Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo was removed from office on Friday at 18:30 hours following an impeachment vote in the Senate where the motion was supported by 39 votes, four against and two absent.
Minutes later, riots broke out in the square next to Congress when hundreds rejected the vote expressing support for the ousted former bishop and now former president, while police forces fired tear gas and started marching against the protestors that had trespassed protection railing.
Lugo was removed in what now seems clearly a surprise political operation given the fact the whole process didn’t last more than two days not giving time to the former leader to prepare his defence.
The incident which triggered the impeachment process started last week when during a police eviction of landless peasants in occupied farm land and forests a shootout left 17 people killed: ten peasants and seven members of the police force.
The outcome of the process has been described as a “political or institutional coup”, and international repercussions are expected from the moment the Unasur, Union of South American Nations, warned that the new administration might not be recognized if due process and the institutional democratic steps were not followed during the impeachment.
Unasur sent a delegation of Foreign ministers to try and convince Paraguayan lawmakers to contain tempers and mediate. However the Paraguayan members of Congress said that the Lower House where the impeachment process was started was voted 76 to 1, and later confirmed in the Senate, 39 to 4.
Lugo was elected by a catch-all coalition that ended sixty years of dominance from the Colorado party but he was unable to maintain cohesion and the rag-tag grouping rapidly dissolved. And the Colorado party, although also divided took control of Congress and forced the situation.
Vice president Federico Franco is scheduled to take the oath of office in the next half hour as the next Paraguayan president.