Friday, June 22nd 2012 - 21:59 UTC

“Institutional coup” removes Paraguayan president Lugo from office

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.

Supporters of President Lugo assemble in the main square across from the Senate

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.
 

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1 briton (#) Jun 22nd, 2012 - 10:05 pm Report abuse
Oh dear,

is this going to be a south American summer .
2 Xect (#) Jun 22nd, 2012 - 10:12 pm Report abuse
Isn't this just another day in SA? Positively business as usual....
3 The Chilean perspective (#) Jun 22nd, 2012 - 10:41 pm Report abuse
I'm glad this loser got impeached, maybe he can best utilize his time now to find the many stray kids that he has fathered as a Catholic priest and not spend all his energies destroying the Paraguayan economy. He won't be missed. Now I hope the people of Paraguay elect a decent representative at the coming elections.
4 rnbgr (#) Jun 22nd, 2012 - 11:48 pm Report abuse
Impeached in two days, this is ridiculous .
5 AmericanLight (#) Jun 23rd, 2012 - 01:51 am Report abuse
Republiketa....
Feel bad for SA....
6 windy (#) Jun 23rd, 2012 - 02:24 am Report abuse
It is better to have a bad leader that you can remove in an election, than a coup appoited thief who may never leave. The colarado party misruled Paraguay for 65 years the last time they were in. And now they are back. To see the little white rich mans club standing beside their appointed white president tonight was a disgrace. A terrible day for demoracy. And a terrible day for the vast majority of Paraguayans who are not white skinned and will not benefit in any way from this coup.
7 Think (#) Jun 23rd, 2012 - 04:02 am Report abuse
(6) Windy
I couldn’t have said it better……….

The next days and weeks will show the validity and indispensability of Unasur’s and Mercosur’s democratic clauses……..
Will be interesting to see where the USA goes on this one……….

PS……
Strange time the United Kingdom chose to open its new embassy in Paraguay….
8 Ozgood (#) Jun 23rd, 2012 - 12:36 pm Report abuse
I wonder when CFK will have her day!
9 Doveoverdover (#) Jun 23rd, 2012 - 03:30 pm Report abuse
@7 I say old chap, multiple postings using the same identity? Strain beginning to tell, is it? Your analysis seems to be off-colour too since it's hard not to see a vote in both Houses as the ultimate vote of no-confidence, the stepping up of the vice-president as an appropriate replacement and the prospect of litigation in the Supreme Court as the correct response. Still, you know how these Latin places work better than I do.
10 anubeon (#) Jun 23rd, 2012 - 08:56 pm Report abuse
@9 Doveoverdover

“Your analysis seems to be off-colour too since it's hard not to see a vote in both Houses as the ultimate vote of no-confidence...”

Well that's certainly one interpretation. However, unlike a vote of no confidence, impeachment is essentially a trial. Now call me a lefty lunatic, but 48 hours does not seem like adequate time to build a good case and is certainly insufficient time to build a good defence. Impeachment proceedings shouldn't be so swift; when they are, it looks more than a little suspect.

Also, doesn't Paraguay have a directly elected executive President? If so I'd imagine that their political system operated on the basis of the separation of powers, and this, coupled with the mandate granted (to the President) through direct election, should rule out votes of no confidence (within the legislative branch of government). For example, I don't think that the USA (as the pre-eminent example of such a political system, based on separation of powers) has provisions within its constitution to allow Congress to oust the (directly elected) President through a vote of no confidence (which I think is only right and proper given the quasi-adversarial role that the legislative and executive branches are expected to play with respect to one another) but it does have provisions to impeach the President (which is a lengthier process - see Bill Clinton). Contrast this with parliamentary systems such as the UK where the vote of no confidence (for our indirectly (un)elected PM) is the preferred method of ousting a premier, and impeachment is a relative rarity (though still theoretically possible). Also, under parliamentary systems, votes of no confidence make perfect sense as a PMs mandate is usually secured through his/er MPs rather than through a direct popular vote (it'd be a little lousy to allow a couple hundred individuals, elected or not, to out a directly elected premier).

End of rambling. ;-)
11 British_Kirchnerist (#) Jun 24th, 2012 - 02:02 pm Report abuse
#3 “spend all his energies destroying the Paraguayan economy”

Thats why according to the WIlliam Hague thread Paraguay was the fastest growing economy in the continent in 2010...
12 Doveoverdover (#) Jun 24th, 2012 - 08:02 pm Report abuse
@10 You are probably right but, frankly, politicians in Republics shouldn't be both Heads of Government (and rightly subject to instant removal) and Head of State (elected for a fixed period but having limited political day to day power). When they are they behave like the first and demand respect like the second. I prefer our constitutional monarchy over an elected tyranny any day.
13 anubeon (#) Jun 24th, 2012 - 10:40 pm Report abuse
@12 Doveoverdover

I'm afraid that we in the UK have the worst of both worlds with our parliamentary 'democracy' and constitutional monarchy. We have indirectly (un)elected Prime Minsiters who serve as Head of Government and executive Head of State. The Monarch serves purely as a ceremonial figure head, with little real power, except those privileges which are theoretically afforded her, but which are in practiced only ever exercised on her behalf by the Prime Minister. Essentially giving rise to an imperial president sans the formal title

The whole purpose of the seperation of powers is to pit the judicial, legislative and executive branches against one another. Each equipped with equal but non-identical powers. Theoretically the legislative branch should be empowered to block the executive branch by refusing to pass legislature and/or money bills/budgets (either of which can be resolved by negotiation, when the system is functioning well; or through executive orders in-line with constitutional provisions, which ideally should limit circumvention of the legislature by the executive to cases where clear abuses are being enacted by the legislative branch against the wishes/interests of the people). The problem with many South American states (and their choice of presidential rather than parliamentary democracy) is that the system tends to break down if the political landscape is radicalised. Each extreme of the political spectrum will tend to abuse the system of checks and balances to ouster their rivals (which is precisely why I'm suspicious of this warp-speed impeachment; impeachment proceedings are trial proceedings - they deserve time). Parliamentary democracy would solve this somewhat (you either have a majority in parliament or you don't), but at the cost of eliminating a clear mandate through direct popular vote (you end up with party political oligarchy).

I personally prefer the idea of a directly elected executive cabinet, rather than a unitary president.
14 Doveoverdover (#) Jun 25th, 2012 - 06:52 am Report abuse
And I prefer a cabinet that isn't cobbled together by an ill-informed and coordinated mob.
15 anubeon (#) Jun 25th, 2012 - 09:26 am Report abuse
@14 Doveoverdover

“And I prefer a cabinet that isn't cobbled together by an ill-informed and coordinated mob.”

If you don't mind me saying that does seem a little snobbish, and certainly anti-democratic. In essence you DO support dictatorship (or more precisely a barely elected oligarchy). Incidentally, our current cabinet and cabinets past HAVE been assembled by an ill-informed and co-ordinated mob. They're called political parties, and their structures are rarely particularly democratic, or accountable and are often in hock to rent seekers and vested interests. Politicians are ideological rhetoricians; not philosophers, not scientists and certainly not wedded to trivialities like facts and evidence. They're little better than a mob!

If you think a system wherein both our Head of Government and effective Head of State, as well as the cabinet (s)he chooses, who are elected by a mere tens of thousands of people (their direct constituents) and by virtue of a party rosette (party loyalism abound) is for the best solution I pity you. The result is a heavily insulated political class which is barely accountable (as party loyalism and safe seats play a more important role in which party is elected and which MP leads, than the democratic will of the people) and which rules rather than governs. All of these efforts are made worse, of course, by the lack of proportionality in the disposition of seats and the resultant lack of plurality (although plurality in a parliamentary system can be AS disastrous as duopoly if not tempered by a directly elected executive - see Italy, Greece and Belgium).

No UK government in over 40 years has enjoyed a majority of popular support, they've all relied on the peculiar arithmetic of FPTP and unpopular coalitions (the Liberal Democrats stole many a left leaning vote). At least directly elected officials have a REAL mandate - which is why they SHOULD be difficult to unseat by fellow politicians who have less of a mandate.
16 British_Kirchnerist (#) Jun 25th, 2012 - 09:30 am Report abuse
#14 The same “mob” that elects the President and Parliament! So is it dictatorship you want...
17 anubeon (#) Jun 25th, 2012 - 09:50 am Report abuse
I'm loathed to agree with @British_Kirchnerist for obvious reasons (sycophancy towards ANY politicians disturbs me, and BK performs the sycophantic shuffle pa excelence) you do seem to be implying that dictatorship (albeit a subtle, temporally limited dictatorship with weak allusions to democracy) is preferable. Any statement that implies that the 'mob' cannot be trusted, and that by inference, the political class is best placed to determine the course of policy unencumbered by the 'mob' (i.e. their constituents, to whom they owe their mandate, and for whom they are supposed to be working) necessarily reduces to the politics of conviction (a.k.a. arrogant and imperious abuse of power - the likes of which has been practised by the Bushes and the Blairs of this world with little regard for the impact of the common man). Conviction has it's place in politics of course, WHEN backed up by evidence; but the long and the short of politics within a true democracy ought to be consensus.

I'm not saying that UK isn't a democracy of sorts, just a deeply flawed one. As flawed, I would contend (although for different reasons) as those democracies in South America with a history of instability. The UK's chief flaws are the lack of a direct mandate, the lack of (soft or hard) legal bondage (of political parties) to their manifesto pledges and the sanguine, samey nature of our political classes (very little distinction between the two major political parties = no real policy choices). In South America (and Italy, and Greece, etc...) the flaw seems to be the intensely partisan nature of the politics, with radicalised extremes, incapable of dialogue and compromise, dominating the political sphere and spending more time finding intricate and divisive ways of turfing one another out of office (outside of the ballot box) rather than actually governing. This, incidentally isn't unique to presidential systems (the USA and France work, and Italy and Greece have suffered similar issues).

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