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Latino Daily News

Sunday June 24, 2012

Impeached Paraguay President Plans to Attend Merocur Summit this Week

Impeached Paraguay President Plans to Attend Merocur Summit this Week

Photo: Fernando Lugo Mendez Ousted Paraguay President

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo said Sunday he planned to attend the Mercosur summit later this week in Mendoza, Argentina.

The Mercosur summit is scheduled to take place Thursday and Friday, and it may also include a joint meeting with the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, leaders.

“We are going to be at Mercosur in the coming week,” Lugo told reporters outside his house in Lambare, a suburb of Asuncion.

“Also, as you know, Paraguay holds the presidency pro tempore of Unasur. The next one to hold it is Peru. We have contacted President Ollanta (Humala), we are going to speed up the transfer of the presidency to the coming week,” Lugo said.

“It is yet to be determined whether the transfer is going to occur in Peru or to combine both summits,” Lugo, who was ousted from office last Friday, said.

The former president said his impeachment by Congress amounted to “a parliamentary coup” and refused to recognize successor Federico Franco.

Lugo plans to hold a meeting on Monday of a “Cabinet for the restoration of democracy,” a spokesman for the ousted president told Efe.

Several South American countries, including Argentina, Peru and Venezuela, have questioned Lugo’s removal from office.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday he was recalling his envoy to Paraguay and cutting off oil shipments to protest “the coup d’ etat” against Lugo.

“We are recalling the ambassador, we do not recognize that administrtion (of Federico Franco), and we are also going to end the shipments of petroleum,” Chavez said during an appearance at a military ceremony broadcast on national radio and television.

Brazil, meanwhile, said it would wait to see how the situation in Paraguay evolved before taking measures.

On Saturday night, the Brazilian government recalled its ambassador to Asuncion for consultations.

Brazil wants to evaluate the situation and “let the crisis in Paraguay evolve to see what happens,” special presidential adviser for international affairs Marco Aurelio Garcia told the official Agencia Brasil.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said Sunday he was weighing whether to recall Ambassador Jorge Antonio Lazaro from Paraguay.

“We are evaluating the recall of the Peruvian ambassador to Paraguay. A decision will be made between today and tomorrow,” Humala said during a Day of the Peasant ceremony in the city of Huaraz.

Colombia’s ambassador to Paraguay, Alberto Barrantes, is being recalled in light of the absence of “due process” in Lugo’s removal from office, the Colombian Foreign Ministry said in a five-point statement.

Lugo, a former bishop, said last week he accepted his ouster to avoid “the spilling of blood.”

The ousted president called Sunday on Paraguayans to stage peaceful protests “so that the constitutional order will be restored” following “this coup against the will of the people.”

Protesters gathered Saturday night in front of the public television offices in Asuncion, with Lugo joining them in the early morning hours, and demonstrations took place in other cities.

State media, however, reported that the country was calm and the streets of Asuncion were quiet.

Franco, for his part, said Saturday that the congressional ouster of Lugo did not constitute a coup and he was confident he could secure full regional recognition for his administration.

At his first press conference with international correspondents, the president acknowledged that his position “isn’t easy” and that “there are problems with the international community,” but he defended the legality of the swift impeachment trial that led to Lugo’s removal from office on Friday.

“There is no coup here, no institutional breakdown. It’s a legal step that the constitution and the laws of my country permit in order to make a change when the situation becomes unworkable,” Franco, who had served as Lugo’s vice president, said.

Only four of the 43 senators present at Friday’s session voted against finding Lugo guilty of misfeasance for the events of June 15, when seven police officers and nine squatters were killed in a clash in the northeastern province of Canindeyu.

The opposition-dominated lower house voted overwhelmingly last Thursday to impeach Lugo, and the Senate adopted a schedule that called for the president’s trial to begin at 12:00 p.m. Friday and a verdict to be rendered before nightfall.

The head of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, acknowledged Friday that Paraguay’s constitution allows for impeachment, yet he raised concerns about the compressed timetable.

“The question is if the minimum conditions are in place to have a legitimate defense in the face of the speed of the process,” Insulza said during a special session of the OAS council in Washington.

Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, was elected in 2008 at the head of a broad-based coalition in favor of reform in the poor, landlocked South American nation.

His victory marked the end of 60 years of rule, including the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, by the Colorado Party.

Hopes for significant change under Lugo have gone largely unfilled, due in part to his personal problems.

After finding himself forced to acknowledge fathering children during his years in the church, Lugo endured a months-long battle with cancer.

Another source of frustration has been obstruction and sabotage by Paraguay’s entrenched political establishment.