Paraguay’s casual new head popularizes ‘bishop sandals’

By Pedro Servin, AP

ASUNCION, Paraguay — President-elect Fernando Lugo’s footwear is raising eyebrows at official events, but the former clergyman’s “bishop sandals” are catching on with Paraguayans. Even before the onetime Roman Catholic bishop takes office in August, his trademark sandals are becoming trendy. Crispiniano Martinez, who sells shoes in a shopping center in the capital of Asuncion, said Paraguayan men usually wear leather slippers. “But since Bishop Lugo won the election and people saw him on television, men are asking me for sandals,” he said in the local Guarani language. Lugo, known as the “bishop of the poor,” joins a string of Latin American leaders who eschew suits and ties — think Fidel Castro’s military fatigues, Daniel Ortega’s airy guayabera shirts or the striped sweater Evo Morales wore day after day on a world tour. Lugo was unapologetic in the face of critics who said he disrespected outgoing President Nicanor Duarte by showing up to a meeting in sandals over white socks.

He said they’re just part of his professorial look — along with glasses, a scraggly beard and an unbuttoned white shirt. “I will continue to wear sandals despite protocols because they are part of my personality,” he told reporters. Lugo elaborated on Thursday, telling The Associated Press that he has been wearing the sandals for years to cope with Paraguay’s tropical heat. “My feet sweat a lot,” he said.