Saturday, August 16, 2008

Silent Revolution in Paraguay

What happened in Paraguay yesterday was akin to a silent revolution: Fernando Lugo was sworn in as President of Paraguay.

Nearly every aspect of Lugo's candidacy and election was touched by the unusual, or the "revolutionary." First of all, the man is a former bishop. After years of working for the Church, he resigned from the priesthood in order to run for president. His popularity in Paraguay forced the Roman Catholic Church, which is against its priests running for office, to accept his resignation and allow him to move into politics. A historic move for the Church.

Secondly, Lugo is the first Paraguayan President to come from outside the Colorado Party in 61 years, breaking what seemed to be the Party's iron grip on Paraguay's politics. Lugo is also Paraguay's first freely elected president, as well as the second leftist president to take office in the country's history. In addition, Lugo's presidency marked the first peaceful transition of power from the ruling party to a member of the opposition since Paraguayan independence in 1811. Most impressive, perhaps, is that the Presidency is Lugo's first elected office!

All these feats, however, couldn't have been achieved without Fernando Lugo being a man of the people. During his time with the Church, he committed himself completely to eradicating poverty, earning the nickname "the bishop for the poor." He's continuing that commitment in politics, as well as aiming to eliminate the corruption Paraguay is notorious for. Moments after taking office, he renounced his $40,000 presidential salary, saying it "belongs to more humble people." He then called on other politicians to do the same.

It's not for nothing that a recent poll marked his popularity at about 90%.

It looks like Paraguay could be heading down a road that many around the world may soon envy. When asked about the obstacles that will face him and his country on that road, Lugo replied with the following words: "It's not going to be easy. But it won't be impossible."

Now this is a guy to watch out for.