Paraguay’s President Ousted in Parliamentary Coup Essay examples

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Paraguay’s president ousted in parliamentary coup

Latin American governments have denounced the lighting-fast impeachment of Paraguay’s president Fernando Lugo as a parliamentary coup and attack on constitutional government on the continent. Lugo was indicted by the lower house of the Paraguayan parliament and tried by the upper house, the Senate, in a farcical set of proceedings that lasted barely 30 hours. The lower house voted unanimously in favor of the charges, while late on Friday, June 22, the Senate found the president guilty by a vote of 39 to four, significantly exceeding the two-thirds majority needed under the Paraguayan constitution to oust a sitting president. Lugo joined a small demonstration in the early hours of Sunday morning outside a public television station to denounce his impeachment as a “coup against the citizenry and democracy.” In the immediate aftermath of the impeachment vote, thousands of peasants blockaded highways and demonstrators confronted riot police using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon in Asuncion’s Plaza de Armas. The president, himself, however, offered no resistance to his removal from office, nor did he appeal for any popular resistance. Instead, Lugo declared his “submission” to the impeachment decision, declaring that he had always “acted within the framework of the law”, even though the law had been “twisted” to remove him from office. He called on his supporters to carry out only “peaceful” protest, and he praised the armed forces for their contributions to “the consolidation of democracy.” The commanders of the military, who had mobilized forces in support of the parliamentary coup, immediately endorsed it and gathered behind Franco as he donned the presidential sash. The principal charge brought against Lugo was a “weak performance” in relation to a forced eviction on June 15 of landless peasants who had occupied land owned by Blas Riquelme, a wealthy businessman and landowner, who was also a leading figure in the country’s right-wing Colorado Party, which before Lugo’s election had ruled the country for six decades. The eviction of the some 100 families from the land in Curuguaty in eastern Paraguay near the Brazilian border led to a massacre in which 11 peasants and six policemen were killed. Witnesses reported that the bloodbath began when snipers opened fire on the peasants as their leaders were negotiating with a police commander. The Lugo government responded by sending the army into the area to impose order. Nine peasants, one just 15 years old, have been arrested and charged with murder. While Lugo had called for an investigation into the massacre, offering to turn such a probe over to the police themselves together with the Colorado Party, i.e., those responsible for the killings, his right-wing opponents brushed the proposal aside, moving to impeach the president instead. The charge against Lugo was based not on his responsibility for the murder of peasants, but rather for his supposed failure to use sufficient force to suppress them and employing empty populist rhetoric that aroused expectations among the country’s most oppressed layers. Elected in 2008, Lugo’s triumph was generally reported as another example of the so-called “turn to the left” in Latin America. A former Catholic bishop, who embraced liberation theology and identification of the church with the poor, Lugo came into office as the candidate of the Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC), a loose coalition supported by various unions and peasant and community groups, but dominated politically by the center-right Authentic Radical Liberal Party, which provided Lugo’s vice-presidential candidate, Federico Franco. Various tendencies of what passes for the Paraguayan “left” promoted the conception that social change could be advanced in an alliance with “progressive sections of the bourgeoisie”, and Lugo himself sought to present himself as a man of…