Fernando Lugo Méndez, a retired Catholic bishop suspended from exercising his episcopal and priestly faculties, has won the Paraguayan presidency, marking the end of the 61-year dominance of the nation’s conservative Asociación Nacional Republicana – Partido Colorado. Lugo belongs to the Partido Demócrata Cristiano (Christian Democratic Party), which is one of eight opposition parties that form the alliance group known as Alianza Patriótica por el Cambio (Patriotic Alliance for Change). Pope John Paul II accepted Lugo’s resignation from the episcopacy in January 2005, and it was not until January 2007 when Lugo petitioned the Vatican for laicization that he was suspended.
Inevitably, many pundits will reduce and categorize the victory of the “obispo de los pobres” as the advent of another Hugo Chavez on account of Lugo’s campaigns on behalf of the poor of Paraguay who live off roughly the equivalent of $2 a day. But Lugo has made it clear that he is a centrist, not a radical, and he has sought to distance himself from association with Chavez. AP writer Bill Cormier notes:
“Chavez is a military man and I have a religious background,” Lugo told reporters in Washington last year. “My candidacy has arisen at the request of the people, it was born in a different way than Hugo Chavez’s.”LifeSiteNews has already muddied the waters, calling Lugo a “renegade bishop” and a current proponent of liberation theology (the linked article claims the Vatican has “condemned” liberation theology, which is a gross distortion of the Vatican’s corrective of “certain aspects” of liberation theology as a whole). Rorate Caeli likewise obfuscates the reality by similarly playing up the caricature. Neither site seems to have bothered to really look at Lugo’s platform and theological persuasions.
For a good synopsis of Lugo’s actual political positions, click here. With regard to any preconceived ideology that is ascribed to him, I think his statement to Larry Rohter may aid in preventing us from pigeon-holing him as a “liberation theologian,” “radical” or “socialist”:
“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.”
Sounds good to me…now let’s see if it holds true.