Friday, June 22, 2012

Paraguay: Fernando Lugo Ousted from Presidency (Updated)

Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo was forced to leave office after the country's Senate condemned him in an impeachment trial on Friday.

By a vote of 39 in favor and four opposed, the Senate concluded that Lugo was guilty of "poor performance" over several incidents including allegedly mishandling deadly clashes one week ago between peasant farmers and police.

According to the Paraguayan constitution Vice President Federico Franco should be sworn in to office immediatly.

(Update: Franco was sworn in to the presidency on Friday evening.

In an interview with CNN he refuted claims that the ouster of his predecessor was done according to the constitution and was "not a coup."  

"I hope that in future interventions it is recognized that the actions were done within the legal framework of the country," added Franco).

In a speech from the presidential palace Lugo said that he accepted the Senate's ruling and is "willing to respond to my actions" as a former president. Yet he accused his opponents of acting "cowardly" and added that today's decision was a "blow against Paraguayan history (and) democracy."

Prior to the trial attorneys for Lugo failed to delay the impeachment trial by arguing that the proceedings were politically-based and infringing on Lugo's right to due process.

The planned removal of Lugo from the presidency could lead to the weakening of diplomatic relations between Paraguay and other South American countries. Venezuelan Foriegn Minister Nicolas Maduro cricized the Senate's actions as having "signs of a coup" and claimed that the UNASUR bloc would not recognize Franco as the new Paraguayan president. UNASUR president Ali Rodriguez warned of a possible "rupture in the democratic order" in Paraguay, while Organization of American States chief José Miguel Insulza questioned the lightning-fast nature of the impeachment proceedings.

(Update: The leaders of two of Paraguay's neighbors also criticized the removal of Lugo.  

"Argentina will not validate the coup in Paraguay," declared Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner while her Ecuadorian counterpart, Rafael Correa, said that he would only recognize  Fernando Lugo as the "legitimately elected" president of Paraguay.

In addition, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff suggested the expulsion of Paraguay from the UNASUR and Mercosur blocs while the Costa Rican government offered Lugo political asylum).

In 2008 Lugo broke the Colorado Party's 61-year hegemony on the Paraguayan presidency. The former Roman Catholic bishop's rule was marred by numerous paternity lawsuits and his health became a major issue after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2010.

Last week's clashes over land in the eastern town of Curuguaty served as a trigger to the push for impeachment against Lugo. According to BBC News the land dispute in Paraguay has gone on for several decades:
The farmers have argued the land was illegally taken during the 1954-1989 military rule of Gen Alfredo Stroessner and distributed among his allies.

Land disputes are not unusual in Paraguay, where a small fraction of the population owns about 80% of the land.

Mr Lugo - a former Catholic bishop who abandoned priesthood to enter politics - campaigned for the needs of the poor.

Before being elected in 2008, he promised land for some 87,000 landless families.
Online Sources (including Updates) - La Nacion, El Espectador, El Universal, MSNBC, Diario ABC, El Tiempo, BBC News,, La Hora,

Video Source - YouTube via eluniversocom

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