ASUNCION – President Fernando Lugo said Friday he accepts the Paraguayan Senate’s decision to oust him after a turbo-charged impeachment process in which the law was “twisted like a fragile branch in the wind.”
“Tonight I leave through the biggest door of the motherland, I leave through the door of the heart of my compatriots,” he said to applause from supporters gathered at the presidential palace.
It is not Fernando Lugo, but “Paraguayan democracy that has been deeply wounded,” he said, while urging his partisans to limit themselves to peaceful protest.
“May the blood of the just never again be spilled because of mean-spirited interests in our country,” Lugo said.
Vice President Federico Franco was sworn-in as Paraguay’s chief of state barely 90 minutes after the vote to remove Lugo.
The next general election is set for April 2013.
Only four of the 43 senators present at Friday’s session voted against finding Lugo guilty of misfeasance for the events of June 15, when seven police and nine squatters were killed in a clash in the northeastern province of Canindeyu.
The opposition-dominated lower house voted overwhelmingly Thursday to impeach Lugo and the Senate adopted a schedule that called for the president’s trial to begin at 12:00 p.m. Friday and a verdict to be rendered before nightfall.
Lugo met at the presidential palace early Friday with Cabinet ministers from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela and with the secretary-general of the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, Venezuela’s Ali Rodriguez.
Paraguay currently holds the rotating presidency of Unasur, whose member-states decided Thursday to dispatch officials to Asuncion to show solidarity with Lugo in the face of what his allies both at home and abroad described as a coup.
The head of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, acknowledged Friday that Paraguay’s constitution allows for impeachment, yet he raised concerns about the compressed timetable.
“The question is if the minimum conditions are in place to have a legitimate defense in the face of the speed of the process,” Insulza said during a special session of the OAS council in Washington.
Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, was elected in 2008 at the head of a broad-based coalition in favor of reform in the poor, landlocked South American nation.
His victory marked the end of 60 years of rule by the Colorado Party, including the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.
Hopes for significant change under Lugo have gone largely unfilled, due in part to his personal problem.
After finding himself forced to acknowledge fathering children during his years in the church, Lugo endured a months-long battle with cancer.
Another source of frustration has been obstruction and sabotage by Paraguay’s entrenched political establishment. EFE