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Befreiungstheologe Frei Betto: Die Präsidentschaftswahlen in Paraguay



On Sunday 20th April Paraguayan voters will go to the polls to elect a new president. The candidates are Catholic ex-archbishop Fernando Lugo, Blanca Ovelar of the Partido Colorado (Red Party) and General Lino Oviedo, former leader of the same party, accused of taking part in the assassination of the then ex vice president Luis Maria Argaña in 1999 (which forced him to go into exile in Brazil for four years).Lugo, aged 57, leads the polls.

He identifies with Liberation Theology and makes a point of saying that his only ”preferential option for the poor is not political, it is pastoral. He knows that he represents a serious menace to the authority of the Red Party which has been in power for 60 years and includes the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989).

Fernando Lugo has personally experienced his country™s recent tragic history. His father was imprisoned more than 20 times. Three of his brothers were tortured and expelled from Paraguay. In 1983 he also was expelled, due to his preaching of sermons which were considered subversive. He returned in 1987. He was ordained bishop of San Pedro in 1994 and resigned from the Episcopal ministry and accepted the candidacy due to a public appeal signed by more than 100,000 voters.

He has the support of the Patriotic Alliance for Change which includes nine parties and the Tekojojá Movement (Sharing Life, a coalition of grassroots movements). Lugo considers that his main adversaries are corruption, poverty and ignorance. ”The quickest way to make a fortune in Paraguay is to be a politician he says. Therefore, there is fear of fraud in Sunday™s election.

With little more than 6.5 million inhabitants, and reserves of US$2.5 billion, Paraguay still depends on its farming economy geared to exports, predominantly to Argentina and Brazil. More than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line and 35% in abject poverty.

The country however is rich in oil and fresh water reserves and is a large exporter (though not a consumer) of electrical energy through the hydroelectric plants of Itaipu and Vacyretá  which were built with Brazilian and Argentine capital through  treaties signed by military dictators.

If he is elected, Lugo will call on Brazil to renegotiate the Itaipu Treaty. Paraguayan energy is sold to Brazil at a low price which he intends to multiply by seven which will guarantee the neighbouring country an annual income of US$1.8 billion. It appears that President Lula will not be opposed to this renegotiation.

Lugo also wants to promote agrarian reform in order to benefit 300,000 landless families (70% of productive lands are owned by 2.5% owners) and encourage cooperatives and small businesses so as to conform economic growth with social development. He also proposes to overcome the unequal relation of Paraguay with the other Mercosul countries.

The Red Party dominates the entire state and judiciary machine in Paraguay. Lugo plans to rescue the autonomy of judges and to separate political parties from the state machine. Almost 90% of the population is bilingual; they speak Spanish and Guarani although the indigenous Guarani people officially represent only 0.7% of the population. However, for the first time in Paraguay™s history, a Guarani woman is running for senator.

Paraguay was the most independent, just and developed country in South America in the nineteenth century. Instigated by the British crown Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay went to war against it (1864-1870). Of the 160,000 Brazilian soldiers and officers, 50,000 never returned. At least 300,000 Paraguayans, both civilian and military, died in the war.

The Brazilian armed forces owe the Brazilian people the opening of the Paraguayan war archives and of the military dictatorship archives as well (1964-1985).

*Frei Betto is a member of the international committee of observers in the Paraguayan elections.
He is a writer, author of ”Batismo de Sangue (Baptism by Blood) (Rocco).


He is a Brazilian Dominican with an international reputation as a liberation theologian.
Within Brazil he is equally famous as a writer, with over 52 books to his name.  In 1985 he won Brazil™s most important literary prize, the Jabuti, and was elected Intellectual of the Year by the members of the Brazilian Writers™ Union.

Frei Betto has always been active in Brazilian social movements, and has been an adviser to the Church™s ministry to workers in Sáo Paulo™s industrial belt, to the Church base communities, and to the Landless Rural Workers™ Movement (MST).

In 2003-2004, he was Special Adviser to President Lula and Coordinator of Social Mobilisation for the Brazilian Government™s Zero Hunger programme.


Dieser Beitrag wurde am Sonntag, 20. April 2008 um 05:40 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Politik abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen.

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