The story of Paso Kurusu
In 2008, Paraguay was a country swept up in a feverish political environment.
Fernando Lugo, a Catholic bishop who turned in his cassock for a political career, was running for president of Paraguay. An opposition coalition candidate, Lugo would end 60 years of power of the ruling Colorado Party.
On April 20, 2008 when Lugo was elected president, almost no one had heard of Ulises Rodríguez Teixeira.
But six months later, a startling series of events made Rodríguez Teixeira the subject of national news coverage in the country of 7 million people.
On October 25, 2008, Rodríguez Teixeira arrived at the presidential residence accompanied by Miguel López Perito, then head of Lugo’s Cabinet, and Eulalio López, a peasant leader, to announce the purchase of the Paso Kurusu ranch by the Paraguayan government.
Government spokesmen said the land purchased from Rodríguez Teixiera would be used for agrarian reform, to benefit homeless peasant families, as well as for an assistance program for small producers. No one suspected what would be revealed a year later.
In October 2009, the newspaper ABC Color published a series of articles reporting the details of the deal that Rodríguez Teixeira had cut with the government for the sale of Paso Kurusu.
The agreement reached by Rodriguez Teixeira and Lugo’s government set a $30 million purchase price for the 53,593 acres of Paso Kurusu. ABC Color reported that just nine months earlier, Teixeira had purchased the property for $11 million.
Over the next three years, there were multiple revelations that caused the people of Paraguay to question the land purchase.
Paraguayans learned that when Lugo was a presidential candidate, he had traveled to Salto del Guairá in the state of Canindeyú on a private plane. It was a March 2008 campaign trip, but Lugo never arrived at the airport.
López Perito, who was Lugo’s campaign manager at the time, reported that the candidate’s plane had to make an emergency landing at a nearby ranch.
The owner of the ranch was Ulises Rodríguez Teixeira.
Then there was the “letter of intent” dated October 2008 and signed by the former bishop in his capacity as president of the republic in which the $30 million purchase price for the Paso Kurusu ranch had already been agreed on. The appraisal of the land didn’t come until almost a year later – and it coincided exactly with the price that had been agreed on in the October 2008 letter.
The coverage of the Paso Kurusu land deal was unrelenting and in July 2012, the government withdrew from the purchase. But the photo of that meeting with Rodríguez Teixeira at the presidential palace was never erased from the public’s memory.