President Fernando Lugo
CAFOD has expressed grave concern at the breakdown of democratic process in Paraguay after Catholic President Fernando Lugo was removed from office in what has been called an 'express coup’. The president was impeached by The coup was achieved via a Parliamentary tribunal and has been denounced by President Lugo as a 'parliamentary coup' that was not based on proper evidence.
The president, who is a priest, and former Bishop of San Pedro, was impeached by the Paraguayan Congress which accused him of failing to maintain social harmony. The coup was triggered by a police action to remove peasant farmers from a farm in Curuguaty during which 11 peasants and six police officers were killed.
Land reform was a central plank of the President's manifesto but there has been much opposition from the rich landowning elite of Paraguay. The President said his opponents had sidelined him because of his efforts to help the poor. Asked whether he had any hope of retaking office, President Lugo exhorted his followers to remain peaceful but suggested that popular national and international clamour could lead Paraguayan politicians to reverse his impeachment. "In politics, anything is possible," said President Lugo, who has set up an alternative government.
There has been fierce regional reaction with Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves declaring his government will cut off fuel sales to Paraguay. The country has been suspended from the South American trade bloc, Mercosur, whose other members are Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Brazil and Argentina have recalled their ambassadors from Paraguay.
CAFOD’s Paraguay programme officer Emily Mulville said: “We are deeply concerned with the breakdown of democratic due process in Paraguay, following the express impeachment of its popularly elected president, Fernando Lugo, last Friday, without the right to a fair and legitimate defence.
“CAFOD stands in solidarity with the Paraguayan people and in defence of democratic governance. The current political crisis, termed a “parliamentary coup” by many, weakens democratic institutional checks and balances and represents a backwards step in efforts to implement more inclusive public policies and social programmes."
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the landless small farmers and police officers who died at Curuguaty last week. A full investigation must be conducted into the event to attribute responsibility and to ensure justice is served to the victims, and that the demands of the campesinos are heard.
"We are worried that the deaths will be used to stigmatise small farmers and criminalise their organisations, and demobilise citizens and the right to peaceful protest of Lugo supporters, small farmers, union workers and other groups," said Ms Mulville.
“We reject the use of violence and urge the three powers of the state to guarantee full democratic processes and to ensure that a definitive peaceful solution to the underlying structural problems of extreme poverty and inequality is implemented, providing access to land and to a decent and dignified life for rural small farmers and indigenous people.”
Meanwhile, the trade union Unite has passed an emergency motion at its annual conference in Brighton condemning the coup.
Putting the 'political coup' in a continental context, the motion notes that "The progressive wave of recent years in Latin America has many powerful enemies, both from former ruling elites internally and right-wing forces internationally," and concludes that "International support is vital so that democratic and social advances continue."
Assistant general secretary of Unite, Tony Burke said, "The wide range of support from across British society - including Unite - for democracy and social progress in Paraguay echoes the increasing international clamour for President Lugo's return."
For more information on President Lugo, see: http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=5980