Last week’s impeachment process in Paraguay – which many congressmen and analysts in the country have supported as part of a legal process enshrined in the Constitution to tackle a president “performing poorly" – was widely condemned across political spectrum, from Bolivia's Evo Morales to Chile's right-leaning Sebastián Piñera. Many commentators referred to it as an institutional coup.
But it has been the left-leaning leaders of South America, headed by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, that have most vociferously condemned the events in Paraguay, rankling Paraguayan leaders. Now Venezuela, which had been agitating to join Mercosur - the trade grouping that comprises Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and, until yesterday, Paraguay – has been invited in. The proposal had been repeatedly blocked by Paraguay's right-leaning parliament. Paraguay’s suspension from the group cleared the way for the oil-rich nation’s fast-track membership by the end of next month.
Lugo, a former priest and Paraguay’s first leftist leader who came to power in 2008, was removed from office last Friday within 24 hours after an impeachment trial was brought against him. The opposition-led Chamber of Deputies and Senate overwhelmingly approved the nine charges for his “poor performance of duties” as president.
The catalyst for the impeachment, attempted on previous occasions, was the standoff between police and landless peasants in Curuguaty, eastern Paraguay, two weeks ago that left 17 people dead – both peasants and police. Lugo, who maintains close links to the landless movement, was accused of inciting the protesters.