Jul 02 2012
Paraguayan activists and journalists are condemning the June 22 ouster of president Fernando Lugo as a “parliamentary coup” following a one day impeachment trial resulting in a 39-4 Senate vote to impeach the reformist leader. The decision brought out protesters in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, where 2,000 people camped out in front of the nation’s Congress, while rural farmers and peasant organizations blocked roads in the countryside. Meanwhile, Lugo’s removal and his replacement by vice president Frederico Franco has been met with concern and suspicion from other South American governments. Presidents from Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela on Friday withheld recognition of the new government, while members of the regional trade bloc Mercosur suspended Paraguay’s membership in the organization. The United States State Department in comments made last week, urged calm but had yet to issue a definitive reaction to the coup. Writing for the Guardian, US economist Mark Weisbrot criticized the tepid US response saying, “The conclusion is obvious: any rightwing faction, military or civilian, that can overthrow a democratically elected, left-of-center government, will get support from the United States government.”
Lugo, whose 2008 election ended the 60-year reign of the conservative Colorado party, campaigned on a platform of land reform in a country where just 2% of the population controls over 75% of the arable land. The move to oust Lugo came on the heels of a shootout between peasant farmers and police that killed 17. The peasants were occupying land owned by former Colorado party senator, Blas N. Riquelme, one of Paraguay’s richest men.
Despite claims by Franco that his rise to power is constitutional, many Paraguayans have expressed fears that Lugo’s removal means an end to this generation’s chance at democracy. It also casts doubt on the countries ability to resolve its crippling poverty, which afflicts over a third of its population.
GUEST: Javiera Rulli, Argentinian researcher who has written extensively on Paraguay