Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Paraguay Parliamentary Coup D'etat?

The abruptness of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo's removal raises questions about the soundness of the Paraguay Constitution and motives of the Paraguay Parliament. Fernando Lugo was removed from office within 24 hours after an impeachment vote of 39-4. Interestingly, the Canadian Prime Minister Harper who has a poor record when it comes to democracy--recent robo-call scandal involving over 31,000 election complaints, closure of federal democracy agency, and erosion of Canadian democratic processes through for example Bill C-38, was quick to acknowledge the new president, Mr. Franco. In constrast, secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza called Lugo's removal a "disrespect for due process" and that the removal did not fulfill all the precepts for right to legitimate defense. President Lugo's lawyers were given a mere 2 hours to defend Lugo before the Paraguayan Senate. Mr. Lugo was elected in 2008 with strong popular support. All South American countries and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) have refused to accept the illegitimate government in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Commentary on Lugo's ouster from The Australian:

PARAGUAY'S ousted leader Fernando Lugo has accused legislators of carrying out a "parliamentary coup d'etat" to force him from power, as international protests mounted over his abrupt removal.

In his first public appearance since his impeachment on Saturday over a deadly land dispute this month, Mr Lugo again blasted congress for its snap decision but said he would nevertheless accept it in the name of peace.

"Lugo has not been dismissed; democracy has been dismissed. They have not respected the popular will," the ousted leader said yesterday in an unexpected appearance at a street protest attended by about 500 people in the capital, Asuncion.

He called his impeachment "unjust" and called for "peaceful" demonstrations in the impoverished, landlocked South American nation. "There was a parliamentary coup d'etat... the arguments for impeachment had no value," the former leader said after entering the studio of TV Publica, scene of the protest, for a brief news conference.

In a 39-4 vote, legislators found Mr Lugo, 61, guilty of performing his duties badly during the armed clash on June 15 that claimed the lives of six police and 11 squatters on a privately held farm.

His vice-president, Federico Franco, was quickly sworn in to cheers in the congress as Paraguay's new leader.

Extremely popular at the time of his election in 2008, Mr Lugo - a former priest saw his reputation in the predominantly Catholic country nosedive after claims he fathered children while under a vow of chastity.

Mr Lugo acknowledged it would be "very difficult" to return to power, but said there should be no more violence, adding: "Peacefully, the democratic process will continue, with more strength."

Mr Franco told Agence France Presse he hoped Mr Lugo would help him stem the international outcry over the change in power. "Right now, I'm trying to speak with president Lugo. I'm going to do it. I think his presence as a Paraguayan is very important to give an international image, because right now we need a legally constituted government," he said.

Mr Franco said he planned to ask Mr Lugo "to help us prevent Paraguay from receiving an absolutely unjust, unnecessary and unpopular punishment".

No foreign government recognised Paraguay's new leadership.

The secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, called the snap impeachment a "disrespect to due process". Mr Insulza said the Americas had once again witnessed "a summary judgment that, while formally in keeping with the law, did not appear to fulfill all the legal precepts of the right to a legitimate defence".

Mr Franco defended the ouster of his predecessor as being in compliance with the constitution, and he insisted "there was no coup. There are no soldiers in the street."

But he acknowledged he was concerned about the international reaction. "We will make our best efforts to get in touch with neighbouring countries to try to demonstrate our clear commitment to democracy," he said.

Mr Franco met with Vatican envoy Agustin Arietti and with German ambassador Dirk Niebel, who said Berlin viewed the ousting as "a normal change of government, not by means of elections, but a normal process".

Mr Lugo's lawyers had just two hours to present a case on his behalf in the Senate impeachment trial. The furious responses to the ousting came not just from leftist allies such as Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner took to her Twitter account to repeat that "Argentina will not validate the coup in Paraguay".

"It's a travesty of justice and an affront to the rule of law to remove a president in 24 hours, with no guarantees to defend himself," said the executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Santiago Canton.

The first major international event the new government had been expected to attend is a Mercosur summit in Argentina this week. But Mr Franco said he would not go if his presence would make matters worse.

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