Paraguay's opposition-controlled lower house of Congress voted today to start impeachment proceedings against President Fernando Lugo following a land eviction in which 17 police and peasant farmers were killed last week.
Speaking to the press on Thursday, Lugo said he wouldn’t step down and vowed to “subject himself” to the constitutional procedure. The Paraguayan President also accused the Congress of trying “to interrupt the democratic process.”
Lugo, a former Catholic bishop elected four years ago on pledges to champion the needs of the poor, has struggled to carry out his reform agenda due to the opposition's grip on Congress.
In a vote today, the lower house approved the impeachment trial with 73 votes in favour and 1 against. It will now pass to the Senate, which is also controlled by Lugo's opponents. If approved, the impeachment trial would be held in the Senate.
The Liberal Party, which has been allied with Lugo, withdrew its support for Lugo and asked its four government ministers to resign from his cabinet.
The Liberal Party carries no political responsibility for Lugo's government, said party president Blas Llano.
Eight police officers and nine peasant farmers were killed in armed clashes during last Friday's land eviction in Paraguay, marking one of the worst such incidents in the country for two decades.
Lugo fired his Interior minister and renewed the command of the national police and promised to establish a committee to investigate the bloodshed, but it failed to ease intense political pressure.
The former bishop a long-time follower of the controversial liberation theology was backed in 2008 by a rag-tag coalition headed by the centre-right Liberal party, the traditional opponent of the Colorado party that has dominated Paraguayan politics for the last seven decades.
Political instability in the past year, fueled by disputes within Fernando Lugo's cabinet, has led the Colorado Party to regain popularity and as the coalition dissolved Congressional control remains firmly anchored in the conservatives.
Despite intense pressure from Brazil and Argentina the Paraguayan congress has systematically blocked the access of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez incorporation to Mercosur.
In next year’s presidential elections the Colorado party is forecasted to return to full power on a sweeping victory following the frustrating experience of President Lugo.