The Organization of American States Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said that to suspend Paraguay from the OAS “would not contribute to the achievement of our objectives”, governance, the electoral process and institutional normality.
In his report delivered on Tuesday to the OAS Permanent Council, Insulza said he favoured a more active presence of OAS in Paraguay to “avoid exacerbating the divisions within Paraguayan society and the country’s political system and avoid causing unnecessary suffering among the people of Paraguay”.
The Permanent Council held a special meeting to receive the report from Insulza, on the results of the visit he made last week to Paraguay leading a special mission to learn firsthand the details of the political crisis in the South American country.
The Secretary General presented a ten page report to the Council on the visit made from July 1 to 3 “to gather information in situ” about the political situation resulting from the impeachment conducted by the Paraguayan Congress which led to the dismissal of President Fernando Lugo, so that Member States can adopt the measures they consider appropriate.
The Permanent Representatives to the OAS will now deliver the report to their Foreign Ministries and the Permanent Council agreed to reconvene once the consultations have taken place.
Secretary General Insulza concluded in his report that “any decisions the OAS takes should make it possible to fulfil at least three objectives.” The first is to “complete the judicial process, which is currently in ‘sub-judice’ status before the Supreme Court of Paraguay and then, very probably, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.”
The second objective is to “strengthen governance in Paraguay in the transition to the 2013 elections by promoting public dialogue and supporting the legal reforms that may help avoid further crises.”
The third, said the OAS Secretary General, is to “ensure that the electoral process is participatory and transparent, and that there are no reprisals or exclusions because of what happened, especially reprisals against President Lugo or his supporters.”
Insulza said that, in order to achieve the first objective, “it is necessary to await the decisions of the Supreme Court of Paraguay, which are expected in the next few days and then the decisions of President Lugo and his attorneys regarding the intention they announced of resorting to the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights.”
In that sense, he added, “should the involvement of these organs be required, we trust that they will be able to pronounce on this matter as expeditiously as possible.”
With respect to the second and third objectives, the head of the OAS said “the General Secretariat believes it that it would be highly advisable immediately to deploy a mission to observe the process leading up to the April 2013 elections, facilitate political dialogue, and report periodically thereon to the Permanent Council.” The Mission’s purpose “would be to monitor from now on – as part of the process of strengthening governance – observance of the guarantees needed to ensure that all can compete on an equal footing.”
On the possibility of a meeting of Foreign Ministers to consider the situation in Paraguay, the Secretary General said “a discussion at that level could allow constructive solutions to be sought, so long as it kept in mind that the common aim joining all the Member States is to strengthen democracy in Paraguay and, ultimately, throughout the region.”
Secretary General Insulza said that to suspend Paraguay from the OAS “would not contribute to the achievement of our objectives.” In that sense, the chief representative of the hemispheric organization said he preferred to increase “the active presence of OAS organs” in the country to “avoid exacerbating the divisions within Paraguayan society and the country’s political system and avoid causing unnecessary suffering among the people of Paraguay.”
Insulza stressed that “there is currently a situation of political, social and economic stability that is worth preserving” and he warned that a suspension by the OAS “would have serious economic implications for the country given the direct impact of such a decision on other institutions of the Inter-American system and its indirect impact on other aspects of the international system and the country’s economic and financial well-being.”
Among the report’s conclusions, the OAS representative assured that “Paraguay has undergone a profound political and institutional crisis, a severe clash between the executive and legislative branches of government” that reflects “a profound political divide in Paraguayan society” which “makes it all the more worrisome.” Moreover, Secretary General Insulza highlighted the complexity of the situation from a legal perspective, given that, while the impeachment process strictly followed that laid out in the Constitution, “the speed with which the impeachment was conducted was highly unfortunate and created an aura of illegitimacy.”
At the same time, President Lugo, said the OAS head, accepted from the beginning the result of the impeachment, which “triggered an effect, which was the installation as President of the Vice President Federico Franco.” Similarly, the Secretary General noted that the majority of the authorities and political and social actors in the country “expressed the firm desire to comply with the electoral calendar” that sets presidential and legislative elections for April 21, 2013.
In his address, the Secretary General said that “it is natural that the situations that occurred in Paraguay prompted very negative reactions in many governments and political circles in the hemisphere, because nobody had expected President Fernando Lugo’s term in office to be ended prematurely.” However, he noted that “it is not a new situation in our hemisphere” and recalled that “in the decade of the nineties and the first half of the 2000’s, the early terminations of presidential terms came at a rate of one per year, for dismissal or for forced resignation,” and indeed, “in two countries in the region it happened more than once.”
The leader of the OAS said that “the immediate background to this process is what happened in Curuguaty, a place located in the northeast, close to the border with Brazil” where, on Friday, June 15, 17 people died; 11 tenant farmers and 6 policemen. “The large number of people killed shocked the country” and the “public unrest” it generated led to a “political crisis that led to the dismissal of President Fernando Lugo on June 22, just a week after the events in Curuguaty,” he added.
The Secretary General said that “Congress approved dismissal of President Lugo by an overwhelming majority of 76 out of 80 votes in favour of impeachment in the Chamber of Deputies and 39 out of 45 in favour of dismissal in the Senate.” “Strictly speaking, the impeachment followed constitutional procedure. However, opinions vary regarding whether the time given the accused allowed him to exercise his legitimate right of defence” added Secretary General Insulza.
The Mission headed by the Secretary General was made up of the Permanent Representatives of Canada, Allan Culham; the United States, Carmen Lomellin; Haiti, Duly Brutus; Honduras, Leónidas Rosa Bautista; and Mexico, Joel Hernández. In the report, whose conclusions the Secretary General specified were delivered under his “sole responsibility,” there is included a summary of the activities carried out by the Mission in Paraguay, where they interviewed former President Fernando Lugo and his advisers; President Federico Franco and his advisers; the Foreign Minister, José Félix Fernández Estigarribia; representatives of both legislative chambers; the Superior Electoral Tribunal; the political parties; media workers and owners; the Episcopal Conference; tenant farmers unions; producers’ unions; the Supreme Court; indigenous leaders; the former Interior Minister of President Lugo, Rafael Filizzola; and the current Interior Minister, Carmelo Caballero.
The representatives of Paraguay, Haiti, Argentina, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Nicaragua all participated in the special meeting.
Upon conclusion of the addresses by the Member States, the temporary Chair of the Permanent Council and Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the OAS, Diego Pary, closed the session “recognizing the delegations’ need to have the report presented by the Secretary General analyzed by their respective foreign ministries in their capitals” and called for the Council to meet again “as soon as possible” once they had consulted with their governments.