Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hugh O'Shaughnessy's The Priest of Paraguay

I remembered that some time ago I received a copy of Hugh O'Shaughnessy's The Priest of Paraguay: Fernando Lugo and the Making of a Nation (2009). It is a quick, interesting, and entirely overly optimistic view of Lugo at the beginning of his presidency. He was going to exorcise Alfredo Stroessner's ghost, he was going to do the things no president had ever done, he was going to bring Paraguay into the twenty-first century. He was even going to embody Bartolomé de las Casas.

Alas, no. Still, the book is probably the most in-depth view of Paraguay and Lugo that you are likely to get in English. We learn, among other things, that Lugo was strongly influenced as a priest by a group known for not being too strict on the whole celibacy thing.

The book is a reminder of how much is wrong in Paraguay, and how much needs to be done:

--land distribution is obscenely unequal
--there is no real professional civil service
--there is far too little taxation
--virtually everything connected to the state is corrupt
--discrimination against the indigenous populations is rampant

Lugo resigned as bishop in 2005 because he felt he couldn't do enough to help people (trivia: his announcement to run for president came in the form of a letter to the pope). Trying to do more--even as little as he did--as president got him shoved out.


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