• Friday, October 24, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    PARAGUAY: Second Paternity Scandal Hits President

    By Natalia Ruiz Díaz
    ASUNCIÓN, Apr 20 (IPS) Analysts in Paraguay expected Monday’s
    media coverage to focus on an announced shakeup in the cabinet. But
    reports that President Fernando Lugo fathered a second child while he was
    still a Roman Catholic bishop hijacked the news agenda and tarnished
    celebrations of the first anniversary of his historic victory at the
    polls.

    Benigna Leguizamón, 27, claimed that Lugo is the father of her son,
    who was born in September 2002. The young woman is from the impoverished
    department (province) of San Pedro, where the president was bishop for 10
    years.

    Leguizamón told the local media that she was prompted to come forward
    by the first scandal involving Lugo, in which 26-year-old Viviana
    Carrillo, also from San Pedro, filed a paternity case.

    After that case came to light two weeks ago, Lugo publicly acknowledged
    that Carrillo’s two-year-old boy was his son, and said he would
    assume responsibility for the child, nipping the legal action in the bud.

    The president also said he would not refer to the matter again in public
    – a statement he repeated Monday after the new paternity claim
    emerged, saying it was a private issue and that his lawyers were dealing
    with it.

    On Monday, the centre-left Lugo and his supporters celebrated his Apr. 20,
    2008 victory in the polls, which put an end to 61 years of government by
    the right-wing Colorado Party.

    His triumph was seen by many as ushering in real democracy in Paraguay,
    two decades after the fall of the 35-year dictatorship of General Alfredo
    Stroessner (1954-1989).

    Although Stroessner was overthrown, the Colorado Party maintained control
    of the country for five more presidential terms, during the so-called
    transition to democracy.

    The former bishop’s arrival to the political arena in 2006, as the
    candidate of the Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC), a heterogeneous
    coalition of social movements and leftist and centrist political currents,
    modified the scenario.

    Known as the "bishop of the poor" for his work on behalf of
    impoverished peasants in San Pedro, Lugo, a follower of liberation
    theology – based on a "preferential option for the poor"
    – was not given permission by the pope to resign as bishop until
    just two weeks before he was sworn in as president on Aug. 15.

    Leguizamón spoke to the media from her modest home on the outskirts
    of
    Ciudad del Este in the southeastern department of Alto Paraná. She
    said that if she did not receive a response to her paternity claim and her
    demand for DNA tests, she would take legal action.

    Surrounded by her four children, she said that during the elections she
    had received economic offers to take the case to court, but that she
    turned them down, because she did not want the case involving her son to
    be manipulated.

    In a statement, the ministers of women’s affairs and childhood and
    adolescence, Gloria Rubín and Liz Torres, urged Lugo to once again
    admit that he is the father of the child, in order to facilitate
    clarification of the case.

    The two ministers called for transparency, and asked the president to take
    a firm stance, to show that the change promised by Lugo starts with him,
    as a man, as a citizen, and especially as president.

    "Our commitment to the current Paraguayan political process has a
    mission: to strengthen, from within the government, the actions of all
    institutions, so that they include and bring visibility to the rights of
    women and children," said the communiqué.

    The ministers stressed that the right to an identity is fundamental for
    all children, and said their protection outweighs any other interest.

    Rubín, a leading women’s rights activist, said she would not
    resign because that would be "the easy way out."

    "Personally, I assumed this post to bring about structural changes.
    I’m doing my job, because I committed myself to the country’s
    women," she said, adding that her ministry would do whatever is
    necessary to provide assistance to Leguizamón.

    As part of the celebrations of the anniversary of Lugo’s electoral
    victory, APC Senator Carlos Filizzola delivered a message of support for
    the president, signed by the heads of the political parties and movements
    that make up the governing Alliance.

    With regard to the latest scandal, Filizzola said it was a private issue
    and that what mattered was Lugo’s performance as president.
    "That can be discussed within the Catholic Church, but we are a
    secular state," he argued.

    Nevertheless, the matter diverted attention from the cabinet shuffle
    announced a week ago by Lugo, who had implied that major changes could be
    expected.

    Lugo announced the changes Monday: Senator Enzo Cardozo will replace
    Minister of Agriculture Cándido Vera Bejarano; Deputy Education
    Minister Luis Riart will replace Minister Horario Galeano; lawyer Humberto
    Blasco was named Minister of Justice and Labour, replacing Blas Llano, who
    will return to the Senate; and businessman Martín Heisecke was
    replaced by Francisco Rivas as Minister of Industry and Trade.

    The shakeup gave the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, the main political
    force in the Alliance, one more cabinet post.

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