June 23, 2012
Paraguay’s Senate removed President Fernando Lugo from office in a rapid impeachment trial on Friday, and the leftist former priest said he was stepping aside even though he considered his ouster a blow to democracy.
Vice President Federico Franco was promptly sworn in as president while Lugo’s supporters massed in the streets, at times battling riot police. The outgoing president, who was elected on a pledge of helping the poor, averted the potential for a bigger conflict by appearing on television and saying he would comply with the Senate’s vote.
“I say goodbye as president,” a composed Lugo said shortly after the Senate vote. He said Paraguay’s democracy “has been deeply wounded.”
Franco, who had split ways with Lugo in recent years, triumphantly donned the presidential sash and declared: “At this time, God and destiny wanted me to assume the presidency.”
The Senate tried Lugo on five charges of malfeasance in office, including an alleged role in a deadly confrontation between police and landless farmers that left 17 dead.
After the five-hour trial, 39 senators dismissed Lugo, while four senators voted against and two were absent.
It was a dramatic demise for the once-popular leader who stepped down as the Catholic “bishop of the poor” to run for the presidency amid a leftward swing in South America.
Lugo’s removal after nearly four years in office highlighted his inability to find a balance with one-time allies who increasingly disapproved of his leftist policies and strident, uncompromising style. The trial came a day after Paraguay’s lower house of Congress voted to impeach Lugo.
Crowds of pro-Lugo protesters took to the streets condemning the impeachment trial and expressing support for the president. Police in anti-riot gear drove them back on horseback and using water cannons.
Yet after Franco’s swearing in, the crowd of protesters waned.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, who traveled to Paraguay ahead of the vote as part of a delegation from the UNASUR regional bloc, denounced it as a “new type of coup.”
“A truly shameful act has been committed,” Maduro told reporters.
Franco, of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, is now to serve out the rest of Lugo’s term, which ends in August 2013. The 49-year-old Franco has political experience as a former state governor and at first had been part of a political alliance that supported Lugo.
Lugo decided not to attend the trial, instead watching on television from the presidential palace while his lawyers spoke on his behalf.
The Senate rejected a request by his lawyers for a period of 18 days to prepare their arguments. The Senate’s president, Jorge Oviedo, said there were no grounds for such a request.
As flag-waving protesters took to the streets, many schools shut down in Asuncion, and downtown shops closed their doors as a precaution. Some said Lugo’s quick acceptance appeared to have averted a more severe and potentially bloody crisis.
Federico Franco was born on July 24th, 1962 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_Franco
July 24th, 1962
7 + 24 +1+9+6+2 = 49 = his life lesson = Happy. Smiling. Satisfied. Wish come true.
“9 of Cups – wish come true,
what you want will come to you!”
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