By Ardain Isma
CSMS Magazine Staff Writer
The coup against Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo MUST NOT stand, and the world needs to be united with one voice to denounce it. President Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop resigned in 2008 to run for the presidency. It was a move that was reportedly infuriated Pope Benedict XVI, who niggardly accepted his resignation when it became clear Lugo would not be persuaded to change his mind.
Lugo, a champion of the poor, has made some powerful enemies. Paraguay, like Haiti, has one of the most recalcitrant bourgeoisies in the world—a class that wholeheartedly supported more than sixty years of military rule that began in May of 1954 when Alfredo Stroessner—a brutal dictator—seized power in a coup against President Frederico Chávez. Paraguay is one of Latin America’s poorest countries with a sizable indigenous population that has long been marginalized, kept at bay from any decision regarding their ancestral land.
To camouflage the coup, just like this one, Tomás Romero, an opportunist politician, was picked as interim president to finish the Chavez’s mandate which was going to end in July of that year. Stroessner moved in to occupy the presidency in a fabricated election where he himself organized and he alone was the candidate. He held power until 1989, making him longer serving head of state, except for hereditary monarchs.
On Saturday, the Vatican’s envoy to Paraguay understandably stopped short of recognizing the new government. “I am very pleased that the people and authorities have thought of the good of the country, which is to keep giving one’s best for the fatherland,” Antonio Ariotti said, adding that he would read a message from the Vatican in the evening.
The excuses for the coup was that Lugo has been too belligerent in his refusal to compromise with the representative of the upper class, trying to forestall Lugo’s agenda for raising taxes on the rich to boost the economy and create social projects for the benefits of millions of Paraguayans who live in abject poverty.
From the get-go in 2008 when he took office, Lugo had been locked in this bitter dispute with a virulent opposition, receiving daily criticism for “being unyielding and unwilling to compromise.” There had been talk of impeaching Lugo in the past, but there was never enough support in congress for such a drastic step. Finally, earlier this week, a deadly clash between police and landless peasants that left several police officers dead gave Lugo’s enemies the excuse they had been looking for. Lugo was swiftly removed by a 39-to-4 Senate vote. Now, many fear a return of the country’s bloody past. Paraguay was an integrant member of Operation Condor.
Frederico Franco is isolated
A puppet government headed by Vice-president Frederico Franco was put in place. Franco promised to honor foreign commitments, respect private property and reach out to Latin American leaders to minimize diplomatic fallout and keep his country from becoming a regional pariah. Pariah, it is already is. Besides the United States and Germany with long strategic interests in Paraguay, not a single South American country recognizes his new government.
In fact, several presidents said they would seek Paraguay’s expulsion from regional groups. “This goes beyond Fernando Lugo. It goes beyond Paraguay. It’s about true democracy for all of our America,” said Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, adding that his country will not recognize the new government.
Cuba called it a “parliamentary coup d’etat executed against the constitutional President Fernando Lugo and the brother people of Paraguay.”
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez along with Bolivia’s Evo Morales condemns the coup with all their might and they made it clear that the Caudillos will not be allowed to come back.
Criticism came not just from the left but from conservative governments, too. Chile said Lugo’s removal “did not comply with the minimum standards of due process,” and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said “legal procedures shouldn’t be used to abuse. … What we want is to help stability and democracy be maintained in Paraguay.”
Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank commented the coup on these terms. “”It looks terrible throughout the region. …….It looks like is that a president can be removed simply for being unpopular, or making unpopular decisions.” Lugo was unpopular for sure among the tiny but powerful elite that are backwardly resistant to any change. Lugo remains a champion of the poor, and he must be allowed to continue to fulfill his mandate which ends next year.