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Vatican Supports Paraguay Right Wing Coup

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Vatican recognises ‘coup’ president


28 June 2012








The Vatican became the first foreign state to recognise the hastily installed Federico Franco as president of Paraguay, after Fernando Lugo, a former bishop, was forced from office last week.


Mr Lugo was impeached over a clash earlier this month between squatters and the police that led to the deaths of six policemen and 11 peasants, whose cause Lugo has supported. Lugo's impeachment by both houses of Congress took less than two days and has been called a "coup" by some neighbouring states and by a huge resistance movement inside the country.


Sr Margot Bremer, a liberation theologian who has spent 25 years in Paraguay, who said: "It is shameful that the Roman Church is in favour of this coup d'état, while the base of the Catholic Church is in favour of Lugo."


Above: Newly-installed President Franco embraces embraces Coadjutor Archbishop Edmundo Valenzuela of Asuncion during a Mass at the city's Metropolitan Cathedral on 23 June. Photo: CNS photo/Marcos Brindicci, Reuters




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Paraguay: Return of the Mafia State



Tue, 03/07/2012 - 15:15 | LASC


The long dictatorship of Stroessner in Paraguay was described as a mafia state, in the sense that the state actually was the mafia, along with the governing Colorado Party. Stroessner's brutal regime was accepted as a staunch ally of the United States and co-operated in the "Operation Condor", organized by Henry Kissinger, which installed fascist regimes throughout the Southern part of the continent. Even after Stroessner was deposed in 1989, the Colorado mafia state continued, although wearing a democratic mask.


The principal victim of this mafia state was the peasantry, who suffered the systematic robbery of their land throughout the sixty four years of its rule. By 2008, 85% of the land was in the hands of 2% of the population. The ownership of the land was and remains the principal social and political issue in Paraguay. The big land owners have contracted with transnational corporations such as Cargill and Monsanto to cultivate genetically modified crops, especially soya and cotton. This industrialized monoculture has driven even more peasants into destitution, either in the countryside or in the slums of the cities. It also poisons the land, the water and the air.

The Colorado party was defeated for the first time in the presidential election in 2008, by a coalition of political parties and social organizations known as the Frente Guasú, led by the ex-bishop Fernando Lugo. Promising land reforms and social justice he had the support of the peasants and the poor in general, and his election lifted the hopes of the people.


Delivering on these promises, once elected, was another matter. Only 18 days into his presidency, Lugo denounced a plot to overthrow him by force. His position was not very strong, the Authentic Radical Liberal Party which had participated in his campaign and was able to nominate Federico Franco as vice-president, proved a very unreliable ally. This party had acted as the tolerated opposition to the Colorados for decades. Soon, Franco was engaged in discussions with the United States ambassador about how to get rid of Lugo, as reported by Wikileaks. With the defection of the liberals, the right had a majority in the Congress. The president sought to appease them, rather than to confront them, but they were not to be appeased - they wanted rid of him.


The Lugo government disappointed many of its supporters. Not only did the land reforms not happen, but the state continued to repress the peasants' organizations in their struggle for the land. Under pressure from the Congress and business interests, the government drifted further to the right.


Why then was there a coup against Lugo? According to the Argentinian Mempo Guardinelli - "Even though timidly, and not without contradictions and backward steps, Lugo's Government came to mean a significant change for the Paraguayan people, oppressed for decades by atrocious dictatorships and pervasive violence. The coup organizers sought to overthrow the democratic government because of its virtues, not for its faults."


The agribusiness interests still saw Lugo as a major obstacle to their plans, described by Paraguayan economist Idilio Mendez Grimaldi as "criminalizing all the peasant organizations, to push the peasants into abandoning the countryside to the exclusive use of agribusiness. It is a slow process of removing the peasantry from the Paraguayan countryside."


The preparation of the coup d'état followed a familiar, though shocking, pattern. In Curuguaty, on the 15th of June, a group of peasants were occupying land stolen in Stroessner's time and given to one of his cronies, Blas Riquelme, who had amassed a huge fortune and 70,000 hectares of land in the locality. They were confronted by the Special Operations Group of the police force. The police were fired on from a distance, and whoever fired on them were highly trained and possessed modern weapons. Six policemen were killed. The police then opened fire on the peasants killing eleven and wounding many more. A group of heavily armed men had been seen in the vicinity before, but none of the local people knew anything about them. They could have been associated with the land owner, the coup plotters, the CIA, or all three. Maybe not, but it stinks. As the Paraguayan Communist Party says "The manoeuvre is directed by the darkest and most rotten elements in Paraguayan politics; it is nothing strange for them to ignore due process with a guarantee of a fair judgement".


In any event, Lugo's enemies in the Congress were able to react with amazing speed. They accused the president of supporting the land occupation and held him responsible for the ambush on the police. They gave him two hours to reply at twenty four hours notice. The Congress deposed President Lugo and appointed Vice President Franco in his place. There was no due process nor was there a proper inquiry into the events in Curuguaty. Indeed, one of Franco's first acts was to cancel an inquiry ordered by Lugo.


The coup was met by a wave of popular protest in all parts of the country, in the cities and in the countryside, needless to say, unreported in the bourgeois press. A great crowd gathered at the public television station in Asunción, whose "open microphone" programme of speeches and music was relayed by Telesur, (the international Latin American station). Throughout the country, the people reject the Franco regime, showing a strength of organisation and determination that perhaps Lugo could have called on earlier.


The countries of Latin America have rejected the coup. Paraguay has been suspended from MERCOSUR (the South American common market) and UNASUR (the Union of South American States), and the coup has also been condemned by SICA (Central American States). Canada, Spain, Germany and the Vatican have recognised the new regime. The United States is "investigating", as if it had nothing to do with it.


The Coup d'états in Honduras and Paraguay are part of a counter offensive by US imperialism in alliance with the Latin American ultra right business and landowning class, against the great popular movements for genuine independence and social progress, which have swept through the entire continent in recent years. Lugo's government was seen as the weakest and most vulnerable. The coup shows once again that the United States is not too picky about what allies it chooses, jihadists or mafiosi, in defending or enforcing its interests, and the heirs of Stroessner are among the most despicable.




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