Latin America - Paraguay president may need "a little help from ’upstairs’ to govern" says
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."
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
“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
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".
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ASUNCION 000358
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). -------
¶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
After the Wikileaks document dump, edited and selected by the CIA /Mossasd; we sure know that the 'enemy' of these two terrorist organizations seem to be the target of this supposed 'dump' and is nothing less than another smear against this "leftist" popularly elected S. American president. As well as all the other enemies of Israel and the CIA.