Profile: Fernando Lugo

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Ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo
Image caption,
Divides soon emerged in the election-winning political alliance forged by Fernando Lugo in 2008

Fernando Lugo rode to power amid popular thirst for change in presidential elections in Paraguay in 2008, bringing an end to 61 years of rule by the right-wing Colorado Party.

But four years later his declining popularity was thrown into sharp relief by the meagre street protests that greeted his impeachment by the Paraguayan congress.

Mr Lugo alleged a "parliamentary coup" had taken place after the Colorado Party joined forces with his erstwhile allies, the Liberal Party, to throw him out of office.

A few thousand supporters gathered, but the alleged outrage failed to inspire the kind of reaction seen in Venezuela in 2002 (when a mass mobilisation of Hugo Chavez's supporters saw off a coup attempt against him) and in Honduras in 2009 (when the overthrow of Manuel Zelaya inspired widespread popular protests).

Critics say Mr Lugo's period in office has been marked by his failure to tackle corruption, make significant headway in the military struggle against rebel EPP fighters and, most importantly, to achieve campaign pledges to tackle Paraguay's notoriously unequal land distribution.

His supporters have been horrified by revelations that he fathered at least two children by different women while a Roman Catholic bishop in San Pedro province.

Mr Lugo, now 61, was also diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in August 2010, but was declared to be in remission in January this year.

'Bishop for the poor'

Born in 1951, Mr Lugo became a priest in 1977, and served as a missionary in Ecuador for five years.

In 1992 he was appointed head of the Divine Word order in Paraguay. He was ordained a bishop in 1994, and then served for 10 years as the bishop of the poor region of San Pedro.

There, his support for landless peasants earned him the reputation of "bishop for the poor".

He came to national prominence in March 2006 when he helped lead a big opposition rally in the capital, Asuncion.

He resigned from the priesthood in December that year, as the Paraguayan constitution prohibits ministers of any faith from standing as a political candidate.

The Vatican initially refused to accept his resignation, arguing that serving as a priest was a lifetime commitment and instead suspended him from his duties.

However, in July, Pope Benedict XVI granted Mr Lugo an unprecedented waiver to remove his clerical status.

Divides emerge

From the start, Mr Lugo presented himself as a moderate - distancing himself from the region's more radical left-wing leaders like President Chavez and President Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Nonetheless, commentators say, a suspicion endured among establishment parties that he was a radical, and divides soon emerged in the election-winning alliance between his left-leaning coalition of groups and social movements with the more conservative Liberal Party.

Mr Lugo did achieve some victories - instituting a programme which saw poor families paid to keep their children in school, and negotiating a three-fold increase in payments from Brazil for energy generated by a dam on the two countries' shared border.

But for many of his former supporters, Mr Lugo's apparent indifference when a dispute over land turned deadly earlier this month was the final straw.

There were few calls for protests when his detractors saw their chance to strike and began impeachment proceedings.

Inside Congress, the two main political parties, Colorado and his former coalition partners the Liberals, put aside their differences and voted in favour of the motion to begin the impeachment trial.

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