The extraordinarily rapid removal of President Fernando Lugo from office on 22 June took everyone by surprise. As Andrew Nickson shows in a masterly account of the events surrounding the impeachment, the Colorado Party (best known as the main pillar of support for General Alfredo Stroessner’s 35-year dictatorship) had long been plotting Lugo’s downfall. Finally, they were able to take advantage of the shock in the country caused by the worst single incident of political violence for decades – the killing on 15 June of six policemen and eleven campesinos in a murky rural conflict – to break apart the ruling coalition. Indeed, some commentators believe this incident was no coincidence.
In any event, acting with astonishing speed, the Colorado leadership persuaded the PLRA (Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico), which had hitherto backed Lugo, to support their move to impeach Lugo and previous Vice-President Federico Franco, a PLRA member, was promptly installed as President until the elections in 2013. By then, the Colorado candidate may well be in a strong position to win. Read more.
Agribusiness and the biotechnology multinationals have clearly benefitted from the impeachment. They had been angered by the Lugo government’s decision not to authorise the sale in Paraguay of Monsanto’s genetically modified Bt cotton and were organising a massive protest, a tractorazo, for 25 June. As most members of Congress are rural landowners, this conflict helps explain their readiness to move against Lugo. Following the impeachment, the tractorazo was cancelled. Read more.
Although technically constitutional, the impeachment has been widely considered undemocratic and was greeted with consternation by Paraguay’s neighbours. As Claudia Pompa discusses, the future of the new government will depend to a large extent on what sanctions regional bodies, such as Mercosur and Unasur, are willing to take. Read more.
Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, reacted critically in the immediate aftermath but since then has received in Brasilia two large delegations of brasilguaios, Brazilian farmers with large soya plantations in Paraguay, who are strongly urging her to recognise the new government. Perla Álvarez, from the rural women’s organisation Conamuri, has no doubts that Brazil’s growing influence is harming her country by damaging local culture and by causing many peasant families to lose their land. Read more.
But what is the broader significance of Lugo’s hurried impeachment? Left-wing analysts in Argentina and Brazil are identifying a new phenomenon, which they are calling ‘nuevo golpismo’ or ‘neogolpismo’. Latin America’s powerful elites, they say, have realised that old-style military coups are no longer acceptable internationally so they are learning to dress the removal from power of leftish presidents with a veneer of respectability. They list five recent attempts to get rid of rulers and to restore the oligarchical order: the failed coup attempts in Venezuela in 2002, Bolivia 2008 and Ecuador in 2010; and the successful coups in Honduras in 2009 and Paraguay in 2012. Read more.
It is depressing, if pertinent, to look at what has happened in Honduras since the disguised coup that removed president Zelaya from power in 2009. It ushered in the militarisation of society, increased repression and a wave of violence, as well making it extraordinarily dangerous to resist the new government. Read more