US Statement on Paraguay and More

Three days after Paraguay’s Senate removed president Fernando Lugo from office (and only four days after the Chamber of Deputies even impeached the president), the United States has finally addressed the situation:

“We remain quite concerned about the speed of the process used for this impeachment in Paraguay,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

But Nuland said that the United States had also taken note that Paraguay’s new leadership has committed to going ahead with upcoming elections.

[…]

Nuland declined to say whether the United States would back possible moves to oust Paraguay from the Organization of American States when the Washington-based body holds a special meeting.

“I think we look forward to seeing how much unity there is there in the OAS on next steps,” Nuland said.

This cautious approach on the part of the government is not surprising; it took a similar approach to seeing how things played out in Honduras in 2009. Likewise, while some can complain that the US doesn’t openly reject the new government, nor does the US openly accept the outcome of the impeachment process in Paraguay last week. Again, it’s a measured response that seems to want to take measure of things in Paraguay and the region before deciding to act, something that may upset some but that’s hard to fault, especially given the historical failures of quick acknowledgments of governmental overthrows.

The fallout from the removal of Lugo also reached the global market today, as the S&P put Paraguay “on watch for a possible downgrade,” citing the exit of officials from Lugo’s administration among other causes of potential instability (though a “triple B-minus” from an institution whose credit-rating reputation itself has suffered in recent years is not exactly a radical transformation, either).

Meanwhile, in Paraguay, Lugo himself has formed a “parallel government” and hopes to peacefully regain power as the rightful president of Paraguay. Indeed, while the new government of Federico Franco has been banned from the Mercosur/Mercosul meetings this week, Lugo himself will be in attendance as the economic bloc attempts to figure out what stand it will take on Paraguay after the impeachment and removal of Lugo. And news is emerging that UNASUR may be planning an “urgent summit” to speed up the transfer of the presidency of the bloc from Paraguay (whose term ended this year) to Peru, while the debate over whether or not the OAS should expel Paraguay is also heating up. And continuing to isolate Paraguay, Venezuela (which already withdrew its ambassador) has now said it will stop exporting oil to Paraguay, which gets 25% of its total petroleum from Venezuela.

Finally, on Saturday, I cautioned against comparing the events in Paraguay too closely to previous governmental overthrows in Latin America. R. Viswanathan, a former Indian ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, also cautions against trying to draw direct parallels with coups of the past, instead suggesting the impeachment/coup (or, as one article called it, the “golpeachment”) is a part of the “painful process of democratic maturity” in a region that saw the rise and fall of military dictatorships throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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