Paraguay ex-bishop's presidential campaign hits road

Fernando Lugo, who resigned as a Catholic bishop last December to avoid a constitutional ban on clergy seeking political office, has kicked off his presidential campaign with a rally in a small Paraguay town.

The International Herald Tribune reports that only some 200 people showed up at the campaign kickoff for Fernando Lugo, who is challenging six decades of one-party rule in Paraguay.

Mr Lugo, who was cheered Sunday by a small crowd Sunday in Villa Hayes, a town west of Asuncion, has the support of Paraguay's main opposition party, the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, and a host of peasant, labor and social groups.

But critics said the small turnout underscored friction with two other opposition parties that have refused to unite behind Lugo's campaign.

Nonetheless, Lugo gained significant organizational support when he agreed in June to accept a running mate from the Radical Liberals, which have spent decades challenging Colorado rule and can help finance and mount a nationwide campaign.

President Nicanor Duarte of the Colorado Party has threatened to challenge Lugo's candidacy in court, citing the prohibition on clerics participating in politics and noting that the church does not accept Lugo's resignation.

Former Education Minister Blanca Ovelar is the Colorado's candidate.

Like many Paraguayans, Lugo blames the Colorados for the struggling economy, rampant corruption and politics that favor rich elites in the landlocked, agrarian nation.

The Vatican has refused to accept Lugo's resignation, saying bishop status is "for life," and the head of the Paraguayan Bishops Conference has suggested Lugo risks excommunication if he keeps up his campaign.

A bishop's run for president kicks off with small campaign rally (International Herald Tribune, 6/8/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Fernando Lugo (Wikipedia)

Ex-bishop barred from seeking Paraguay presidency, nation's leader claims (CathNews, 9/5/07)
"Bishop of poor" leads Paraguay presidential race (CathNews, 28/3/07)
Vatican clamps down on controversial bishops (CathNews, 7/2/07)

7 Aug 2007