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The Foreign Minister of Peru, Rafael Roncagliolo said that on August, 9th the first report of UNASUR’s High Level Group on the political situation in Paraguay will be delivered.
In recent days, representatives of the regional bloc met in Lima, the Peruvian capital, to assess the political crisis in Paraguay established after the deposition of then President Fernando Lugo on June 22nd. Peru holds the temporary chairmanship of UNASUR.
Paraguay was suspended from the UNASUR until the country’s general elections that will occur in April of 2013. Mercosur also suspended Paraguay for the same period. In the opinion of the authorities of the regional bloc, Lugo’s right to a due process of law was not fully respected, and thus Paraguay violated the democratic clause necessary for a country to be an active member of country’s association. The government was taken over by former vice president, Federico Franco.
The former president’s impeachment was approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate in less than 24 hours. The Paraguayan authorities deny irregularities.
56% of Paraguay’s population supports the recent deposition of Fernando Lugo from the presidency, according to the results of a poll published by newspaper “Última Hora” last week.
The poll, conducted by consulting firm, Ati Snead, also found that 41% of respondents disapproved the impeachment process, and 3% did not answer.
About anticipating elections, which are set to take place only in April next year, 61% of respondents believe that the measure is not necessary.
The survey revealed that 55% of the population have “little or no confidence” in the current president Federico Franco, while 45% have “some or a lot of confidence.”
Lugo was deposed last June, 22nd in a political trial for “poor performance of his duties,” after the death of more than a dozen people, in a land-related conflict.
The Brazilian Foreign Minister, Antonio Patriota, continues to defend Venezuela’s entry in Mercosur and the suspension of Paraguay from the bloc.
Last Wednesday (11), Patriota appeared in the Senate’s Committee for Foreign Relations and responded to criticism from parliamentarians who are contrary to the suspension of Paraguay and against the support given to Venezuela by Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.
The minister reiterated that both decisions were adopted by common agreement between the three countries during the recent summit meeting, held in the Argentine city of Mendoza. “Paraguay will only be able to rejoin the bloc when it restores full democratic order.”
About Venezuela’s admission as a full member, which was strongly opposed by the Paraguayan Congress before the country was suspended, Patriota insisted that the country has a “strategic” economic and political importance to Mercosur.
“With Venezuela’s admission as a full member, Mercosur will extend itself from Patagonia to the Caribbean” said the minister, who highlighted Venezuela’s potential in the energy sector and its potential of “strengthening the networks of trade and investment” in the region.
According to Patriota, both the suspension of Paraguay and Venezuela’s entry were “difficult, but matured decisions, carefully adopted as to not affect the Paraguayan people” and “as a response to an unacceptable situation.”
The admission of Venezuela as a full member of Mercosur will be formalized at a special meeting to be held on June 31st, in Rio de Janeiro.
The government of Paraguay filed a requirement last week in the Permanent Court of Mercosur to restore its rights in the bloc, which were temporarily suspended, and also presented a complaint opposing the inclusion of Venezuela as a full member.
The government’s top legal officials presented the requirement to the Permanent Court, whose headquarter is located in Asuncion, as announced last week by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Félix Fernández Estigarribia.
The complaint included a protest ”against the suspension of Paraguay from the bloc and the declaration by which Venezuela was incorporated as a full member, both decisions contrary to the Treaty of Asuncion, the Protocol of Ouro Preto and the general rules of international law,” according to lawyer, Ernesto Velázquez.
Velazquez, who is part of the government’s legal team, ensured that Paraguay believes that “the aforementioned provisions are null and void” and that “they cannot have legal application and effectiveness.” Moreover, the lawyer points out that the government of Federico Franco, the rightful president since the former head of state, Fernando Lugo was removed by the Senate on June 22, demands the return of Paraguay’s rights within the block.
Velazquez insisted that Mercosur has violated its own resolutions like the “principle of legal equality between states” and “the principle of nonintervention.” He detailed the process, in a document of about 60 pages. All the judges of the Permanent Court, as well as the governments of member states have a deadline of 60 to 90 days to decide on the matter.
The president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, ratified the decision of his country to support the inclusion of Venezuela in Mercosur after the bloc approved the suspension of Paraguay from the group.
According to press reports, Mujica said that “while it is true that the proposal was elaborated in the first place by Brazil, we three agree (the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), about Venezuela’s entry in the bloc”. The representative of Uruguay said “the political will involved in the case, far exceeds the possible legal impediments regarding the matter”.
Paraguay was suspended from the bloc after Fernando Lugo was deposed. The suspension led to the approval of Venezuela’s entry in the free-trade agreement. Before the events involving Lugo, Venezuela’s entry in Mercosur faced strong opposition by the Paraguayan Senate, while the lawmakers of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have long supported Venezuelan admission to the group.
Mercosur was formed in 1991 after signing of the so-called Treaty of Asuncion between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The Brazilian Minister of Mines and Energy, Edison Lobão said that the political changes in Paraguay will not change the energy cooperation agreement that involves the shared management of the Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant with Brazil. He said the Brazilian government does not fear retaliation from the neighboring country.
The dam, built and managed by Brazil and Paraguay, has 14,000 megawatts of installed power and corresponds to approximately 19% of energy consumed in Brazil and 91% of consumption in Paraguay.
The Itaipu Treaty signed in 1973, establishes that each country has the right to use half the energy generated by the plant. Because it uses only 5% of what it is entitled, Paraguay sells the rest of the asset to Brazil.
According to Lobão, Paraguay has no other possible buyers for their energy surplus, except Brazil. The minister also noted that the plant has an autonomous administration, with directors of the two countries.
The new president of Paraguay, Federico Franco, said recently that the government will honor all over the contracted responsibilities, including paying debts, supplying energy and maintaining good relations with all countries, including Brazil.
Franco nominated the engineer Franklin Boccia Anki to be the country’s new General-Director of Itaipu Paraguay, but the nomination must still be ratified by Congress.
In a swift and coordinated movement, the Paraguayan Congress approved Fernando Lugo’s impeachment with extreme ease and rapidness. The process was approved by the House of Representatives by 76 votes in favor and one against last Thursday (21), and the Senate by 39 in favor, 4 against and 2 abstentions on Friday (22).
Elected in 2008, ending a six-decade hegemony of the Colorado Party, Lugo was overthrown by an “express” impeachment process, which caused suspicion from many neighboring countries, exactly because of the hastiness of the impeachment’s pace.
Known for his historic leadership of social movements as a Catholic bishop, Lugo took over the presidency supported by a broad alliance. Despite been elected in 2008 with 41% of the votes, he ruled facing strong opposition in the House of Representatives and the Senate, counting only with the support of social movements, mainly from groups that advocated agrarian reform in the country. And even these social movements (landless groups and teachers’ associations) were unsatisfied and pressured the former president to speed-up poverty relief actions.
It is important to notice that the support of the vice-president at the time, Federico Franco, from the PLRA (Authentic Radical Liberal Party), was decisive in the decision to impeach the former president. Lugo and Franco would have allegedly decided to breakup their alliance recently.
The crisis that led to the downfall of Fernando Lugo reached its peak after the deaths of 11 farmers and 7 police officers in a confrontation last week in a farm called Curuguaty, located in the Department (State) of Canindeyú, near the border with Paraná, Brazil. The opposition blamed Lugo for the episode.
According to some opposition leaders, the armed group EPP (Paraguayan People’s Army) was involved in the actions against the police and received “disguised” support from Lugo. However, there is no evidence of the participation of the EPP in the conflict. The irregular occupation of the lands was led by the Liga Nacional de Carperos (literally meaning National Camped League).
The land dispute was intensified in recent months because many landless movement leaders were demanding the review of property titles owned by farmers – in many cases brasiguaios (Brazilian immigrants)- on grounds that the properties were distributed illegally during the military regime led by Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989).
Because the Paraguayan Constitution allows the president to be prosecuted for “poor performance of his function, crimes committed in the exercise of his duties or for common crimes,” the opposition, led by the Colorado Party, decided to act and overthrew Lugo.
At the time of his impeachment, Fernando Lugo’s popularity was down. According to researcher Enrique Taka Chase, since 2008, his approval fell from 58% to 38%.
With Lugo’s impeachment, the vice-president, Federico Franco, from the PLRA took over. Apparently, the new president will face a wave of internal protests, and international pressures. The Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), for example announced that it will cancel the fuel transfers made to Petropar, the Paraguayan state oil company.
If on one hand, Fernando Lugo’s impeachment will improve the relation between the country’s executive branch with the political system, since Federico Franco and his party, the PLRA will have a better dialogue with Congress, on the other hand, the situation of the new government with the international community will be, at least for now, tense.
Besides the internal protests of social movements linked to Lugo, the new government could face political isolation in South America because many countries in the region saw the episode as a “coup sponsored by the Colorado Party.”
In the region, one of the countries with the greatest interest in resolving the current political crisis in Paraguay is Brazil. Dilma Rousseff has special interest in Paraguay for the following reasons, among others:
1) The two countries hold the co-administration of Itaipu (Binational hydroelectric, largest power plant in the world). Political instability could pose a risk (with boycotts or threats) in the electricity supply to the entire southern and southeastern Brazil;
2) There are about 400,000 Brazilians or Brazilian descendants in the country, many of them farmers, who are being evicted by the courts on the grounds of irregularities with their property’s titles. In the current environment of dispute for agrarian reform, these lands could become the target government sponsored invasions.
3) Brazil is an important partner of Paraguay in Mercosur, exporting more than US$ 2.97 billion to the neighboring country in 2011, especially in products such as fertilizers and diesel oil, and imported US$ 716 million – corn and wheat are the main items.
4) The Friendship Bridge, which connects Foz do Iguaçu to Ciudad del Este, is an important transit route for people and products.
5) Paraguay is considered a strategic ally on issues such as piracy, drugs and weapons trafficking.
NEW MINISTERIAL TEAM
The new president of Paraguay, Federico Franco, maintained only two ministers from the Fernando Lugo administration: Enzo Cardozo (Agriculture) and Francisco Rivas (Industry).
The other ministers of the new Paraguayan government are: José Fernández (Foreign Affairs), Carmelo Caballero (Interior), Horacio Galeano Perrone (Education and Culture), Enrique Salyn Buzarquis (Public Works and Construction) and Mary Liz Garcia (National Defense), the first woman to occupy this position in the country. President Fernández also nominated Antonio Arbo (Health Care) and Maria Segovia (Justice and Labor).
Sources in Brasilia said that Brazil’s government will not recognize the impeachment of President Lugo. The government considers that legal and constitutional conditions of the process were run over and that democratic stability was broken.
The Paraguayan senators are in this very moment (06/22/2012 – 18:00 hours, Brasília local time) deciding the political future of Lugo. In order remove Lugo from office, the votes of 30 out of 45 senators are necessary. Only two senators are currently supporting Fernando Lugo. Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted favorably to the president’s impeachment by 76 votes in favor and only one against.
The president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, said on Friday (22) that he will accept the political trial that is being held at the country’s Senate that can lead to his impeachment, but stated that he will resist through “other institutional instances”, speaking to Radio 10, from Argentina.
“I must abide by it (the political judgment), because it is a constitutional mechanism, but I will question the decision through other organizational bodies. It is my duty to resist, in order to strength and consolidate the democratic and participatory channels of Paraguay” said Lugo.
The former bishop, who is 61 years old, and that was elected in 2008, presented on Friday a constitutional appeal to the Supreme Court against the impeachment process held in the House of Representatives, his lawyer announced.
The presidents of the countries that form the UNASUR made an emergency meeting on the Thursday afternoon (21) during Rio +20 to discuss the political situation in Paraguay, after President Fernando Lugo dismissed rumors regarding his resignation after the opening, in Congress, of an impeachment process against him.
The announcement of the meeting was made by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, who also chairs the diplomatic group.
Political pressure on Lugo grew up in the last few hours with the approval by the House of Representatives of an impeachment process on the grounds of liability in the confrontation between police and farmers that left 17 dead on Friday.
Lugo would have called the block presidents and confirmed he has no intention of resigning.
The UNASUR is a political organization formed by Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.