“There is no coup here,” assured the new president of Paraguay Federico Franco on Saturday, who acted confidently before the international press following the ousting of Fernando Lugo on Friday.
Paraguay's new president said he believes South American leaders will come to see the legitimacy of a fast impeachment trial that ousted his predecessor from office in two days and prompted criticism in the region and beyond.
Federico Franco, the former vice president, was sworn in on Friday after Congress voted overwhelmingly to remove Fernando Lugo from office, saying he had failed to fulfil his duties to maintain social harmony.
At no time was there a rupture or a coup, there was simply a change of leadership in line with the Constitution and the laws of the country said Franco, a 49-year-old doctor whose Liberal Party broke ranks with Lugo, paving the way for his removal.
Franco’s first two appointments were Interior Minister Carmelo Caballero, who will be tasked with maintaining public order and Foreign Minister Jose Felix Fernandez, who will immediately hit the road to try to appease fellow members of the Mercosur and Unasur regional trade blocs.
Our foreign minister will go to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to meet with authorities and explain to them that there was no break with democracy here. The transition of power through political trial is established in the national constitution, Franco said.
The three countries are members of Mercosur to which Paraguay belongs and Brazil is a strategic ally of the landlocked country.
Lugo decried his impeachment but said on Friday he accepted the decision of Congress and stepped down. The silver-haired former Catholic bishop has been holed up at home ever since.
Lugo has received phone calls from presidents in the region expressing their solidarity, according to his close ally, Sen. Jose Alberto Grillon.
The Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which is linked to the Organization of American States (OAS), voiced its concern over Lugo's impeachment.
It's a travesty of justice and a trampling on the rule of law to remove a president in 24 hours without guarantees of due process, the commission's executive secretary Santiago Canton told reporters in Washington.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said on television in Brasilia that Brazil will not respond unilaterally and will seek regional consensus at the UNASUR meeting.
About 100,000 Brazilians live in Paraguay - a landlocked, soy-exporting nation of 6 million people - and many of them own companies, large cattle ranches or soybean farms. The two countries jointly run the giant Itaipu hydroelectric dam and Brazil is Paraguay's main trading partner.
”I don't think Brazil should apply any trade sanctions (on Paraguay). The people most affected would undoubtedly be Brazilian business executives, Franco said.
Germany's International Development Minister Dirk Niebel met with Franco on Saturday and became the first foreign official to express support for the new government.
I'm not a constitutional expert on Paraguay, but as a politician I think the vote in Congress sent a clear political message,” Niebel told reporters in Asuncion.