Impeachment or Coup d' Etat
June 26, 2012 6:46 PM   Subscribe

This past Friday, after a five hour trial in which Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo had less than two hours to mount a defense for, the congress and senate of Paraguay, in a close to unanimous vote, relieved the president of his duties. The election of Lugo, a former priest and a vocal advocate for the poor in Paraguay, a country in which a small handful of elites own close to 80% of the land (much of it given away in the 35 year Stroessner dictatorship) had officially brought an end to the 60 something year rule of the right wing Colorado Party (35 of those under Stroessner).

A bloody confrontation between landless peasants and the police was given as the official reason for the dismissal, but the former president is calling it a parliamentary coup. The US State Department has issued a vague neutral statement, but neighboring Latin American countries are not pleased.
posted by jake1 (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I know nothing at all about Paraguay and its politics but the Authentic Radical Liberal Party is an impressive name. It could only be improved by being either organic or artisanal.
posted by srboisvert at 7:09 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some maternal relatives of mine wound up living in Paraguay, and I am too aware of the Stoesner era. This all sounds like a mess.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:25 PM on June 26, 2012


Worth noting: Lugo had been an extremely ineffective president, and his support had greatly eroded. One of the biggest reasons for that was that as president he had not been a "vocal advocate for the poor." After the police killed 17 peasants (in the incident he was impeached for grossly mishandling), he did not speak out against it. That was the last straw--he also lost a lot of popularity with his rural, socially conservative Catholic base because of 4 scandals involving illegitimate children fathered when he was a bishop, including one with a 16 year old girl.

This coup may have been more or less on pretext, but the guy wasn't going to last much longer anyway.
posted by tkfu at 7:32 PM on June 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


This being Paraguay, it was rather orderly. Not a great thing to have a president impeached, but apparently it was all done according to the law.

Note the prominence of Chavez's antics on the neighboring countries link. Never a good sign.
posted by falameufilho at 7:33 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had heard about the sudden impeachment, and that it was over land rights, but I had no idea of the back story, so this will make excellent lunchtime reading.

I'm already even more confused and I'm just on the Wiki page.
posted by Mezentian at 7:59 PM on June 26, 2012


I know nothing at all about Paraguay and its politics but the Authentic Radical Liberal Party is an impressive name.

Yeah, the Southern Cone has some excellent political party names. My personal favorite is Argentina's Intransigent Radical Civic Union, which is all the more impressive a name in light of the fact that party were actually moderate centrists who tried to broker a peace deal between Cuba and the US during the early '60s.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:07 PM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Argentina's Intransigent Radical Civic Union, which is all the more impressive a name in light of the fact that party were actually moderate centrists

There is actually a long history of the word "radical" to refer to a type of liberalism (in the European, not the American sense of the term) slightly to the left of very conservative, bourgeois laissez-faire liberalism. Cf. the Radical Party in France.
posted by dhens at 8:22 PM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lugo's impeachment has to be seen in light of Paraguay's recent history, as well as that of the region. Again, Paraguay is the poorest nation in South America where about 2-4 percent of the population own about 85% of the land. Much of that land was forcibly taken from peasants and given to friends of Stroessner during and after the dictatorship. And the area where the clash took place is near the border of Brazil and a pretty lawless area. You'll notice in reports the land is referred to as "held" not "owned" by its wealthy occupants. That is because it was taken by force (something you can still do in parts of Latin America provided your private goon squad is large enough) and ownership is still disputed. And Lugo himself, embattled from day one and forced to pick a vice president who was openly hostile to him soon after election, could count on very little parliamentary support even on a good day. The fact that he compromised early and often with the opposition for no reciprocal favors did not seem to dampen their enthusiasm for his removal, much like our current situation in the US. And in Paraguay, all private media is in the hands of the oligarchs and their assault was relentless. The fact that he still maintains significant support among the populace is a testament to the truly debilitating corruption and oppression that your average Paraguayan faced for more than 60 years under Stroessner/Colorado rule. And the fact that Lugo, who governed as a tepid moderate, was subject to constant vilification culminating in a kangaroo court impeachment is a testament to the complete sense of ownership the upper classes of Paraguay feel toward su patria. Oh, and as far as the Authentic Radical Liberal Party goes. Its neither liberal nor radical. But what's in a name anyway. Some good background.
posted by jake1 at 8:40 PM on June 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


And for the life of me, I can't recall a single South American president ever removed from office over the literally thousands of peasant massacres (officially four or more deaths in one incident) that have taken place in Latin America over the last 100 years. But the fact that 5 of the dead were cops is cause for impeachment? And really.....24 hours to prepare his case and 2 hours to present it? A coup by any other name is still a coup.
posted by jake1 at 8:44 PM on June 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh, and as far as the Authentic Radical Liberal Party goes. Its neither liberal nor radical.

They really ought to call it the Inauthentic Radical Liberal Party, then, shouldn't they?
posted by axiom at 8:47 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


No Lugo fan at all, but this looks really bad.
posted by rollbiz at 8:59 PM on June 26, 2012


Well, progress!

It was a bloodless coup.
posted by notyou at 9:10 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Knocking up a 16 year old girl when youre a priest? The Authentic Radical Liberal Party need to sort their due diligence process.
posted by Damienmce at 10:05 PM on June 26, 2012


Can anyone here who's more knowledgeable about the country than I tell me how accurate a portrayal of the country John Gimlette's At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig is? It's enjoyable, though there's not a great deal of competition for popular books about Paraguay in English. It did leave me in awe of Paraguayan history.
posted by with hidden noise at 10:52 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


2002: Venezuela

2004: Haiti

2009: Honduras

2012: Paraguay

The Right has a pretty strong sense of entitlement in this part of the world.
posted by moorooka at 1:26 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


How do you say 'fall guy' in Spanish?
posted by Goofyy at 5:57 AM on June 27, 2012


Can anyone here who's more knowledgeable about the country than I tell me how accurate a portrayal of the country John Gimlette's At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig is? It's enjoyable, though there's not a great deal of competition for popular books about Paraguay in English. It did leave me in awe of Paraguayan history.

Seconding this. The book was infinitely readable, but would prefer some counterpoint to the narrative there.
posted by the cydonian at 6:03 AM on June 27, 2012


It's going to be very interesting to see what happens now. Lugo was definitely no good, but I don't know that Franco is going to be any better.
posted by corb at 6:21 AM on June 27, 2012


moorooka: "The Right has a pretty strong sense of entitlement in this part of the world."
posted by IAmBroom at 7:00 AM on June 27, 2012


Although I do see that Franco apparently promised to protect private property, so some improvement at least.

Also, where are you getting a sense of Right Entitlement from this?
posted by corb at 7:04 AM on June 27, 2012


From the fact that even a neutered incrementalist was more than they could deal with after ruling the country for more than 60+ years. And for impeaching him in a kangaroo court when he barely had a year left in his term and could not run again. Again, context is important.
posted by jake1 at 7:56 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


And when you speak admirably of the protection of private property in a country where a tiny minority own everything and the vast majority own nothing, it gives the impression that only a few people and their property really matter. The problems that Lugo faced in trying to better the situation display the massively uphill battle that anyone trying to bring about any measure of positive change in a system set up by dictators and oligarchs will face. Remember, he and Zalayas in the Honduras were pretty much moderates and were taken down by soft coups. Imagine if they had been actual fire breathing leftists.
posted by jake1 at 8:04 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Although I do see that Franco apparently promised to protect private property, so some improvement at least.

Oh, good. Can't have those peasants getting uppity.
posted by steambadger at 8:22 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Short version: Federico Franco is not still dead.
posted by Twang at 1:13 PM on June 27, 2012


Do you think that people deserve to take what other people have built up sheerly by virtue of being a mob?
posted by corb at 1:46 PM on June 27, 2012


"what other people have built up"? You mean what the ruling class appropriated by force under a fascist dictatorship? They don't "deserve" shit.
posted by moorooka at 1:57 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you think that people deserve to take what other people have built up sheerly by virtue of being a mob?

Well, that depends. Do you think people deserve to take what other people have built up, sheerly by virtue of being friends and colleagues of the thug who was in charge of the country?
posted by steambadger at 2:15 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi gringos! Yes, you! You see, when you frame this as a fight of the heroic peasants against a bloodthirsty elite and their thugs YOU LOOK LIKE A MANICHEISTIC IDIOT.

Don't do it.
posted by falameufilho at 10:52 AM on June 28, 2012


Hey falameufilho, perhaps without the name calling you could shade in a few of the gray areas for us. I'll be the first to admit that I see the situation from a leftist point of view and I happily carry the baggage associated with that. I have also done a small amount of study on the matter and I have to say, what history I've read generally buttresses these opinions. But I am not frightened of complexity and have no problem civilly discussing matters with someone of the opposing viewpoint.
posted by jake1 at 9:07 PM on June 28, 2012


Well, that depends. Do you think people deserve to take what other people have built up, sheerly by virtue of being friends and colleagues of the thug who was in charge of the country?

Sadly a comment of mine was eaten by a cat hailing from Porlock, but essentially: the land grant system was not, as far as I am aware, a system of taking individual land that people had owned, and giving it to wealthy landowners. It was a system that functioned because the government owned the vast majority of the land, and it would give or sell it away for a variety of purposes: colonization, creation of farms and ranches, etc, a need of ready cash. Sometimes the land grants were to wealthy individuals who promised to accomplish these things. Sometimes the land grants were to zany socialist colonies that died out.

The thing that I think most people, and especially Americans, fail to understand is that this is in some ways how America was originally set up - large land grants to people who were favorites with the king, etc. The only difference is that the revolution shortly afterwards threw all of those land grants into disarray.

So yeah, please let me know of any examples of land that had been "built up" that was then given to those individuals. It is, as far as I know, much more that large tracts of land were given or sold to individuals, who, unlike the American way of doing things, then held onto them for their future generations.
posted by corb at 3:52 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


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