Former Bishop President in Paternity Pickle

Times of Malta
April 23, 2009

Fernando Lugo, a former bishop who surprised the world by winning Paraguay's presidential elections last year, is back in the headlines in a paternity scandal.

A former Catholic bishop, Mr Lugo broke 61 years of one-party conservative rule in his small South American nation when he became head of state in August.

His popularity is now wavering however, after three women claimed that he had fathered their children. In the latest case, a 39-year old daycare centre director said Mr Lugo, 57, is the father of her 16-month-old son.

"My son Jean Paul is the fruit of a relationship with Fernando Lugo. It was a relationship driven by great love and total devotion," Damiana Hortensia Moran Amarilla, told the daily newspaper ABC.

The growing scandal appeared to play a role in prompting the Paraguayan ruler to abandon a US visit which had been set for today, although an aide explained that Lugo scuttled his Washington visit "because of a packed schedule."

Ms Moran Amarilla's claim marks the third time in less than a week that a woman has alleged the former cleric fathered her child. On Monday, Benigna Leguizamon called on Mr Lugo to acknowledge the paternity of her son Luis, and threatened to seek a court order for DNA testing to prove her claims.

The Paraguayan President - without confirming or denying being the boy's father - said this week that he stands "ready to always act to provide the truth and available to legal authorities for all demands which may arise." Ms Leguizamon, who once worked in his parish, said her relationship with Mr Lugo began when she was 17.

Now 27, she claims that the cleric fathered her son, who was born in September 2002, in San Pedro, in a poor region of Paraguay where he led the parish from 1995 to 2004.

"He abused the situation," she said. "Within a year I was pregnant by him."

Unlike the two other paternity allegations, the Paraguayan President admitted last week having fathered an out-of-wedlock child with 26-year-old Viviana Carrillo.

In that case, "I take on all the responsibility arising from the fact, by recognizing the paternity of the child," Mr Lugo said.

He acknowledged fathering the child, who now is 23 months old, "with honesty, as a Paraguayan, as a Christian" and in homage to the people who elected him President almost exactly one year ago, on April 20, 2008.

Ms Carrillo, who said Mr Lugo took up with her when she was 16, said the priest had been a guest at her mother's house and that she had been seduced by his sweet words.

When the first allegation surfaced that he fathered a love-child, Mr Lugo claimed to be victim of an opposition smear campaign, but changed his story after several days, claiming that anyone can succumb to temptation in a moment of weakness.


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