Former Bishop, New President, Paraguay

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Another leftist in the Latin American context, in this time coming from the conservative Catholic Church: Fernando Lugo, a former Bishop, became last week President of Paraguay among expectancies for the development of this poor South American nation. The Economist descrived him as “a bearded, sandal-waering liberation theologian, a campaigner for the poor and for land reform”. AméricaEconomía said that the new president does not use tie, wears sandals and got some weeks ago a dispensation from Pope Benedict XVI to turn into layman condition to be able to assume the power without conflicts with the Church and renouncing to the ecclesiastic privilegies to dedicate to politicis. Let us see what is waiting to the Most Reverend Lugo in Paraguay.

Paraguay, a country a little bigger than Italy, has only 6 million persons (Italy has almost 60 million) and one of the poorest South American economies. For about 61 years, Paraguay was under a rather hermetic party that kept the country in a kind of isolation that began with the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner. This is the first weakness of the nation: a country practically without a politic culture after a so long period of a stony power without any variety of opposition. In a country where 1% of the population owns the 77% of the land, Lugo intends a land reform, while he formed his goverment with a coalission of different parties, from leftist to progresists.

The economy depends also from exports of meat and soybean and it has not an industrial machinary, according to AméricaEconomía. Obviously, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela was already around calling Lugo a new partner in the fight against United State, although Lugo has kept a prudent distance with the North American power saying rather that Paraguay has good relations with Washington.

By 2005 Paraguay was scored 0.755 in the Human Development index that made the country the second poorest of South America. For that year also, 15.9% of its population was unemployed. The main economic activity is agrictulre, agrobusiness and cattle ranching. It is also famous for a great level of corruption and it joined Mercosur in 1991. Although it has access to the Atlantic Ocean by the Paraná River, Paraguay depends very much on Brazil and Argentina, two nations that have played a meaninful role in its history after its independence from Spain. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, however, have been granted free ports that made possible a trade with the European Union with an ammount of €437 million in goods by 2005.

The country has been ranked as a friendly nation for investment by the World Bank in 2006 and it would be a good key for its development if Lugo will proffit it.

Challenges for Lugo: create a politic culture, land reform, foreign relations, expecially with the powerful economies of Brazil, Argentina and USA, participation in the South American economies and investment attraction. As a former member of the Catholic Church Lugo could be radical, but as a President of his country, Lugo should be practical.

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