Venezuela Condemns “State Coup” in Paraguay

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared Sunday that Fernando Lugo’s dismissal as Paraguayan president was a “state coup”. (AVN)

Ewan Robertson

Edinburgh, 25 June 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela has suspended oil shipments and withdrawn its ambassador from Paraguay as part of a regional wave of condemnation against the ouster of leftist Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo last Friday.

“We are absolutely not going to support this state coup, not directly, neither indirectly,” stated Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday.

Chavez described Lugo’s political impeachment trial, engineered by the majority conservative parties in Paraguay’s congress and senate, as “express, summary, illegal and unconstitutional,” continuing that “they judged him without evidence, and furthermore from night to day…these things always happen when the bourgeoisie and the right govern”. He further drew parallels with the state coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in June 2009.

Right wing parties in Paraguay’s congress and senate had been blocking Venezuela’s entry into the Mercosur trade bloc despite the approval of Lugo’s presidency and other member states Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Newly sworn-in de facto Paraguayan president Federico Franco has reiterated his opposition to Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur and stated his opinion that the removal of Lugo has saved Paraguay “from becoming a pro-Chavez satellite”.

Chavez further attacked Paraguay’s new leaders yesterday as “the same as those who made Paraguay a Yankee colony for many years and supported the dictatorship, massacres, tortures and disappearances”.

Social movements in Caracas and other parts of Venezuela also protested against Lugo’s ouster. At a demonstration outside of the Paraguayan embassy in Caracas on Saturday, Hernan Vargas of the Dwellers Movement argued, “What was attacked [in Paraguay] was the people’s will, therefore we condemn the bourgeoisie of Latin America and the political, economic and military factions in Paraguay that lent themselves to this dirty move”.

Regional Criticism

Venezuela’s response toward the situation in Paraguay comes as part of a wave of regional condemnation of Fernando Lugo’s ouster from power.

The nations of the eight-member ALBA alliance, which includes Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua, released a statement immediately after Lugo’s impeachment trial condemning it as a “state coup”. The ALBA countries also declared their support of Lugo as the elected president and their refusal to recognise the government of Federico Franco, “elected by 39 votes in the Paraguayan senate”.

Along with Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, and Mexico have also withdrawn their ambassadors from Paraguay.

Meanwhile the Mercosur bloc released a communication on Sunday, further signed by associate states Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, suspending Paraguay from Mercosur and barring its attendance at the upcoming Mercosur summit this 28 – 29 June in Mendoza, Argentina.

The statement indicated the countries’ “most energetic condemnation of the rupture of democratic order that has occurred in the Republic of Paraguay, for due process not having been respected”.

The 12 member Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), of which Paraguay currently holds the rotating presidency, is set to meet this Wednesday in Lima, Peru, to discuss the situation. Ecuador will propose UNASUR’s Democratic Clause by applied to Paraguay and it is likely that Peru will assume the UNASUR presidency early, rather than waiting until November.

If Paraguay is deemed to have violated the UNASUR’s Democratic Clause, it could face expulsion from UNASUR and Mercosur.

Lugo has confirmed he will attend both the Mercosur and Unasur summits, and will facilitate the handover of the UNASUR presidency. While agreeing to step aside after Friday’s trial, on Sunday he announced the formation of a parallel government, declaring the Franco government installed to replace him as illegitimate.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) will also meet this Wednesday to discuss possible measures relating to the situation in Paraguay. On Saturday OAS general secretary Jose Miguel Insulza voiced the “doubts” of “the international community” over whether the events leading to Lugo’s dismissal had complied with “universal principals of due process and legitimate law”.

Canada, Germany and Spain have already recognised the new Paraguayan regime. The United States has yet to declare whether it will recognise the Franco government.

A former Roman Catholic bishop, Fernando Lugo’s election in 2008 on the promise of agrarian reform and helping the poor majority ended 61 years of rule by the conservative Colorado party.

The senate impeachment trial accused him on five counts of misconduct including linking him to a recent clash where police tried to evict squatters on lands held by a wealthy politician, which resulted in 17 dead. Lugo’s impeachment trial lasted for little over 5 hours with limited time given for him to prepare a defence, after which with 39 votes in favour and 4 against the Paraguayan senate dismissed from office.

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