Paraguay's decades ruling party Partido Colorado formally registered this week a woman and former Education Minister as its candidate for the coming presidential election of April 20. She's the first woman in the country's history to run for president.
Blanca Olevar, a close ally of President Nicanor Duarte Frutos and charismatic politician, managed to win the closely disputed primary of last December which demanded a double vote count and the intervention of the party's Electoral tribunal. If Ms Olevar supported by the hegemonic Partido Colorado that has dominated Paraguayan politics for the last six decades is elected president she would become the third woman in Mercosur to hold the highest office. The other two are Chile's Michelle Bachelet and Argentina's Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The other two leading presidential candidates are a former general, Lino Oviedo who spent time in jail for attempting a coup and a former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo, who has strained relations with the powerful hierarchy of Paraguay's church because of his strong pro peasant and pro Indian stance. In a recent interview with the Brazilian financial magazine Valor, Lugo said that Paraguay should increase fivefold the price of energy sold to Brazil, the neighboring giant of landlocked Paraguay, and partner in the Itaipu hydroelectric dam, South America's largest. "Brazil pays Paraguay 210 million US dollars annually, a fair bill should be a billion US dollars", said Lugo who added that some experts actually suggest that "1.8 billion US dollars would be closer to the right price". "That is the correct way of defending Paraguay's political, economic, cultural and above all energy sovereignty", underlined Lugo. When he was asked if he was aware that some Brazilian ministers consider him a "left wing populist", Lugo replied "that gentleman doesn't know me, I'm no populist or left wing". "I believe there are no chemically pure ideologies; ideologies are eclectic, essentially pragmatic and above all moved by the great challenge of developing a country". Lugo said he would like to see Paraguay become "an agro-industrial country with the capacity to generate more income for the people and to promote small enterprises". The former bishop also underlined he has no political affinity with Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez nor does he receive any funds or support from him. Lugo has been accused by his competitors of fostering an "authoritarian and chavista" government program. Lugo is the Patriotic Alliance for Change candidate, which has a main root in one of the country's traditional left wing parties and also counts with the support of other left leaning radical small organizations. General Oviedo who is running as a nationalist conservative candidate this weekend is scheduled to visit Buenos Aires on the campaign trail to try and convince voters among the million long Paraguayans who live and work in Argentina. Oviedo is also strong in Paraguay's rural areas where his knowledge of the local Guarani language is vital for any presidential hopeful.