Paraguay’s ousted Lugo calls for return to democracy
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo branded the country’s new government illegitimate yesterday and called for a return to democratic rule following his sudden impeachment two days ago.
Lugo, a leftist former Roman Catholic bishop, said his removal from office was “a parliamentary coup against the will of the people” and said he would back any peaceful effort to restore democracy in the soy-exporting South American nation.
Congress voted overwhelmingly on Friday to remove Lugo from office on Friday, saying he had failed in his duty to maintain social order following a bloody land eviction.
Under the Paraguayan constitution, the impeached president was replaced by Vice President Federico Franco, a vocal critic of Lugo for much of his presidency.
As South American neighbours stepped up criticism of Lugo’s rapid impeachment by an opposition-dominated Congress, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez halted oil shipments to Paraguay yesterday and withdrew his ambassador from the country.
On Friday, Argentina withdrew its ambassador in protest at what it said was a “coup” against Lugo and Brazil recalled its top diplomat for consultations.
One-day-old president Franco said he would ask his impeached predecessor to help quell the regional tensions, but Lugo refused to help him.
“We support any kind of peaceful effort aimed at restoring institutional order that was interrupted by Parliament,” Lugo told reporters, adding that he would not collaborate with a “fake” administration.
“This is a fake government. You can’t collaborate with a government that doesn’t have legitimacy,” he said, adding that he would attend a summit of the regional trade bloc Mercosur later this week.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said on Saturday that Mercosur could take measures against Paraguay. In theory, that could include suspension from the group, which also brings together Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
Lugo’s impeachment was sparked by clashes that killed six police and 11 peasant farmers during a recent land eviction. He was one year away from completing his five-year term.