Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hope and High Expectations in Paraguay

Perhaps the most significant event to happen in Paraguay since the overthrow of the dictator Stroessner in 1989, was the election of a former Catholic bishop, Fernando Lugo, as President of the Republic in April this year.

The Colorado party has dominated Pargauayan politics for 60 years and is part of the reason why Paraguay is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. No-one thought it possible for another party to win.

Fernando Lugo was a missionary with indigenous people in Equador for 5 years and after he became a bishop dedicated his time to championing the cause of the poor in the poverty stricken north-east region of Paraguay, San Pedro. However, he came to realise that to make a significant difference he would need to fight corruption and change policies. So when he was asked to run for President as part of a coalition party called the Patriotic Alliance for Change, he accepted. This was not an easy decision as legally a bishop cannot be head of state. He was forced to resign from the priesthood, at least during his 5 year presidency, after which he hopes to be reinstated. The Vatican were suitably unimpresssed, accusing him of disobedience, and have yet to give their final response to Lugo's decision.

Though Lugo has no political experience, the Paraguayans were desperate for change and disallusioned with all the corruption they see around them. In a country which is now the 2nd poorest in South America, where extreme poverty is on the increase, Lugo's heart for the poor won the hearts of the people. The press have become quite taken with his Jesus sandals!

Hope and expectations are high in the country, but he will need a great deal of prayer when he takes office this August. Strongly influenced by liberation theology (God's preferential option for the poor), he has committed himself to addressing the enormous inequality of income distribution: "There are too many differences between the small group of 500 families who live with a first-world standard of living while the great majority live in a poverty that borders on misery." Already he has received various death threats.

Though a political novice, he is a man of principle with a genuine desire to fight corruption, poverty and inequality. This is the best news for Paraguay in a long time.

Music Month

Bryan Adams

It's not often you get world famous musicians coming to Paraguay so we couldn't miss the opportunity of seeing Bryan Adams in concert in April. The venue, however, must have been a bit of a let down for him. Having performed at the O2 arena in London he was relegated to a rundown tennis court on the outskirts of AsunciĆ³n here in Paraguay! The intimate setting made for a fantastic concert though and Bryan lived up to all expectations.

U2 3D in BA

Rup was hugely disappointed to miss U2 in concert in Buenos Aires last year. So when he discovered the same concert was being shown at the new IMAX theatre in 3D in April he had no intention of missing it again.

So we travelled to Buenos Aires for a romantic weekend, put on the 3D goggles and experienced a spectacular and deeply moving concert. 3D technology has certainly moved on since the Beano comics and Jaws experience! If you're a U2 fan it's not to be missed, and if you're not then just go to Buenos's a treat in itself!