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Second woman: Paraguay chief is child's dad

A second woman has come forward in Paraguay alleging that President Fernando Lugo fathered her illegitimate child when he was serving as a Catholic bishop.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Another woman came forward Monday asking President Fernando Lugo to recognize her six-year-old son, becoming the second woman this month to make a paternity claim against the former Catholic bishop.

Benigna Leguizamon, 27, told four separate Paraguayan media outlets that Lugo had fathered her son while still bishop in the diocese of San Pedro, where he led parishioners until 2004.

Lugo, 57, did not respond to her claim, but his chief spokesman Ruben Penayo said the president "reiterates that he is ready to act always in line with the truth." Penayo said attorney Marcos Farina, who represents Lugo in the other paternity case, would handle the legal aspects of the new claim as well.

Two of Lugo's cabinet ministers reacted sharply, saying DNA tests would be ordered if Lugo doesn't recognize paternity.

Inspired to take action
Leguizamon said she was inspired to take action by the president's admission last week that he had fathered a 2-year-old boy with another former parishioner. "I decided to make this claim through the media before going to the courts after seeing that last week Viviana Carrillo got President Lugo to recognize their child," she said.

Lugo admitted last week to fathering the 2-year-old with Carrillo after her lawyers announced plans to file a paternity suit.

"Here and now, before my people and my conscience, I declare with absolute honesty and a sense of duty and transparency in relation to the controversy provoked by the paternity suit, that there was a relationship with Viviana Carrillo," Lugo said on April 13. "I assume all responsibilities ... and recognize the paternity of the child."

Political analysts said that surprise acknowledgment stopped the growing controversy, but another paternity claim is sure to give his opponents more ammunition. Many Paraguayans said the paternity scandal has been a black eye for both the government and the Catholic Church, to which 90 percent of Paraguayans say they belong.

Leguizamon told Paraguay's Ultima Hora newspaper, Channel 4 television network and Uno and Caritas de Asuncion radio stations that she arrived in Lugo's San Pedro diocese in 2000 at age 17 with an infant daughter and worked in the bishopric, where she began a relationship with Lugo.

Her son was born in September 2002, but she said Lugo gave her little money to support him and so she began a relationship with another man and now has four children. She said she earns a living selling homemade soaps and detergents door-to-door.

Resigned in 2004 as bishop
Paraguay's Women's Ministry and Childhood and Adolescence Ministry sent officials to interview Leguizamon and begin paternity procedures on Monday in Ciudad del Este, the eastern city where she lives near Paraguay's border with Brazil and Argentina.

"I'm dismayed, but this is a typically machista case," said Women's Minister Gloria Rubin. "I already ordered our staff to Ciudad del Este to help the woman in every way."

A DNA test will be administered if Lugo does not recognize paternity, Childhood and Adolescence Minister Liz Torres said.

"Lugo is my boss, but we're acting any way," Torres said. "The child has the right to know who its father is, to bear his last name and receive help from him."

Lugo resigned in 2004 as bishop of San Pedro, in the landlocked nation's poorest province, and in December 2006 announced he was renouncing his bishop status to run for president. Pope Benedict XVI didn't give him permission to resign, relieving him of his chastity vows, until July 2008, after insisting during Lugo's campaign that he would always be a bishop under church law.