The international community should stand by Paraguay’s democratic institutions and against the coup attempt being perpetrated by President Fernando Lugo’s opponents in the Congress, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said Friday. Paraguayan opposition members of Congress, led by the right wing Colorado party, have filed five charges of impeachment against Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, but are not allowing him adequate time to defend himself from removal.
“It seems that the Paraguayan opposition is attempting to roll back short-lived institutions and principles of democracy,” Weisbrot said. “Impeachment is a legal procedure under Paraguay’s constitution; but this is not impeachment. There is no due process – this is a coup.”
Paraguay’s Congress gave Lugo less than 24 hours to prepare his defense against impeachment, and only two hours to present it. “I don’t see how anyone in the world could call that due process,” said Weisbrot. “Not to mention that the accusers did not provide evidence for any impeachable offenses.”
The charges center on a clash over land – owned by a Colorado party politician – between landless workers and the police which left over 17 people dead. Lugo’s opponents in the Congress have not presented evidence for his responsibility for the deaths, however, and Lugo’s calls for an investigation into the events have gone unanswered.
Foreign Ministers from each of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) member countries have traveled to Asunción to meet with the President of the Congress, and UNASUR officials have warned that they would potentially break in relations with Paraguay were Lugo to be ousted without due process and a new government emerges.
The U.S. response so far has been tepid. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the political situation should be resolved in accordance with the constitution.
“The Obama administration should support UNASUR’s efforts to preserve democracy in Paraguay, and oppose this coup attempt,” Weisbrot said.