As expected, other countries throughout South America have begun to respond to the removal of President Fernando Lugo through a speedy and arguably unconstitutional impeachment that, while following the letter of the law, failed to actually bring forth any constitutional violations on the part of Lugo, resulting in what may be the new face of a type of internal, institutional coup in the 21st century. Lugo, in what appears an attempt to actually give the constitution legitimacy, has accepted Congress’ decision, but he also appeared on television and blasted his removal as a “parliamentary coup” that was not based on any evidence of actual constitution wrongdoing, an accusation that is more than fair, given the speed of the impeachment and the lack of seriousness in the alleged charges or abuses. And indeed, if the text of the Congressional accusation that is making its way around the internet is correct, then the impeachment process was a farce indeed; as Greg Weeks points out, the charges are
even crazier than media accounts discuss. It argues that Lugo had a master plan to foment violence in such a way as to launch an “assault” and “install a regime contrary to our Republican system.” It is openly intended to be insulting.
What’s most undemocratic, though, is that it is extraordinarily vague. “Various” of his supporters, or “often times” without any specifics. Moreover, not only is almost no evidence presented, but the document says specifically that it doesn’t even need any.
In this context, the region is acting swiftly and in no uncertain terms. First Argentina withdrew its ambassador to Paraguay, and then Brazil followed suit in recalling its own ambassador. Uruguay also joined the fray in the ambassador-recall, bringing home its own team for “consultations.” Costa Rica hasn’t withdrawn its diplomatic representatives, but it has “strongly condemned” the move and offered Lugo asylum should he seek it. Peru has offered to hold a reunion between heads of state to address the issue. The Organization of American States has called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. Numerous other regional affiliations have also been quick to condemn the move: ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas) rejected the impeachment and will not recognize Federico Franco as the official leader of Paraguay; UNASUR also condemned the entire process, while Mercosur will meet next week to determine whether to adopt measures against Paraguay from the trade coalition. Meanwhile, the United States continues to take a more non-committal approach to the events, instead waiting to see how things play out (much as they did in the 2009 Honduran coup, when the US was much slower to condemn the removal of Manuel Zelaya than other Latin American countries were).
In an attempt to smooth over things, new acting president Federico Franco is sending his foreign minister to Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil to try to defend Paraguay’s actions. In an attempt to win back other countries, Franco says he plans on talking directly with Lugo in an attempt to get the democratically-elected President and once-ally-turned-foe to help Paraguay ease tensions with other regional leaders who have defended Lugo. It remains to be seen whether Lugo will be…sympathetic to Franco’s plight.
The speed of these developments continues to marvel. It’s worth remembering that on Wednesday evening, Fernando Lugo was still president with no sign of his removal and with Paraguay having cordial relations with its neighbors. In only 96 hours, that has all radically changed.