Ten months to go till the upcoming elections, the Senate of Paraguay dismissed the President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, by a vote of 39-4, for allegedly “poor performance in office,” in an express impeachment whose legitimacy has been questioned by not only the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) but also the Organization of American States (OAS). OAS Secretary General Miguel Insulza, minutes before the vote, warned negative consequences for the democratic life of the country.
Lugo — who will be succeeded by his Vice President Federico Franco — called his impeachment a “parliamentary coup in judicial dress.”
Who’s behind the coup? According to the noted Paraguayan human rights activist Martín Almada, it is big landowners who have been particularly keen on destabilizing the Lugo government: “This murder of campesinos [seized upon by the Colorado Party as a pretext for the impeachment] happened as a result of a process of police violence instigated by big landowners discontent with President Lugo.”
Chilean journalist Daniel Jadue sums it up thus: “The impeachment in Paraguay aims to scuttle debate on big plantations and other privileges of the same old powers that be.”
Right now, everywhere in the city of Asunción, people are standing up in support of the ousted president Fernando Lugo. The defenders of democracy in Paraguay, many of whom are activists of peasant and other social movement organizations, are being met with tear gas and water cannons in the streets.
The people of Paraguay are not alone. UNASUR will not recognize the now illegitimate government of Paraguay headed by Franco. Venezuela, on which Paraguay depends for 40% of its fuels, has threatened to cut off the fuel supply. Brazil, for its part, has proposed to expel Paraguay from MERCOSUR as well as UNASUR.
Yoshie Furuhashi is editor of MRZine. Information used in this article mainly comes from Carta Maior, TeleSur, and TV Pública Argentina. Cf. Mark Weisbrot, “South America Responds to Coup in Paraguay” (CEPR, 22 June 2012).