Event Date: March 20, 2009
C. J. in Austin, Texas writes:
Even though Fernando Lugo is considered by many in the US to be a “leftist” leader, he has not stated any anti-American sentiment unlike other Latin American leaders. Is he trying to be as pragmatic as possible with both the US and leftist leaders in Latin America, like the President of Brazil – trying to have good relations with everybody?
Hi, C.J. What a wonderful question to start this forum. Well, President Lugo has said himself that he wants to have good and open relations with everybody. In regards to the United States and Paraguay, our countries enjoy a very long lasting friendship – one that the United States looks forward to strengthening. Both of our countries are going through very historic periods of change, where Paraguay continues to undergo a governmental transformation after 61 years of one-party rule. In Paraguay’s time of change, the United States is supporting President Lugo’s goals of fighting corruption, promoting economic development, and strengthening democratic institutions.
Paul in Bellingham, Washington writes:
How has President Fernando Lugo made progress on the rights of indigenous peoples in Paraguay? The appointment of Margarita Mbywangi as Minister of Indigenous Affairs was an important first step, but what changes have been realized in terms of land rights and multi-lingual education?
Thanks for your question, Paul. The Lugo administration has made some progress on the rights of indigenous peoples here. Naming Ms. Mbywangi as Minister of the National Institute of the Indigenous (INDI) was an important first step. Although Ms. Mbywangi is no longer minister, the administration asked indigenous groups to name her successor. The Paraguayan government is also working with indigenous groups to meet its obligations to the Yakye Axa and Samhoyamaxa indigenous communities according to sentences handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It also provided assistance to indigenous communities in the Chaco Region severely affected by drought conditions. INDI, the Social Action Secretariat, and other government agencies have prioritized indigenous needs. Recently, President Lugo launched Plan Indigena to also address the pressing issues of the indigenous population. While these efforts are a good start, much work is still to be done. I am confident that the Lugo administration will continue working to affirm the rights of indigenous peoples.
Justin in Illinois writes:
What type of qualities should an ambassador have besides being appointed by the President? Also, I'm a college bound student and seriously thinking about joining the Foreign Service. What major is appropriate? Were foreign officers mostly lawyers at one point?
Great questions, Justin. As I reflect on my career, I strongly believe that an Ambassador should have a balanced mix of knowledge, experience, interest in foreign affairs and foreign cultures, facility with languages, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to connect with people. An Ambassador is a personal representative of the President to a given country, so a person who is given an opportunity to serve in such a capacity must have proven leadership skills and also the ability to communicate with diverse audiences.
I’m very happy to hear of your interest in the Foreign Service. People from all walks of life have joined the Foreign Service. While it is conventional to think that a degree in political science or international relations prepares one best for the Foreign Service, I encourage you to pursue a major that you’re most passionate about. For example, my passion was international development (with a Masters in public health) and I have managed to have a very rewarding career, despite not majoring in a “traditional” field. You can find more information on becoming a Foreign Service Officer at: http://careers.state.gov/officer/index.html
Omar in Miami, Florida writes:
Madam Ambassador: I would like to know if there is equality between Spanish speakers and Guarani speakers. Is Paraguay a united bilingual society?
Excellent questions, Omar. As you know, Paraguay is one of the few nations in South America that officially recognizes at least one language other than Spanish. Paraguay truly treasures this distinction. Approximately ninety percent of the population speaks both languages so I would definitely say that Paraguay is generally a bilingual society.
Fernando in Presidente Hayes, Paraguay writes:
Why doesn’t the Embassy promote the learning of English for free through the Internet, embassies, and bi-national centers due to the fact that knowledge is the best technical cooperation that exists?
Hi Fernando. First of all, I fundamentally agree that sharing knowledge is the best technical cooperation that exists. I am not sure whether you are aware, but since 2006 the U.S. Embassy has been providing full scholarships for Paraguayans attending middle school, high school, and college to learn English. The Embassy has covered all tuition and learning material costs for nearly 700 students to learn English for free at the Paraguayan-American Cultural Centers (CCPA) in Asuncion, San Lorenzo, Ciudad del Este, Encarnacion, and Hohenau. These bi-national centers provide English instruction to nearly 14,000 Paraguayans.
I see that you live in President Hayes and that can be quite a long trip to the CCPA in Asuncion. I hope in the future we can expand the program to students like you who live in President Hayes and other rural areas of the country. In the meantime, I encourage you to explore the many free online websites and programs dedicated to learning English. Good luck!
Rocardo in Washington, D.C. writes
How can U.S. relations with Paraguay help this small country?
Rocardo, your question is the very first question I ask myself every morning. Helping Paraguay is absolutely what we’re here to do everyday. Our two countries enjoy a very solid relationship and as U.S. Ambassador it is my job to make sure the relationship stays that way. In particular, U.S. relations aim to help Paraguay bolster its economic development, combat corruption, improve education, and reform the health sector. Paraguay may be a small country, but it also has great strengths and potential. For example, Paraguayan beef is world class. We are working closely with the Paraguayans to help them meet the necessary requirements to export meat to the United States. We also have a substantial foreign assistance program including a new $30 million program – called Plan Umbral II – to help support President Lugo’s fight against corruption and combat impunity.
Whitney in Portland, Oregon writes:
Have you learned Guarani while serving in Paraguay? How do you and your staff deal with the dual national languages of Paraguay? Are official statements released to the Paraguayan public published in Spanish and Guarani?
Within the eight months that I have been here, I’ve managed to learn a couple of words and phrases in Guarani. It’s such a difficult language. It’s so much easier for me to communicate in Spanish and fortunately for me all official business is done in Spanish. All statements that the Embassy releases to the public are in Spanish as well.
Juan in Asuncion, Paraguay writes:
What economic development policies will the new White House administration implement to benefit Paraguay in order to avoid piracy and other crimes that occur due to extreme poverty in the region?
Great question, Juan! Both the United States and Paraguay agree that the protection of intellectual property rights is a core component to economic growth. To back that up, our countries have a general cooperation and assistance framework to combat piracy and contraband based on a Memorandum of Understanding. Also, the United States collaborates with and assists Paraguayan law enforcement agencies efforts to fight other illicit activities, including narcotics, trafficking in persons, and money laundering. Through our development agency, USAID, the United States supports a diverse range of programs to reduce poverty, promote economic growth, improve health services, and foster transparent and accountable institutions. The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Threshold Program, known locally as Plan Umbral, is supporting Paraguay’s anti-corruption objectives with an assistance program of over $30 million. Poverty reduction and job creation are high in our list of priorities, and we are working with the Paraguayan government and the local private sector to build closer commercial ties that will increase trade and create jobs.