Ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, gestures while talking to journalists outside his home near Asuncion June 24. Paraguay's new president, Federico Franco, said he will ask his predecessor to help "decompress" regional t ensions over Lugo's speedy impeachment. CNS photo/Jorge Adorno, Reuters

Impeached Paraguayan president and former bishop fights ouster from office

By  Barbara J. Fraser, Catholic News Service
  • June 26, 2012

LIMA, Peru - As neighboring countries recalled their ambassadors from Paraguay for consultation, Fernando Lugo, the bishop-turned-president who was impeached June 22, announced that he was forming a parallel government.

Paraguay's Senate ousted Lugo, 61, after a two-day trial that the former president called a "parliamentary coup d'etat." The move came after a confrontation between landless peasants and police left 17 people dead.

Vice President Federico Franco, who was sworn in as president immediately, said the Senate vote was constitutional, but he faced turbulent fallout as Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia announced that they would not recognize the new government or were recalling their ambassadors for consultation.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry said Franco would not be invited to attend a meeting of the Mercosur South American trading bloc scheduled for June 27 in Argentina. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Paraguay's new chief executive would not be welcome at the next meeting of the Union of South American Nations.

As the impeachment trial loomed, the Paraguayan bishops' conference issued a statement June 21 calling for "political prudence" and calm consideration of "the legal, political and social consequences of the impeachment trial." The bishops urged "political leaders, grassroots organizations, unions and the public to remain calm and avoid confrontation and violence."

Before the impeachment trial, Lugo said he would respect the outcome, and he disappeared from view immediately afterward. On June 24, however, he announced that he would set up a parallel government in consultation with his former Cabinet ministers. Media reported that his apparent immediate acceptance of the Senate vote was in response to a plea from the bishops to avert possible violence.

Paraguayan media reported that Bishop Claudio Gimenez Medina of Caacupe, president of the bishops' conference, met with Lugo June 21 and urged him to resign to avoid further violence and to take care of his health. Lugo has been undergoing cancer treatment for several years.

Lugo took office in 2008, breaking the Colorado Party's 60-year grip on power, and his term was due to end in 2013. While in office, he faced significant political opposition from other politicians, including Franco. He also acknowledged having fathered two children while he was a bishop.

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