic Party of Paraguay in order to get his bureaucratic habilitation to run for office. That party integrated a coalition of more than a dozen opposition parties and social movements, named Patriotic Alliance for Change
Patriotic Alliance for Change
The Patriotic Alliance for Change is a center-left and left-wing Paraguayan political alliance consisting of eight parties in a governing coalition:*Radical Liberal Party*Febrerista Revolutionary Party*National Encounter Party...

. Federico Franco
Federico Franco
Luis Federico Franco Gómez is a Paraguayan politician from the Authentic Radical Liberal Party . He was elected as Vice President of Paraguay as the running mate of Fernando Lugo and took office in August 2008....

, from the centrist Authentic Radical Liberal Party
Authentic Radical Liberal Party
The Authentic Radical Liberal Party is a liberal party in Paraguay.The party is an observer member of Liberal International. At the last legislative elections, 27 April 2003, the party won 25.7 % of the popular vote and 21 out of 80 seats in the Chamber of Deputies of Paraguay and 24.3 %, leading...

, Paraguay's largest opposition party, was his running mate.

Even though on November 16, 2007, the Chairman of the National Republican Party (ANR, Partido Colorado), then-sitting President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, announced that the Colorado Party would not initiate any proceedings to block Lugo's candidacy, there is a debate going on about its legality, because Article 235 of the Constitution forbids ministers of any religious denomination to hold elective office, and Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 Benedict XVI rejected Lugo's resignation from the priesthood. In July 2008, however, the pope laicized Lugo which allowed him to become president within the framework of canon law.


On April 20, 2008, Lugo won the election by a margin of 10 percentage points, although far short of a majority. The Colorado Party candidate, Blanca Ovelar
Blanca Ovelar
Blanca Margarita Ovelar de Duarte is a Paraguayan politician and former Minister of Education. She was the Colorado Party's nominee for president in the April 2008 presidential election, in which she was defeated....

, acknowledged that Lugo had an unassailable lead and conceded the race that same night at about 9 p.m. local time. Two hours later, President Duarte acknowledged that the Colorados had lost an election for the first time in 61 years. Lugo became Paraguay's second leftist president (the first being Rafael Franco
Rafael Franco
Rafael Franco Ojeda was President of Paraguay from February 17, 1936 to August 13, 1937. He was a member of the Febrerista Revolutionary Party....

, who served from 1936 to 1937), and the first to be freely elected. Also, his swearing in marked the first time in Paraguay's history (the country gained independence in 1811) that a ruling party peacefully surrendered power to an elected member from the opposition.

Lugo was sworn in as President on August 15, 2008. He said that he would not accept the presidential salary because it "belongs to more humble people" and encouraged other politicians to refuse their salaries as well.

He initially named Alejandro Hamed
Alejandro Hamed
Alejandro Hamed Franco is the Syrian-origin Paraguayan politician who was appointed foreign minister by President Fernando Lugo, a term he served between 2008 - 2009. He is currently nominated to be the Paraguayan ambassador to Uruguay....

 as his foreign minister. During the campaign, Lugo had suggested that he would switch diplomatic relations from the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 (Taiwan) to the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, thereby depriving the ROC of its last diplomatic ally in South America. However after the inauguration, which had been attended by President Ma Ying-jeou
Ma Ying-jeou
Ma Ying-jeou is the 12th term and current President of the Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan, and the Chairman of the Kuomintang Party, also known as the Chinese Nationalist Party. He formerly served as Justice Minister from 1993 to 1996, Mayor of Taipei from 1998 to 2006, and Chairman...

 from Taiwan, Lugo stated that he had no plans to switch recognition.

On August 18, 2008, Lugo named Margarita Mbywangi
Margarita Mbywangi
Margarita Mbywangi is an Aché indigenous leader and in 2008 was the Minister of Indigenous Affairs in Paraguay. Her main goals focus on gaining indigenous land rights, protecting Paraguay's forested lands and improving indigenous access to potable water, food and health care...

, a member of the Aché
The Aché Indians are a traditional hunter-gatherer tribe living in Paraguay. They are called "Guayakí" by Guaraní-speaking neighbors and in early anthropological accounts...

Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 ethnic group, as minister of indigenous affairs, the first indigenous person to hold such a position in Paraguay.

Although to date little progress has been made in tackling corruption and encouraging land reform (two of the main promises of Lugo's presidential campaign), a number of initiatives have been introduced to improve the lives of Paraguay's poor, such as investments in low-income housing, the introduction of free treatment in public hospitals, and the introduction of cash transfers Paraguays most impoverished citizens.

External links

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