Clashes after Paraguay president ousted
Paraguayans have clashed with police outside the Congress building in Asuncion, shortly after it was announced that the Senate had voted to remove President Fernando Lugo from office.
The lower house of the Paraguayan Congress impeached Lugo on Thursday, and the Senate opened his trial on Friday and quickly reached a guilty verdict, ousting Lugo.
Lugo was immediately replaced by Vice President Federico Franco, a ferocious opponent of the leftist leader. Franco was sworn in as the new president of Paraguay on Friday evening.
“Although the law’s been twisted like a fragile branch in the wind, I accept Congress’ decision,” Lugo said in a speech on national television after lawmakers found him guilty of performing his duties badly during a land dispute that left 17 people dead.
He added that “the history of Paraguay and its democracy have been deeply wounded.”
“Today I retire as president, but not as a Paraguayan citizen,” he said. “May the blood of the just not be spilled.”
After a five-hour trial, 39 senators voted to oust Lugo, while four senators voted against the motion, and two were absent. He was accused of mishandling an armed clash over a land dispute in which seven police officers and ten landless farmers were killed on June 15.
Earlier, Lugo had said the entire impeachment process was equivalent to a coup.
“It is more than a coup d’etat, it’s a parliamentary coup dressed up as a legal procedure,” an angry Lugo said on Paraguayan radio.
After the Senate announced the decision, several thousand Lugo supporters took to the streets to condemn the move and express support for the man they still view as the president of the country. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used water cannon to disperse the protesters.
The breakneck speed of the impeachment process raised concerns in other South American capitals, and a few dispatched their foreign ministers to Asuncion. Some countries even warned of the possibility of imposing sanctions on Paraguay.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced that his government would not recognize Franco as president.
“The government of Ecuador will not recognize any president of Paraguay other than Fernando Lugo,” said Correa, adding “true democracy is based on legality and legitimacy.”
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