Paraguay senate impeaches leftist president in ‘rushed judgment’
ASUNCION — Fallen Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo accepted his impeachment by lawmakers Friday, but said it had dealt a blow to democracy in his South American nation.
“I submit to the decision of Congress,” Lugo said just after he was impeached, adding that “the history of Paraguay and its democracy have been deeply wounded.”
“Today I retire as president, but not as Paraguayan citizen,” he said.
In a brief speech before leaving the presidential palace, Lugo called for calm.
“May the blood of the just not be spilled,” he said.
In a 39-4 vote, lawmakers found Lugo guilty of poorly performing his duties on several accounts, especially during a recent land dispute that left 17 people dead.
Lugo tried to appeal the impeachment proceedings before the Supreme Court, saying it was unconstitutional and that, under the law, he had the right to delay the process for 18 days in order to properly prepare his defense.
Lugo’s five lawyers, appearing in the Senate Friday on his behalf, were given just two hours to present the president’s defense.
Underscoring the gravity of the crisis, foreign ministers from the regional grouping UNASUR were dispatched to Paraguay from a United Nations environment summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The president of Paraguay’s congress, Jorge Oviedo Matto, bristled at the visit.
“We respect what they say, but here those who vote are Paraguayan senators and not UNASUR foreign ministers,” Oviedo Matto told reporters just after the impeachment vote.
AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte