June 20, 2013
Lugo to attend Mercosur summit in Mendoza
ASUNCION — Ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo branded the country’s new government illegitimate yesterday and called for democracy to be restored as neighbouring countries intensified criticism of his sudden impeachment.
He said his removal from office was “a parliamentary coup against the will of the people” and that he would back any peaceful effort to restore democracy.
Lugo announced he would attend the Mercosur summit in Mendoza later this week. Argentina, which currently holds Mercosur’s rotating presidency, said Franco’s government would not be allowed to attend the meeting.
Congress voted overwhelmingly on Friday to remove Lugo — a former Roman Catholic Bishop — from office.
Congress said he had failed in his duty to maintain social order following a bloody land eviction. Under the Paraguayan constitution, the impeached president was replaced by Vice-President Federico Franco, a vocal critic of Lugo for much of his presidency.
Franco’s newly appointed foreign minister urged Lugo to help quell the regional tensions, saying it was his “duty as a Paraguayan citizen and former president.” But Lugo refused to help his successor.
“We support any kind of peaceful effort aimed at restoring institutional order that was interrupted by Parliament,” he told reporters.
“This is a fake government. You can’t collaborate with a government that doesn’t have legitimacy,” he said, adding that he would attend a summit of Mercosur later this week in Mendoza to explain the situation. In an interview with an Argentine newspaper, Federico Franco said he would not be attending the meeting, preferring to stay in Asunción co-ordinating his new administration.
A senior Brazilian official said Paraguay would likely be suspended from both the regional Unasur grouping and from Mercosur, which also includes Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. “The point is to make this new government a pariah,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
There have been different reactions among Paraguay’s neighbouring countries. Brazil has recalled its top diplomat for consultations while some sources in Itamaraty Foreign Ministry said he is unlikely to return while Franco remains in the presidency.
Argentina and Venezuela announced they were pulling out their ambassadors and that they would not recognize the new government. Paraguay’s new government downplayed the Argentine announcement, noting that the last ambassador, Rafael Romá, had already left..
Chile, Colombia and Uruguay called their ambassadors home for consultations. The Vatican, Germany, Spain and Canada have recognized Federico Franco as the head of the new Paraguayan government.
Former Vice-President Federico Franco said newly appointed Foreign Minister José Félix Fernández Estigarribia would represent Paraguay at the Mercosur trade bloc‘s summit in Mendoza this week, where heads of state will be gathering on Thursday.
However, the Argentine Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that Paraguay’s participation in the event had been suspended.
Franco is to serve out the rest of Lugo’s term, which ends in August 2013.
Franco said on Saturday that Fernández, the foreign minister, would immediately hit the road to try to appease fellow members of the Mercosur and Unasur regional blocs. “Our foreign minister will go to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to meet with authorities and explain to them that there was no break with democracy here. The transition of power through impeachment is established in the national constitution,” Franco said.
The Brazilian Foreign ministry stated that President Dilma Rousseff was evaluating what actions to take with its Mercosur and Unasur partners. It added that Brazil would do nothing to “harm the people of Paraguay,” suggesting that it may not intend to cut off economic partnerships with its much poorer neighbour. The US State Department urged “all Paraguayans to act peacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay’s democratic principles.”
Herald with Reuters, AP