Another “constitutional coup”?
Paraguay’s Chamber of Deputies voted Wednesday to impeach President Fernando Lugo for, well, basically doing a crappy job (mal desempeño de sus funciones, to be formal about it). The complaints are, depending on who you listen to, either that he has been slow to implement land reform, or that he has been unable to control violence in rural areas over land reform (and the slow pace thereof).
Which may be true, but Lugo was elected on a coalition ticket to counter the Colorado Party, which — even more than the PRI in Mexico — dominated Paraguay, where the same president (Alfredo Stroessner) held office for 34 years until he was run out of the country. Although from the left (he’s was a prominent Roman Catholic Liberation Theologian, and former Bishop), he has been forced to share power with the right, which opposes his land reforms. And, yes… for you conspiracy minded types, Paraguay does have U.S. troops, and the Bush Family (along with Sun Myong-Moon and some other equally shady very rich people) owns huge tracts of those lands that needed reforming .
It may be simple Paraguayan politics, or it may be a coup. When it comes to corruption, the Colorados are to the PRI, as Norwegian political parties is to Mexican parties. Or, as Inca Kola News puts it:
The parliamentary vote was on a snap resolution and we should keep in mind that the (non-Lugo) Colorado Party controls Paraguay’s congress, is dying to get back into executive power and is perhaps the single most corrupt political party in all of South America (and believe me folks, that takes some doing).
The Chamber vote was 76 to 1, but you have to take into account that the Colorado Party holds 37 of those seats, and the Vice President (who would replace Lugo) is from the “Authentic Radical Liberal Party”, which holds 21 seats. “Radical Liberal”, by the way means free-market capitalist in Latin America. In Mexico, Nuevo Alianza (Esther Elba’s party) is the “liberal” party. In the English-speaking world, the best known similar parties are the Canadian Liberal Party and the British Liberal Democrats.
The “Beloved Fatherland Party” … which describes itself as Christian Conservative holds another 10. The next largest party, the “Ethical Citizens” party (also with 10 seats) is something of a contradiction in terms, Lino Oviedo, its standard bearer in the last presidential election having just been sprung from prison for trying to stage a military uprising against the new democratic government when he was a Colorado Party leader.
In other words, the country has a lefty president (actually, a Catholic Liberationist), a right-of-center Vice President, a legislature dominated by parties from the right-of-center to fascist, and whatever Lugo’s faults as head of state, the legislative branch has every incentive to replace him with someone more in line with themselves. Like Vice-President Federico Franco (conveniently, the brother of his party’s Senate leader).
What makes this look like a coup is that, while since democracy was restored in 1989, Paraguay has impeached a president before. Raúl Cubas (who had been the Colorado Party candidate until candidate Lino Oviedo — yup, him again — had been tossed in the slammer) was impeached the day after his anti-Oviedo Vice President was assassinated. Cuevas was given ample time to prepare a defense for his Senate trial (but chose to resign, and went into exile), whereas Lugo is not being given any time to prepare any sort of defense in the Senate… which is, of course, overwhelming controlled by the same parties controlling the Chamber.