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Wikileaks Scandal Hits paraguayan president Fernando Lugo

by Luis Agüero Wagner Monday, Jan. 03, 2011 at 1:45 PM
luisaguerowagner@gmail.com

Wikileaks scandal explodes in Paraguay: president Lugo is an U.S. and USAID agent

Wikileaks Scandal Hi...
matrix_martiria__1_.jpg, image/jpeg, 89x66

Latin America - Paraguay president may need "a little help from ’upstairs’ to govern" says

U.S

Natalia Viana, 19 de dezembro de 2010, 15.00 GMT

Paraguay president Fernando Lugo, a center-left politician who was elected to office in April

2008, was seen as a potential ally to the U.S. by the U.S. embassy in Asuncion, so long as

he had "more than just a little help from ’upstairs’ to govern as president" which Lugo was

apparently willing to accept.

"(S)o far, his signals to the United States Embassy have been clear — he is grateful for our

offers of assistance and wants a close relationship," wrote U.S. ambassador James Cason to

Washington on June 2, 2008, adding: "If you can’t believe a priest, who can you believe?"

(See cable here)

From 1954 to 1989, Paraguay was run by Alfredo Stroessner, a right-wing dictator whose

regime is also blamed for torture, kidnappings and corruption. Lugo, a former Roman

Catholic bishop, became president of the small land-locked country of 6.3 million people after

promising to give land to the landless and end entrenched corruption, defeating the Colorado

party which had ruled for six decades.

Pink Tide Worries In 2005, when Tabaré Vázquez was elected leader of Uruguay, the sixth left-wing leader to

be elected in the region, Larry Rohter, a New York Times reporter coined a term that would

become popular among Latin American watchers. He referred to "not so much a red tide...as

a pink one."

Indeed the BBC estimated that three out of four citizens of Latin America lived in countries

ruled by "left-leaning presidents" elected during the preceding six years, in a clean break

with what was known at the outset of the 1990s as the ’Washington consensus’, the mixture

of open markets and privatisation pushed by the United States".

A 2006 press release from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington, D.C.-based

non-governmental organization summed up the worries in Washington, which they said

"rumbles with suppressed outrage over Latin America’s latest professions of its sovereignty –

Bolivia’s nationalization of its oil and natural gas reserves, and Ecuador and Venezuela’s

voiding of their energy contracts. At the same time, Bolivia’s newly inaugurated president,

Evo Morales, is a prime candidate to join Washington’s pantheon of Latin American bad boys,

presently represented by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez."

Populist Principles

With this sharp turn to the left, Washington was keen to cultivate more moderate, if

somewhat left wing leaders, to counter the popularity of Castro and Chavez. Thus the

election of Fernando Lugo in April 2008 was seen as a possible opportunity to push back,

although the U.S. ambassador in Asuncion warned that the State department would have to

be watchful of Lugo’s populist background.

Cason made it a point to tell his bosses that Lugo was reading a Mandela biography when the

U.S. ambassador came to visit. He also noted that Lugo cared little for material possessions:

"He typically wears sandals, because that is who he is. He says he has owned two suits in his

life; one for high school graduation and another for his ordination" and had only just bought

his third.

“During his 11-year tenure as bishop, Lugo fought for campesino rights and organized the

region’s peasant movement. Lugo has thrived in the social and religious arenas by reaching

out to the poor and disenfranchised, largely with populist (though not necessarily incendiary)

principles," wrote Cason, expressing concerns about Lugo’s ties to representatives of

Venezuelan President Chavez, a relationship that “bears monitoring." Cason also warns that

Lugo’s "strong populist leanings - including a reputation for detesting flaunting of wealth by

the rich - would lead to rifts with the political establishment".

The cable also claims that "sensitive reporting" say Lugo had "loose personal ties to

members of Paraguay’s Free Fatherland Party (PPL), the all-but-defunct leftist micro-party

with an armed wing" and that "Lugo signed a petition in 2000 against USG funding for Plan

Colombia. Lugo, along with President Chavez and many others, also signed a 2006 manifesto

opposing the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Latin America". Despite these caveats, the U.S. ambassador appears confident that Lugo can be convinced

not to join cause the other left-wing presidents in the region. "These Lugo insiders claim that

he supports Chavez’ plans for Latin America; but Lugo has stated publicly and privately (to

Embassy officials) that he will not align himself with Chavez”.

To the contrary the Paraguay president is said to have been “delighted” that the U.S.

ambassador was in fact the first caller to congratulate him and to offer support for his

government.

Cason ends the cable saying that it is unclear if Lugo will have the hability to govern. "He is a

leftist at heart, but given the Liberal Party’s influence in his coalition and Congress’ strong

role in the Paraguayan government, he will likely have to steer a center-left course".

Source: http://www.wikileaks.de/Paraguay-president-may-need-a.html

**************************************************************************

****************************

**************************************************************************

****************************

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ASUNCION 000358

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

WHA/FO; WHA/BSC MDRUCKER, BFRIEDMAN, KBEAMER; NSC DFISK; DS/DSS/ITA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2028

TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL SNAR PA XM

SUBJECT: PRESIDENT-ELECT FERNANDO LUGO: A PROFILE

REF: A. 06 ASUNCION 1280

¶B. 06 ASUNCION 348

¶C. ASUNCION 263 Classified By: DCM Michael J. Fitzpatrick; reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). -------

SUMMARY -------

¶1. (S) President-elect Fernando Lugo will need to rely on his diverse background to govern

Paraguay and hold together the varied interests in his political coalition. Lugo comes from a

family of long-time Colorado dissidents, particularly vocal during the Stroessner years. After

distinguished national military service, Lugo began his own career as a teacher in 1969 but

soon found his calling in the Catholic Church. Ordained a bishop in 1994, Lugo was assigned

to the Archdiocese of San Pedro for 11 years before stepping down. Lugo launched the

organization Citizen Resistance in March 2006 and made his political start by speaking at a

massive political rally the same month, leading many to believe that he would be the only

presidential candidate who could defeat the Colorados in the April 2008 election. While

Lugo's quiet, affable style should help him build consensus in the next government, other

aspects of his personality, such as his avoidance of confrontation, could hinder his ability to

govern. Sensitive reporting suggests that some members of Lugo's inner circle maintain ties

to representatives of Venezuelan President Chavez and that Lugo himself has loose personal

ties to members of Paraguay's Free Fatherland Party (PPL), the all-but-defunct leftist microparty with an armed wing. Lugo leveraged his status with the Catholic Church and reputation

for honesty to win the presidency; he will need more than just a little help from "upstairs" to

govern as president. END SUMMARY.

---------------- POLITICAL ROOTS ----------------

¶2. (C) President-elect Fernando Armindo Lugo Mendez will need his diverse background to

govern Paraguay and hold together the varied interests represented in his political coalition.

Lugo's political organization is the Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC), comprised of 12

political parties and nine political movements, centered principally on the Radical Authentic

Liberal Party (PLRA), Paraguay's largest and oldest opposition political party. Lugo is a

registered member of Paraguay's (largely irrelevant) Christian Democratic Party. His vice

president-elect, Luis Federico Franco Gomez, is a long-time PLRA member. Lugo has thrived

in the social and religious arenas by reaching out to the poor and disenfranchised, largely

with populist (though not necessarily incendiary) principles.

¶3. (C) Lugo comes from a family of long-time Colorado dissidents, particularly vocal during

the Stroessner years. He was born on May 30, 1951, in San Pedro del Parana (Itapua

Department) to Guillermo Lugo and Maximina Mendez Fleitas. His uncle, Epifanio Mendez

Fleitas, was a renowned dissident Colorado leader and rival to dictator Alfredo Stroessner

who fled in exile to Uruguay in 1956. Mendez Fleitas founded the Popular Colorado

Movement (MOPOCO) in 1959, a dissident Colorado revolutionary group that advocated

Stroessner's overthrow. Lugo told DCM his father Guillermo was detained twenty times

during Stroessner's 35-year reign; his brothers were tortured and exiled. (His sister

Mercedes puts their father's lifetime total arrests at 38.) Their brother Pompeyo remains a

dissident Colorado (ref A), another brother lives in France; their final brother died of natural

causes. Despite his family's strong political traditions, Fernando Lugo himself remained

politically disengaged until he resigned from the priesthood in 2006 to pursue politics full

time. --------------------- CAREER IN THE CHURCH ---------------------

¶4. (U) As a young man, Fernando Lugo finished first in his class during his obligatory

military service. Yet Lugo was denied a m

ilitary commission because of his family's opposition to Stroessner. Lugo then began his

career as a teacher in 1969 but soon found his calling in the Catholic Church. He earned his

undergraduate degree in religious science from the Catholic University of Asuncion in 1977,

the same year the Catholic Church ordained him as a priest. Lugo served as a missionary in

Ecuador from 1977 until 1982, where he learned the principles of Liberation Theology under

Leonidas Proanho, the "Bishop of the Poor." He returned to Paraguay in 1982 and served one

year as an apprentice in the Order of the Divine Word. He studied spirituality and sociology

in Italy from 1983 to 1987, earning a bachelor's degree in sociology from Gregoriana

University in Rome. (There are reports the Church sent him abroad repeatedly -- Italy,

Germany, Ecuador, Peru -- to protect him from Stroessner's regime.) Lugo served from 1987

to 1992 as a professor at the Superior Institute of Theology in Asuncion, as head of the

Order of the Divine Word, and as vice president of the Religious Confederation of Paraguay.

¶5. (C) The Church ordained Lugo as a bishop in 1994 and assigned him to the Archdiocese

of San Pedro, one of the poorest areas in this poor country -- and one intentionally

marginalized by the Colorados because of a strong Liberal Party presence, which occasionally

manifested itself in the form of rural armed groups over the decades. During his 11-year

tenure as bishop, Lugo fought for campesino rights and organized the region's peasant

movement. He resigned as bishop in January 2005. Pope John Paul II accepted his

resignation in January 2006 and he thus acquired the title of Bishop Emeritus of San Pedro.

Lugo submitted his petition to resign from the clergy in December 2006 to run for president;

the Vatican denied his request in January 2007. (NOTE: Press reports in 2005 indicated that

the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference (CEP) announced that it had no objections to Lugo's

activities as bishop and believed his actions were intended to address social injustices and

poverty. However, other 2005 press reports indicated that the CEP forced Lugo to resign as

bishop because of his association with inciting land invasions that resulted in violence as well

as a rumor that Lugo fathered a child. The Church must still decide whether to accept Lugo's

rsignation, provide a "temporary dispensation," or excommunicate him after he assumes the

presidency on August 15. END NOTE.)

------------- LEFTIST TIES? -------------

¶6. (S/NF) Sensitive reporting indicates that some members of Lugo's inner circle have ties

to representatives of Venezuelan President Chavez. These Lugo insiders claim that he

supports Chavez' plans for Latin America; Lugo has stated publicly and privately (to Embassy

officials) that he will not align himself with Chavez. Lugo volunteered to OAS chief of

electoral mission (and former Colombia Foreign Minister) Maria Emma Mejia early April 21

that while Chavez was the first president to congratulate him April 20, he does not know

Chavez and was delighted that the U.S. Ambassador was in fact the first caller to

congratulate him and to offer support for his government. One party in Lugo's coalition, the

P-MAS (Paraguayan Movement towards Socialism), receives Venezuelan financial support.

When pressed publicly, Lugo has publicly identified himself as closest in ideology and

management style to Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez. ¶7. (S/NF) Sensitive reporting also suggests Lugo himself has loose ties to members of the

Free Fatherland Party (PPL) -- the tiny Paraguayan Marxist-Leninist party which developed

an armed wing in the early part of the decade, and which has roots in San Pedro and

Concepcion Departments. (NOTE: The PPL today is all but disbanded. END NOTE.) Several

PPL leaders are reportedly ex-seminarians, although Lugo has publicly denied having been

their instructor (which is not to say that they did not know each other in Paraguay's small

circle of clergy).

During the just-concluded presidential campaign, it was publicly alleged that Lugo assisted

PPL members in planning and executing the 2004 kidnapping of former president Raul Cubas

Grau's daughter, Cecilia Cubas, and to have helped PPL members escape Paraguayan justice.

Lugo has publicly denied the same. Lugo is not known to have links to the Revolutionary

Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); Lugo told Maria Emma Mejia April 21 that he is inclined to

publicly declare (post-inauguration) the FARC "a terrorist organization." He stressed to Mejia

he had no problem with the use of the word terrorist to describe them since "the FARC killed

my friend." (NOTE: No Further Information available.) Lugo signed a petition in 2000 against

USG funding for Plan Colombia. The petition, drafted by members of the PPL (which was then

a legal party), was sent to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and foreign embassies. Lugo, along

with President Chavez and many others, also signed a 2006 manifesto opposing the Free

Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Latin America.

¶8. (S) NOTE: Lugo privately told DCM April 17 (i.e., several days before his election), that

he was convinced that corrupt elements of the police (if not certain Colorado politicians) had

protected the PPL kidnappers, whom he said were responsible for the kidnapping and

ultimate killing of Cecilia Cubas. He said a police officer came to him with information as to

where Cubas was then being held. (Lugo was still Bishop of San Pedro at this time.) He said

they jointly went to see the Interior Minister (Nelson Mora) the night of December 6-7, 2004,

provided him the address -- and even told him that a police officer (and possible suspect)

lived next door to the house where Cubas was being held. Lugo said the Minister assured

them he was already aware, and that "all was being taken care of." The police officer

accompanying Lugo, however, was suddenly reassigned the next day. Lugo recalled that the

Minister publicly declared "We know where you are" and gave the PPL "24 hours" to

surrender -- but no action was taken. (COMMENT: This statement is confirmed by

contemporary press reports. END COMMENT.)

Cuba's body was only recovered in February 2006, from the same house Lugo says they had

identified to the Interior Minister in December. Lugo told DCM he had recently had it

confirmed to him that the PPL kidnappers had even used the car owned by their policeman

neighbor. Lugo told DCM that though he did not have a complete understanding as to the

extent of official (or semi-official) protection that had gone on, he was toying with the idea of

a national inquiry into the case, should he become president, saying, "the people have a

right to know." The Interior Minister and several dozen police officials were all sacked

following the discovery of Cuba's body. END NOTE.

------------------------------- TRANSITION INTO FORMAL POLITICS -----------------------------

--

¶9. (C) Lugo launched the organization Citizen Resistance in March 2006 and burst onto the

national political scene as a last-minute speaker at a massive political rally on March 29,

2006. Lugo spoke to about 35,000 people and against the decision by five members of the

Supreme Court to affirm Duarte (contrary to the Constitution) as president of both the government and Colorado Party. Many began to suggest that he should run and could defeat

the Colorados in the 2008 presidential election. Lugo organized other marches against the

Colorados and supported launching the opposition political movement Tekojoja in June 2006.

(He once pointedly corrected an embassy officer, however, who suggested he was the leader

of Tekojoja.) He subsequently formally registered as a member of the (micro) Christian

Democratic Party. Lugo won the support of the PLRA in June 2007 when he agreed to accept

a member of the PLRA as his running mate. The political opposition formed the APC, Lugo's

current alliance, in September 2007 from the remnants of the National Assembly

(Concertacion Nacional), which splintered when the National Union of Ethical Citizens Party

(UNACE) and Beloved Fatherland Party (PQ) fielded their own presidential tickets.

------------------------------- PERSONALITY AND OTHER BIO NOTES ----------------------------

---

¶10. (C) While Lugo's quiet, affable style should help him build consensus in the next

government, other aspects of his personality, such as his avoidance of confrontation, could

hinder his ability to govern. Lugo generally connects well with people (although he is

reportedly uncomfortable with women) and has thus far been successful in attracting a

diverse support base. He is said to be an expert in "human nature" and is a quick and

accurate judge of character. Personally a quiet, unpretentious and serene individual, Lugo

cares little for physical possessions. He typically wears sandals, because that is who he is.

(He says he has owned two suits in his life; one for high school graduation and another for

his ordination. He bought his third for the May 16 Ibero-American Summit in Lima, Peru.)

However, his strong populist leanings -- including a reputation for detesting flaunting of

wealth by the rich -- could lead to rifts with the political establishment. Likewise, even Lugo's

closest advisors worry that he will walk away from conflict within his own alliance. His

reportedly already-strained relationship with Vice President-elect Federico Franco indicates

that he may not be able to work effectively with influential members of his own alliance (let

alone with the Colorados). But he also has demonstrated an iron will, and is not easily

moved from strongly held positions.

¶11. (SBU) Given his career as a member of the Catholic clergy, Lugo is unmarried (although

he is rumored to have fathered several illegitimate children). Lugo told DCM April 17 that he

admires Nelson Mandela, and particularly, how Mandela defied predictions of impending

social strife to bring his country together and move it forward together

NOTE: Lugo was reading a Mandela biography at the time, which was on his coffee table) .

during the meeting). Lugo speaks Spanish, Guarani, Portuguese, Italian, and at least some

German. He has also studied English.

------- COMMENT -------

¶12. (C) Lugo leveraged his status with the Catholic Church and reputation for honesty to

win the presidency, but he will need more than just a little help from "upstairs" to govern as

president. It is unclear whether Lugo has the skills needed to run Paraguay (he reportedly

caused an NGO he managed for one year to fail), but his historic win with over 40 percent of

the vote gives him strong momentum that will help him govern in the short term (ref C). In

terms of the direction Lugo will take, many questions remain. He is a leftist at heart, but

given the Liberal Party's influence in his coalition and Congress' strong role in the

Paraguayan government, he will likely have to steer a center-left course. Lugo's ties to Venezuela and others bear monitoring, but so far, his signals to the United States Embassy

have been clear -- he is grateful for our offers of assistance and wants a close relationship. If

you can't believe a priest, who can you believe? END COMMENT.

Please visit us at http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/asuncion

Cason

Source: http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2008/06/08ASUNCION358.htm

Report this post as:

PAPERS HERE

by Luis Agüero Wagner Monday, Jan. 03, 2011 at 1:45 PM
luisaguerowagner@gmail.com

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