Initial Statements by President-Elect Fernando Lugo
The following excerpts are from various interviews that appeared
in the Latin American and international media just before the elections
in Paraguay and in the first days following Fernando Lugo’s victory.
They offer an initial political profile of Paraguay’s new President,
Latin America’s first bishop to become
the elected leader of his country.
I’m Paraguayan. I’m not from the Left or the Right; I’m from Paraguay.
My ideology. Ideologically, I don’t identify with any leftist group. I’m more like a hub for dialogue that has facilitated nine parties that didn’t even say hello to each other before running jointly in the elections.
Our path. Paraguay has to go through its own process. I don’t think there are shared, unified paradigms in Latin America today. We do have common problems, but there are also some things that are very different. We have to forge our own path to become integrated rather than being an island among progressive governments.
Why I’m here. After 11 years of creating community gardens, food warehouses and marketing cooperatives, I realized that the change poor people require has to happen in politics. I went through a process of recognition, of conversations, that culminated in December 2006 when I was presented with over 100,000 signatures from all sectors—artists, intellectuals, peasants, workers—asking me to resign from my pastoral work and bring together a variety of social sectors to head up a social and political union to change the situation in the country.
Like being stabbed. If my attitude and my disobedience to the canon law caused pain, I sincerely ask for forgiveness from the members of the Church. Every time I’m asked what my relationship will be like with Church leaders, it’s like being stabbed in the heart. [Bishop Lugo was suspended a divinis from his priestly functions in December 2006 when he decided to enter politics.]
The priority: Indigenous people. I have a set of priorities for my first days in government. In the first place is urgent attention to indigenous people, who are in a state of terrible poverty. [Paraguay has an indigenous population of 100,000 people, from 17 ethnic groups.]
The program: Six themes. In the Patriotic Alliance for Change there are six equally important themes: agrarian reform, economic reactivation, recovery of the Republic’s institutionality, independent justice, the national emergency plan and the recovery of sovereignty, especially in energy. These six programmatic themes were gathered from all over the country.
In Parliament. The composition of the Parliament is not yet defined. When it is, we’ll look for strategies to create a parliamentary group that will support the govern¬ment’s major decisions and, if possible, to build the majority we need to make governance easier. That’s the purpose of the conversations and the accords.
Agrarian reform. I’m going to implement a comprehensive agrarian reform. There are 300,000 families without land that deserve a decent life. I will order a land registration in rural areas to see what’s available.
Expropriation. Expropriation of land is in the Constitution. The Constitution protects private property but also recognizes the right to use parliamentary means to expropriate land that is not being rationally exploited. We’re going to try to recover communal lands.
Energy. We have something very useful for integration-oriented development: energy. Paraguay is the only country in the region with an energy surplus. I think that gives us the potential to negotiate with neighboring countries and to be heard in the concert of nations as a country that can bring together, unite and play a powerful role in the continent’s development and integration. The Itaipú and Yaciterá treaties are unfair, unjust treaties that scarcely benefit Paraguay at all. We’ll demand their renegotiation so we can make free use of our hydroelectric surplus and receive a fair price for it. [The Itaipú dam on the Paraná River is shared between Brazil and Paraguay. Its hydroelectric plant is the biggest in the world. The Yaciterá dam is also on the Paraná, shared with Argentina on the common border.]
With Latin America. Our closest relationships are with Argentina and Brazil, but it’s time to emphasize the relationship with Bolivia, too. Our government will be open to the continent and the world. Open to new trends, but with our own identity well defined. Open to Mercosur, to a [regional] integration with more social equity, more symmetry. We will happily unite with Latin America’s progressive governments. We have much to learn from our neighbor countries.
With China. Paraguay has to try to recover its dignity as a nation. Diplomatic relations with Taiwan need to be reviewed. We can’t, under any circumstances, accept “checkbook diplomacy.” The People’s Republic of China can’t be ignored nor can the wider world be left aside, because of the economic consequences that would have. We need a clear and defined foreign policy. We want to be open to the whole world.
With those who left. Many Paraguayans who’ve emigrated won’t ever return, but they still want to participate in elections. The next constitutional reform has to guarantee the vote to Paraguayans living abroad. Meanwhile, we should create conditions so that those who want to come back have a realistic chance. We want to put a stop to this great bleeding, especially of youth. That will be one of the key issues for my government.
To build. I don’t want to have the mentality that I was “the first to defeat the Colorado Party.” My father was a diehard Colorado loyalist, and so was my mother. It’s not a question of winning or losing, but of building. We have to build the Paraguay that everyone deserves.
It won’t be easy. We’re aware that it won’t be an easy task, but it won’t be impossible either. We have a state structure associated with the Colorado Party. It will be hard to change 60 years in which public institutions have been just one color, from one party. That’s why we say that the citizens will be the protagonists. The subjects of the real change we’re making will be, above all, the rural peasant social groups, and also the country’s opposition political class.
The Alliance. The grassroots movements are at the forefront of the Patriotic Alliance for Change. Even if the Liberal Party—the country’s biggest opposition party—is in the Alliance, the forces of society, peasants, unions and neighborhood organizations offer an important counterweight. In the Tekojoja Movement, which brings together the other social movements, the great majority of young social leaders, students, artists and politicians don’t come from the traditional parties. They took the big step of thinking politically about social problems, and of responding politically… People voted for us because we built a solid alliance that wanted change; that had candidates the citizens saw as trustworthy and banked on electoral accountability.
To change history and our image. We want the people to have power, to be the protagonists, to work out the program. I put myself at the people’s disposition. Our enemy will be corruption. We have to defeat poverty and ignorance. Our vision is to change history, to break with more than 60 years of a hegemonic party. Paraguay’s going to change its image. It’s no longer going to be the most corrupt country in Latin America. It’s going to be the most honest country in our continent.
When I go. I always refer to myself as an accident in Paraguayan politics. Someone said that my candidacy was too honest for such a corrupt country. At the end of my mandate, I hope to say: first and definitive. I want to leave the country to the politicians with the basic changes made.