Posted on Flickr by "Fernando lugo APC"
The socialist wind currently blowing through South America reached Paraguay this year with the election of leftist Chavez-ally Fernando Lugo. On his first day, the ex-bishop announced that he would be renouncing his entire salary and donating it to the poor. Not like other presidents then...
Paraguay's head of state doesn't earn a great deal - at US$72,000 [AP] (€49,000) he's lagging well behind French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who doubled his salary to €240,000 when he came into power. He's also far from Singaporean President Lee Hsien Loong, who is possibly the highest paid president in the world, with around €1.5m a year. Only his neighbour in Bolivia, Evo Morales, seems to be worse off, with around €15,000.
Either way, Lugo announced the decision to give up his pay at his inauguration on August 15. "I have no need of this money, which belongs to more humble people," he told the audience. The friendly philanthropist makes a change for Paraguay, which has been ruled for the past six decades, largely under military dictatorship, by the right-wing Colorado Party.
"Receive a salary for your work, for me that's the honest way"
Ada Carolina Bogado is a lawyer from the capital, Asuncion. She runs a blog.
I don't like the fact that the president has given up his entire salary. You should be paid for the work that you do - nobody said that the president has to volunteer! Why doesn't he just give up a part of it and give it to a good cause? By renouncing his salary, his expenses are no longer transparent. Anywhere he goes he gets everything for free. He doesn't pay utility or telephone bills. But he does need to buy clothes! He might not have any children or a wife, but he still needs somewhere to live. Would all of those things be free too? I don't really get it - we all have the right to work and receive a salary for it. For me that's the honest way."
"I think this is a very valuable gesture (…) in a place where presidents used to become 'inevitable multimillionaires'"
I think this is a very valuable gesture as we're talking about a country where the treasury has been systematically robbed. However, it needs to go beyond being symbolic. More profound actions are needed to fight against corruption in a place where presidents used to become "inevitable multimillionaires".
According to one published paper, the personal wealth of the heirs of Paraguayan presidents Stroessner, Rodríguez, Juan Carlos Wasmosy, and Raúl Cubas would exceed 1,000 million dollars. That would not be weird in a developed country, but it is something offensive in a country where 50% of the population is poor and there are more than 300,000 peasants without land.
The previous president, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, was a journalist living in a rented house and could hardly make ends meet. Two decades later he owns highly expensive properties and private harbours dealing with Chinese imports and soy exports.
Now, everyone will be watching to see what Lugo and his partners do, so history will not repeat itself."