Fernando Lugo

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Fernando Lugo[1]
Fernando Lugo in 2008
President of the Senate of Paraguay
In office
30 June 2017 – 30 June 2018
Preceded byRobert Acevedo
Succeeded bySilvio Ovelar
48th President of Paraguay
In office
15 August 2008 – 22 June 2012
Vice PresidentFederico Franco
Preceded byNicanor Duarte
Succeeded byFederico Franco
President pro tempore of the Union of South American Nations
In office
29 October 2011 – 22 June 2012
Preceded byBharrat Jagdeo
Succeeded byOllanta Humala
Senator of Paraguay
Assumed office
30 June 2013
Personal details
Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez

(1951-05-30) 30 May 1951 (age 71)
San Solano, Paraguay
Political partyFrente Guasú (2010– )
Other political
Christian Democratic Party (2007–2010)
Patriotic Alliance for Change (2007–2010)
Alma materCatholic University of Our Lady of Asuncion
Pontifical Gregorian University
Bishop of San Pedro
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
DioceseDiocese of San Pedro
In office5 March 1994 – 11 January 2005
PredecessorOscar Páez Garcete
SuccessorAdalberto Martínez Flores
Ordination15 August 1977
Consecration17 April 1994
by Jose Sebastian Laboa
Laicized30 June 2008

Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez (Spanish pronunciation: [feɾˈnando aɾˈmindo ˈluɣo ˈmendes]; born 30 May 1951) is a Paraguayan politician and laicized Catholic bishop who was President of Paraguay from 2008 to 2012. Previously he was a Roman Catholic priest and bishop, serving as Bishop of the Diocese of San Pedro from 1994 to 2005. He was elected as president in 2008, an election that ended 61 years of rule by the Colorado Party.[2]

In 2012, he was removed from office through an impeachment process that neighboring countries deemed a coup d'état.[3] He was elected to the Senate of Paraguay in the 2013 general election.[4]

Early life[edit]

He received his basic education at a religious school in Encarnación, and sold snacks on the streets.[5]

His family was not particularly religious; by his own account, he never saw his father set foot in a church.[5] However, they were active in Colorado Party politics. His maternal uncle, Epifanio Méndez Fleitas, was a co-conspirator in the 1954 Paraguayan coup d'état that helped bring Alfredo Stroessner to power. However, he later fell out of favor with Stroessner and ultimately left the country. Fernando's father was imprisoned twenty times, and some of his elder siblings were sent into so-called exile.


His father wanted Lugo to become a lawyer, but at 18 Lugo entered a normal school, and began teaching in a rural community. He was well accepted by the community, which was very religious, but they had no priest. He said later that he was touched by that experience, and so discovered his vocation to the Roman Catholic priesthood. At age 19 he entered a seminary operated by the Society of the Divine Word. He was ordained a priest for the society on 15 August 1977. He was sent to Ecuador, where he served as a missionary for five years. In Ecuador he learned about liberation theology and taught classes at the Centro Biblio Verbo Divino in Quito.

Lugo returned to Paraguay in 1982, and after a year, was sent to Rome for further academic studies.[5] Lugo came back to Paraguay in 1987, two years before the Stroessner dictatorship's fall. Lugo was ordained a bishop on 17 April 1994, and received charge of the nation's poorest diocese, in the San Pedro diocese.[5]

Lugo resigned his ordinary from the Diocese of San Pedro on 11 January 2005. He had requested laicization to run for office. However, the Holy See refused the request on the grounds that bishops could not undergo laicization, and also denied him the requested canonical permission to run for civil elected office.[6] However, after Lugo won the presidential election, the Church granted his laicization[7] on 30 June 2008.[8]

Political career[edit]

Without doubt it is possible to resurrect a country like Paraguay. We are people of hope, of faith, and I won't be the one killing that hope of the people. I do believe we will resurrect this country, a country deeply drowned in misery, poverty and discrimination. Because I do believe Paraguay could be different. I do not lack faith in this flock. Where there is a scream coming from the poor people, where there is sweat, where people are shoeless, we will be there. Because in such people there is a resurrection; if that exists there, then there is resurrection for Paraguay.

— Fernando Lugo[9]

Lugo jumped to the national arena by backing peasant claims for better land distribution. During 2006, opinion polls published by Diario ABC Color newspaper showed him as a possible choice for the opposition's presidential candidacy. Known as "the bishop of the poor", Lugo was seen in subsequent months as the most serious threat to the dominance of the Colorado Party on Paraguayan politics. Although he said he found the presidency of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela interesting, he made a point to distance himself from leftist leaders in Latin America, focusing more on social inequality in Paraguay. On 23 February 2007, a Prensa Latina article noted that the Paraguayan Interior Ministry offered Lugo protection because of the death threats he received during the course of his political activities.[10]

Presidential candidacy[edit]

According to a poll in February 2007, he was the leading contender in the April 2008 presidential election, with more than 37% of the voters' intention.[11] On 29 October 2007, he registered as member of the small Christian Democratic Party of Paraguay (CDP), which allowed him to file as a candidate.[12]

The CDP became the core of the Patriotic Alliance for Change, a coalition of more than a dozen opposition parties and social movements which backed Lugo for President. Federico Franco of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, Paraguay's largest opposition party, was the candidate for Vice President.[13]

The legality of Lugo's candidacy was questioned, because Article 235 of the Constitution forbids clerics of any religious denomination to hold elective office, and Pope Benedict XVI had rejected Lugo's resignation from the priesthood.[14] However, on 16 November 2007, President Nicanor Duarte Frutos (also Chairman of the Colorado Party) announced that the Party would not object to Lugo's candidacy,[15] In July 2008, the Pope laicized Lugo, which made the question moot.[16]


On 20 April 2008, Lugo won the election by a margin of 10%, gaining a 42.3% vote share. The Colorado Party candidate, Blanca Ovelar, acknowledged that Lugo had an unassailable lead and conceded the race that same night at about 9 pm local time. Two hours later, President Duarte acknowledged that the Colorados had lost an election for the first time in 61 years. Lugo's swearing in marked the first time in Paraguay's history (the country gained independence in 1811) that a ruling party peacefully surrendered power to an elected member from the opposition.[17] He became Paraguay's second leftist president (the first being Rafael Franco, who served from 1936 to 1937), and the first to be freely elected.

Lugo was sworn in as President on 15 August 2008, saying he would not accept the presidential salary because it "belongs to more humble people" and encouraged other politicians to refuse their salaries as well.[18]

He initially named Alejandro Hamed as his foreign minister. During the campaign, Lugo had suggested that he would switch diplomatic relations from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People's Republic of China,[19] thereby depriving the ROC of its last diplomatic ally in South America. However, after the inauguration, which had been attended by President Ma Ying-jeou from Taiwan, Lugo stated that he had no plans to switch recognition.[20]

On 18 August 2008, Lugo named Margarita Mbywangi, a member of the Aché indigenous ethnic group, as secretary of indigenous affairs, the first indigenous person to hold such a position in Paraguay.[21]

Two of the main promises of Lugo's presidential campaign were tackling corruption and encouraging land reform. A number of initiatives were introduced to improve the lives of Paraguay's poor, such as investments in low-income housing,[22] the introduction of free treatment in public hospitals,[23][24] and the introduction of cash transfers for Paraguay's most impoverished citizens.[25]


  • Minister of Foreign Relations: Alejandro Hamed Franco,[26] Hector Lacognata[27] and Jorge Lara Castro[28]
  • Minister of Finance: Dionisio Cornelio Borda[26]
  • Minister of Internal Affairs: Rafael Filizzola (PDP)[29]
  • Minister of National Defence: Luis Bareiro Spaini,[26] Cecilio Pérez Bordón and Catalino Luis Roy[30]
  • Minister of Agriculture and Livestock: Cándido Vera Bejarano (PLRA)[26] and Enzo Cardozo[31]
  • Minister of Industry and Commerce: Martín Heisecke (PLRA)[26]
  • Minister of Justice and Labor: Blas Llano (PLRA)[26] and Humberto Blasco[31]
  • Minister of Public Works and Communications: Efraín Alegre (PLRA)[26] and Cecilio Pérez Bordón[30]
  • Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare: Esperanza Martínez (Frente Guasú)[26]
  • Minister of Education and Culture: Horacio Galeano Perrone (ANR),[26] Luis Riart (PLRA)[31] and Víctor Ríos[32]
  • Minister of Women: Gloria Godoy de Rubin[33]
  • General Secretary of the Presidency: Miguel Ángel López Perito [34]
  • Secretary of Public Function: Lilian Soto (Kuña Pyrenda)[33] and José Tomás Sánchez [35]
  • Secretary of Technical Planification: Carlos Sánchez[36] y Bernardo Esquivel Vasken[37]
  • Secretary of the Environment: José Luis Casaccia (ANR)[33]
  • Secretary of Social Action: Paulino Cáceres (Tekojoja)[38]
  • Secretary of Culture: Ticio Escobar[39]
  • Secretary of National Emergency: Camilo Soares (P-MAS)[40] and Gladys Mercedes Cardozo Zacarías[41]
  • Secretary of Childhood and Adolescence: Liz Torres[40]
  • Anti-drugs National Secretary: César Damián Aquino[36]
  • Director of the National Indigenous Institute: Margarita Mbywangi (Tekojoja)[42]


On 15 June 2012, seventeen people were killed in a clash between landless farmers and the police who were trying to evict them; some sources consider that all this was taken as a pretext to expel Lugo.[43] The Chamber of Deputies cited this event as well as insecurity, nepotism and a controversial land purchase to vote 76 to 1 to impeach Lugo on 21 June 2012.[44] The Senate took up the case the next day.[45] The impeachment was attended by a delegation of Foreign Affairs ministers from the other nations of the Union of South American Nations.[46] The vote ended with 39 votes for Lugo's removal and four for his continuity, which ended his mandate and turned Federico Franco into the new president of Paraguay.[47] Lugo announced that he would denounce the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, stating that the time to prepare a legal defence, just two hours, may be unconstitutional.[48] The removal of Lugo was followed by demonstrations by his supporters.[47]

The presidents of Paraguay's neighbouring countries rejected Lugo's removal from office, and compared it to a coup d'état. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff proposed suspending Paraguay's membership in Mercosur and the Union of South American Nations. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic announced that they would not recognize Franco as president.[49] Condemnation also came from more conservative governments in the region, such as Colombia and Chile. Lugo's removal has drawn comparisons to the ouster of Honduras' Manuel Zelaya in 2009; like the ouster of Lugo it was defended as legal and constitutional by its supporters while being denounced as a coup across the Latin American political spectrum.[50][3]

Lugo himself accepted his ouster, saying that any legal and realistic chance of reinstating him ended when the Supreme Court of Paraguay declared his impeachment and confirmed his removal, and the electoral court recognized Franco as the new president. However, he denounced it as "a congressional coup."[51]

He is considered in the polls as the best president in the contemporary history of Paraguay.[52]

Senatorial candidacy[edit]

In the 2013 election to replace his interim presidential replacement Lugo ran as a senate candidate.[53] He was elected as member of Paraguayan Senate representing left-wing coalition Frente Guasú.[4]


Lugo was awarded the Order of Brilliant Jade by Ma Ying-jeou, the President of the Republic of China in March 2011.[54]

Personal life[edit]

As Lugo was unmarried during his presidency, he designated his elder sister, Mercedes Lugo, as First Lady of Paraguay.[55]

In August 2010, Lugo was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He continued his duties as president of Paraguay while undergoing treatment.[56]

He also studied at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.[citation needed]


Lugo fathered several children out of wedlock[57] including one that was allegedly the result of sexual assault.[58] These allegations from four mothers, who claimed that Lugo had fathered their children while under a vow of celibacy, emerged soon after his 2008 inauguration.[59] One of the children was conceived with a 24-year-old woman who says they began a sexual relationship when she was sixteen (Paraguay's age of consent is 14[60]) and while he was a bishop.[61][62]


  1. ^ Fernando Lugo cannot use the honorific prefix "His Excellency" for he was removed from office via impeachment, losing that honour as well as the "Senador Vitalicio" position.
  2. ^ "The red bishop in Paraguay".
  3. ^ a b Orsi, Peter (24 June 2012). "Does Paraguay risk pariah status with president's ouster?". Associated Press.
  4. ^ a b "Frente Guasu". frenteguasu.org.py. Archived from the original on 3 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d "Interview with Fernando Lugo, by César Sanson for Agência Brasil de Fato" Archived 29 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Article regarding Lugo's laicization (in Spanish) Archived 15 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Paraguay's president, ex-bishop, granted lay status". Catholic World News. 30 July 2008. Archived from the original on 5 July 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  8. ^ "(Layman) Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez, S.V.D." Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Rise of the Red Bishop", The Guardian Weekly, 14 August 2008.
  10. ^ "Noticias de Prensa Latina – Home". Plenglish.com. 1 January 1970. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  11. ^ "Angus Reid Consultants". Angus-reid.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  12. ^ "El ex obispo Fernando Lugo se afilió al Partido Demócrata Cristiano" (in Spanish). ABC Digital. 31 May 2008.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "¿Quién es Federico Franco, el nuevo presidente paraguayo?" [Who is Federico Franco, the new Paraguayan president?]. La Nación (in Spanish). 22 June 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  14. ^ "Impugnación de Lugo será tratada por el comité ejecutivo de la ANR"[permanent dead link], ABC Paraguay (in Spanish).
  15. ^ "Suspended bishop cleared as presidential candidate in Paraguay". Catholic World News. 16 November 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  16. ^ "Paraguay: Special Dispensation for President-Elect". The New York Times. 31 July 2008.
  17. ^ "Nicanor reconoce la derrota del Partido Colorado". ultimahora.
  18. ^ "Latin America's left wing swells with new Paraguay president" Archived 2 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine, AFP, 15 August 2008.
  19. ^ "Fernando Lugo Méndez". The New York Times. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  20. ^ "View". redOrbit. 17 August 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  21. ^ "The Bishop of the Poor: Paraguay's New President Fernando Lugo Ends 62 Years of Conservative Rule". Democracynow.org. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  22. ^ Herwin Loman (January 2011). "Country report - Paraguay" (PDF). Rabobank.
  23. ^ "PARAGUAY: Mixed Results for Lugo's First 100 Days – IPS". Ipsnews.net. 25 November 2008. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  24. ^ "BTI 2012 | Paraguay Country Report". Archived from the original on 14 April 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  25. ^ "The boy and the bishop". The Economist. 30 April 2009.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i "El Gobierno de Fernando Lugo". Portal Guaraní (in Spanish). 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  27. ^ "Fernando Lugo designa al nuevo canciller paraguayo en reemplazo de Hamed". Diario Última Hora (in Spanish). 29 April 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  28. ^ "Lara Castro reemplaza a Lacognata en Cancillería". Diario ABC Color (in Spanish). 22 May 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  29. ^ "Cuarto ministro del interior de la era Lugo". Diario ABC Color (in Spanish). 16 June 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  30. ^ a b "¿Quiénes son los nuevos ministros de Lugo?". Paraguay.com (in Spanish). 17 June 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  31. ^ a b c "Lugo remodela el Gobierno tras un año de mandato". El País (in Spanish). 20 April 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  32. ^ "Víctor Ríos reemplazará a Riart en Educación". Diario ABC Color (in Spanish). 30 September 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  33. ^ a b c "Gloria Rubín y Lilian Soto se suman al gabinete de Lugo". Diario Última Hora (in Spanish). 27 June 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  34. ^ "Sobre Miguel Ángel Ignacio López Perito". A Quiénes Elegimos (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  35. ^ "Lilian Soto oficializa renuncia a la Secretaría de la Función Pública". Diario Última Hora (in Spanish). 2 March 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  36. ^ a b "Carlos Vidal Ríos será titular de Aduanas y César Aquino irá a la SENAD". Diario Última Hora (in Spanish). 14 August 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  37. ^ "Nombran a secretario interino de Planificación". Diario ABC Color (in Spanish). 18 September 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  38. ^ "Fernando Lugo despejó las dudas sobre su gabinete". Cooperativa (in Spanish). 13 June 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  39. ^ "Ticio Escobar ocupará la Secretaría de Cultura". Diario Última Hora (in Spanish). 2 July 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  40. ^ a b "Camilo Soares será titular de Emergencia Nacional". Diario ABC Color (in Spanish). 2 July 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  41. ^ "Lugo concede permiso a Camilo, sin goce de sueldo". Paraguay.com (in Spanish). 27 May 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  42. ^ "INDI será administrado por los indígenas, anuncian". Diario ABC Color (in Spanish). 27 July 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  43. ^ "The announced coup" (in Spanish). Brecha (Montevideo). 22 June 2012. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012.
  44. ^ "Paraguay president faces impeachment after deadly clash", Mariano Castillo, CNN, 21 June 2012.
  45. ^ "Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo faces impeachment", BBC, 21 June 2012.
  46. ^ "Unasur delegation travels to Paraguay to ensure 'democratic system integrity'". Mercopress. 21 June 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  47. ^ a b "'Institutional coup' removes Paraguayan president Lugo from office". Merco Press. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  48. ^ "Paraguay: el Congreso destituyó al presidente Lugo" [Paraguay: the Congress deposed president Lugo]. La Nación (in Spanish). 22 June 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  49. ^ "Argentina 'no convalidará el golpe en Paraguay' mientras que Brasil sugirió que quedaría fuera de la Unasur y el Mercosur" [Argentina 'will not support the coup in Paraguay' and Brazil suggested that it would be left out of Unasur and Mercosur]. La Nación (in Spanish). 22 June 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  50. ^ "Paraguay likely to return long-dominant conservative party after brush with leftist bishop". Associated Press. 20 April 2013.
  51. ^ Reuters, 26 June 2012, Paraguay's Lugo says only miracle can reinstate him
  52. ^ "La sociedad paraguaya se declara cansada de su joven presidente y desencantada de más de cien años de Partido Colorado en el poder". 15 June 2022.
  53. ^ "Tobacco magnate wins Paraguay election". Al Jazeera. 22 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  54. ^ "President Ma eyes closer ties with Paraguay". Taiwan Today. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  55. ^ "Lugo nombra "primera dama" a su hermana". El Nuevo Diario. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  56. ^ "BBC News: Paraguay President Fernando Lugo diagnosed with cancer". 7 August 2010.
  57. ^ "Paraguay prez sex scandal widens". United Press International. 23 April 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  58. ^ "Paraguay president accused of sex attack". The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 June 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  59. ^ "The never-ending war". The Economist. 22 December 2012. p. 45.
  60. ^ "GLIN.gov – Changes introduced by Law 3440/2008" (in Spanish). (click on PDF file in "texto completo")
  61. ^ "Paraguayan president admits he fathered child while he was a Catholic bishop". The Guardian. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  62. ^ Dorris, Barbara (13 April 2009). "Ex-bishop admits fathering child; Sex abuse victims respond". The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Retrieved 2 April 2017.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of San Pedro
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President of Paraguay
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by President pro tempore of the Union of South American Nations
Succeeded by