Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo could be removed from his post today by an impeachment trial supported by allies and opponents after a bloody clash between police and peasants sent his government into a political crisis.
Minutes after the House of Representatives approved almost unanimously (76-1) the beginning of the process, Lugo said he is not planning to resign and will defend his position before the Senate, although he lacks the necessary support to avoid his removal, according to swissinfo.ch.
The impeachment proceedings will be attended by a special commissioner of the Organization of American States (OAS), who will provide an international context to the process. The trial started on Thursday (June 21) and seeks to determine whether the president breached its duties by allowing increased social unrest in the country. The conflicts reached a peak on Friday June 8, when a clash between peasants and police left 17 dead.
Six policemen and eleven landless “campesinos" were killed, and twenty others were injured last Friday in a confrontation during a raid aiming to evict peasants from a farm owned by politician and businessman Blas N. Riquelme near the town of Curuguaty, 350 kilometers from Asunción, the Paraguayan capital. Following the massacre at the farm in Curuguaty, the Interior Minister Carlos Filizzola and Police Commander Paulino Rojas were removed from their posts.
The House of Representatives voted on impeaching Lugo on the basis of five separate issues, including his handling of the massacre at Curuguaty. Curuguaty, Department of Canindeyú, is located adjacent to the Brazilian state of Parana. The region has been afflicted for several decades by land ownership conflicts and invasions of farms by the landless peasants. The peasants accuse the state of having illegally transferred millions of acres of land to large landowners and agricultural producers, especially during the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989).
Lugo remains defiant and insists the impeachment proceedings are "a maneuver organized by sectors of Paraguay's political right seeking the removal of the President and the installation of an illegitimate government to regress Paraguay to the old political practices." "This president announces he will not submit his resignation and continues being subject to absolute obedience to the Constitution and will challenge the impeachment and its consequences," said Lugo in a message to the country, flanked by the commanders of the Armed Forces, reports 680news.com.
Lugo, a left-leaning former Roman Catholic bishop, was elected president in 2008 pledging to help the poor of Paraguay, promising better distribution of land and attention to the most urgent needs of rural areas. He has struggled to carry out his reforms due to control of Congress by the opposition. The Catholic Church has supported Lugo, but now is calling the President to resign in order to restore peace and order in the country. The political turmoil facing the country forced Lugo to suspend his participation in the Rio+20 Summit of the United Nations recently held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
During his presidency, Lugo had admitted fathering two children when he was still a practicing bishop. In 2010, he battled and overcame cancer. Lugo’s presidential term would end in 2013, but his political fate may be decided today Friday June 22 by 6 PM.
Paraguay has a population of 6.3 million people and a long history of political crises and interruptions of
Federico Franco, assumes the Presidency of Paraguay.
democratic processes. During his 34-year-long dictatorship (1954-1989), General Alfredo Stroessner sold and distributed land to political allies, ensuring legal title to the owners, although not always legitimately. In Paraguay, 3% of the landowners hold 88% of the land (Paraguay Census 2008). It is estimated there are at least 300 thousand landless peasants in the country. Since returning to democracy in 1989, more than 100 peasants have died fighting for the land.
UPDATE: Friday June 22; 17:38 hrs.
The Paraguayan Senate in public session has approved the dismissal of President Fernando Lugo.Thus, according to the succession of command established by the Paraguayan Constitution, the Vice President Federico Franco, will be sworn in as the new president of the Republic of Paraguay. The National Congress has convened Vice President Franco to be sworn in as the new Head of State.
Asunción, capital of Paraguay, view from the Ministry of National Defence.