Bishop in Paraguay runs for president

July 15, 2007 - 0:0

ASUNCION (AP) -- A charismatic leader dubbed the "Bishop of the Poor" is an early favorite to make history as the first man to serve as a Roman Catholic bishop, then be elected president of his country.

Although there's a long way to go before next April's presidential election, polls show Fernando Lugo has support from nearly 40 percent of voters, 10 percentage points ahead of his closest rival. "I believe the official party is responsible for the poverty, the corruption and the dishonesty in this country," Lugo said during an interview at his brother's home. "We need a country that's more just and more equitable." Lugo hasn't said exactly what he would do as president, but he said recent travels indicate people want agrarian reform, industrial production and more jobs. The Vatican has refused to accept Lugo's resignation, saying bishophood is "for life," and the head of the Paraguayan Bishops Conference has suggested Lugo risks excommunication if he keeps up his campaign. Dozens of peasant, farm, labor, Indian and leftist groups back Lugo, but he resists ideological labels, saying for example that he embraces "socially responsible" capitalism. "I am not of the left, nor of the right. I'm in the middle as a candidate sought by many people," he said. Paraguayan political analyst Alcibiades Gonzalez Delvalle characterizes Lugo as a moderate, more pragmatist than ideologue