Paraguay: Thin edge of the wedge?
Fernando Lugo, the deposed Paraguayan president, says he is aiming to return to power and is rallying allies at home and abroad to push congress to reverse a vote removing him from office that he and many others are calling a break with democracy and proper legal procedures. Lugo. 61, has created a parallel cabinet, attacking the legitimacy of the government that replaced him.
Lugo is to plead his case on the international stage at this week’s summit of the Mercosur, South America’s biggest trading bloc, in Mendoza, Argentina – an economic and political agreement among Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, founded in 1991.
Lugo was held responsible for a poorly managed land dispute that erupted into an armed clash May 15, between police and squatters. Six police officers and 11 landless peasants were killed in an exchange of gunfire when police tried to evict the squatters from land owned by a wealthy opponent of Lugo. The senate voted 39-4 on June 1 to impeach Lugo, who reluctantly stepped down. He had less than nine months to serve and was not seeking re-election as president.
The takeover is seen by left-wing and moderate political commentators as a precursor to similar ploys by entrenched power wielders to regain control over those people’s that have chosen to go the path of self-determination and riddance of economic controls by extra-territorial forces.
Faraway Russian television announced (quoting German journalist Raúl Arévalo) that plans were afoot to destabilize Latin American nations, especially of the Bolivian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), as the case of Bolivia. The concern about Bolivia stems from a police riot there, by police, for better pay, closer to what other disciplined forces get.
Arevalo sees a global situation that suggests the existence of an interest of international forces engaged in fomenting instability in the ALBA states to change their political systems. This is especially seen in the context of the Bolivian alliance of countries that wants to own or recover their natural resources and establish clear rules for foreign economic investment.
Bolivia is part of the ALBA, along with Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica.
Fernando Lugo has called on his local support base to turn up the pressure as he wants to resist until regaining power. “I call on people from the countryside, the youth and all citizens to resist until we are back in the office we unfairly had to leave,” he was quoted saying to the media.
On the other side of the political fence, aides to Lugo’s former vice-president, Federico Franco, who took the oath of office June 1 after politicians overwhelmingly voted to impeach his boss, has sworn in a new cabinet. Most of the members were drawn from Paraguay’s Liberal and Colorado parties.
In an interesting and telling development, Paraguay’s new official government was suspended from Mercosur in a measure adopted June 3 by the group’s full members and associate states – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
A statement released expressed the group’s “most energetic condemnation of the rupture of the democratic order that occurred in the Republic of Paraguay, for not having respected due process”.
A Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) meeting is to be held mid-week (26-27 June 2012) in the Peruvian capital, Lima, to discuss the situation in Paraguay – which currently holds the presidency of that regional grouping.
Ecuador’s foreign minister Patiño said to Merco Press: “we have been called by Peru’s president Ollanta Humala for next Wednesday because it’s Peru’s turn at the presidency of Unasur”.The transfer will be advanced from the second half of 2012, since the Unasur presidency “cannot be in the hands of an illegitimate government”.
Venezuela recalled its ambassador to the capital Asuncion and halted oil shipments, with Chavez saying he would do nothing to support the “coup”[sic]. Chavez compared the turn of events in Paraguay to the coup that toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, pushing the Central American country into an 18-month-long constitutional crisis.
Argentina condemned the sudden change as a thinly-veiled “coup”, and has also pulled its ambassador from the country, as has Ecuador; while Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay recalled their envoys for consultations. El Salvador said it would not recognise the new government.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said that at the UNASUR summit, his country would propose a return to “democratic order” in Paraguay. *”We cannot gloss over this legalistic nonsense,”* he said.
But a foreign policy adviser to the Brazilian government, Marco Aurelio Garcia, told the state-run Agencia Brasil that neither Brazil nor the other Mercosur states would intervene in Paraguay’s internal affairs.
In a statement titled “Paraguay resist!”, the Humanist Party of Paraguay stated that the organisation joined in with national and international condemnation by ignoring the new government that was imposed by political trial without sustainable legal argument and that qualified simply as an arbitrary adversarial argument, which makes a mockery of and is a serious deviation from the legal system in force in the country.
The statement continuers: *“we denounce, before the national and international estates, serious abuses against the procedural rights of defense of the accused, which were violated in that trial, and request support to admit its constitutional invalidity.”*
Further; *“We call on all inhabitants of the Republic of Paraguay to enforce the popular will expressed in the elections of 2008. Now more than ever it is appropriate to speak out and express outrage against those wanting to silence such expression in complicity with the mass media.*
*“We urge all citizens to express their indignant rejection with non-violent actions which we firmly believe are not only the correct methodology but smart methodology. Let’s go to the streets across the country and demand the immediate reinstatement of President Fernando Lugo.”*
The International Humanist Party (IPH) added its weight to the push with a supporting statement:
June 25, 2012 – Parliamentary Political coup in Paraguay
The International Humanist Party condemns the coup that has ousted the President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, through a political show trial conducted in less than a day without evidence and without time to prepare a defense.
[Explaining] The coup was triggered by the repercussions of a land reform programed that was launched by the government of Lugo, whereby land was surrendered to peasant-farmers lacking their own lands. *”Paraguay has the highest percentage of rural population in the region, in which one of every 3 people living in poverty, and where 1% of the population owns 77% of the land . This will define the country’s power structure, which has came to a crisis point.”*
A few days ago a statement was issued by the Humanist Party of Paraguay deploring the continuing inhumane actions that cause deaths and that easily impose unjust policies and expressing amazement at *“…the impunity with which criminals operate at large yet come from branches of government, protecting the destructive advances, and legitimising the social and environmental impact by multinational-corporate-landowners-allied violent groups”… “to have accumulated so much power that they already have authority to commit crimes against humanity within legal frameworks that they flex at will.”*
The IPH recognizes as valuable those measures taken by the countries of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) and MERCOSUR, such as refusing to recognize the usurper Federico Franco (previously Paraguay vice-president) as the new president, withdrawal of ambassadors and recognition of Lugo as the legitimate ruler of his country. The IHP urges the international community to join in these actions and be alert to the possibility of new destabilizing attempts by anti-democratic forces edging their way into Latin American politics and economic ventures.
International Coordinating Team