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There's a feeling of deja vu about this. Another coup in the Americas, another golpe de estado displaces a left leaning president, another opportunity for the US to shy away from swift condemnation. This time the coup is in Paraguay. This time the US is assessing how other nations react to the coup.

The LA Times reports:

The governments of South America have united to punish Paraguay for  removing President Fernando Lugo on Friday, suspending the country’s membership in regional organizations for what some leaders are calling a coup.

When news spread that the Paraguayan Senate had voted to oust the left-leaning former Catholic bishop, widespread condemnation came quickly from leaders in a region with bad memories of dictatorships and democratic instability. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said her government would not recognize the new government formed by Federico Franco, who served as Lugo’s vice president before turning against him.

“Argentina will not validate the coup d’etat in Paraguay,” Kirchner said. “This is about more than Lugo.... This is a definitive attack on institutions and a replay of situations we had thought were totally forgotten.”

For all of Latin America’s varied ideological stripes, the negative response was surprisingly unanimous. Left-wing governments in Venezuela and Ecuador announced they’d cut off shipments of oil. Chile’s conservative government pulled its ambassador from the country. Colombia’s president, Miguel Santos, issued a statement saying there may have been an “abuse” of the proceedings. And regional powerhouse Brazil has put forward the possibility of further sanctions against Asuncion.

Many details about the legalisms underlying the "parliamentary coup" are here (great video). Long story short:

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has been ousted in what he has described as a parliamentary coup. On Friday, the Paraguayan Senate voted 39-to-4 to impeach Lugo, saying he had failed in his duty to maintain social order following a recent land dispute which resulted in the deaths of six police officers and 11 peasant farmers. A former priest, Lugo was once called the "Bishop of the Poor" and was known for defending peasant rights. Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile and Uruguay have all condemned Lugo’s ouster, but the question remains whether the Obama administration will recognize the new government.
Mexico, as well, has condemned the coup: “[E]ven if the political judgment took place according to the procedures established in the Paraguayan Constitution, Mexico considers that the proceedings did not give ex-President Lugo the time and space needed for the defense he had a right to.”

And the US? What says the US about yet another coup in the Americas?  Will the US take a strong position for democracy in this hemisphere? Will the US condemn the golpe de estado and refuse to recognize the golpistas' government? Will the US cut off military aid? Will the US act to express its view that democracy should be supported?

Well, maybe, maybe, quisas, quisas, quisas.

U.S. State Department representative Victoria Nuland said on Monday that Washington is “quite concerned about the speed of the process used for this impeachment in Paraguay."
And she also made one thing abundantly clear: the US is not going to step into the lead on this.  Or condemn the coup.  Or take swift action.  No.  The US is going slowly and cautiously to assess the situation.  The US is going to watch what others do.  AFP reports:
Nuland said that the United States had also taken note that Paraguay's new leadership has committed to going ahead with upcoming elections.

The State Department also revealed that one day before his impeachment, Lugo met with the US ambassador to Paraguay, James Thessin. It said that the meeting was at Lugo's request and did not offer further details.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke over the weekend to regional power Brazil's foreign minister, Antonio Patriota, as the United States determines its reaction, Nuland said.

Nuland declined to say whether the United States would back possible moves to oust Paraguay from the Organization of American States when the Washington-based body holds a special meeting.

"I think we look forward to seeing how much unity there is there in the OAS on next steps," Nuland said.

The OAS is meeting today. And the US will "see[] how much unity there is" before taking further steps. If the news reports are any reflection of other nations' reactions, there's quite a lot of "unity." There's really not a lot to assess here.

Meanwhile, there are these additional details about the US's caution:

The US has not determined the ouster of Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo by impeachment as a coup in the South American nation but is closely following the events there, the US State Department has said.

Responding to a question about whether Washington has determined the impeachment constitutes a coup, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said: "We have not."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez described the ouster a "coup", as Lugo was forced out and his deputy Federico Franco was sworn in as new president following the Paraguayan Senate's vote Friday in favour of impeaching Lugo on charges of "poorly discharging his duties", Xinhua reported.

Nuland also said that Washington has not made a decision about whether to recall its ambassador to Paraguay for consultations, as most Latin American governments have done....

She said Washington was consulting with "a broad cross-section" of its partners in the Organisation of American States and "taking stock of what our reaction will be."

One thing is sure. Paraguay is the poorest nation in South America. It has the most unequal distribution of wealth. It is still suffering from the legacy of Stroessnerismo. Lugo was committed to land reform, though he was unable to produce on that promise because of the fragility of his governing coalition and the power of the opposition. And now, those who opposed all land reform, those who opposed measures to fight poverty, those who most benefited from inequalities in wealth and income, those who benefit the most from Paraguay's hacienda system and its massive exports of soy and beef, have again assumed the reins.  The coup is a clear step away from reform. And democracy. And the US should condemn it.

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

Originally posted to davidseth on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 07:26 AM PDT.

Also republished by America Latina, Inherent Human Rights, and The Americas South Of The Big River.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Here we go again. (23+ / 0-)

    The US should condemn this coup. I hope that later today it will do so.

    Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

    by davidseth on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 07:23:09 AM PDT

  •  The US should condemn it... (12+ / 0-)

    but won't. Unless I am completely wrong about this wonderful country, in which case I shall gladly eat crow.

  •  The elected legislature, in accordance with... (5+ / 0-)

    constitutional procedure, impeached the President, so his Vice President succeeded him.

    This is a coup?

    I don't think the United States should be leaping into the breach whenever the democratic politics of another country don't go the way we want them to go.

    Oh, btw, you know who determined that the Zelaya removal was a coup, several months before the Honduran Truth Commission?  The United States Department of State.

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 07:49:33 AM PDT

    •  Sure. (7+ / 0-)

      Amazing that South American governments see through this with such ease, but you're gonna cite the legalisms. There was no process for Lugo to defend himself.  He had 24 hours notice that he'd have to respond, and he was given a 2 hour window to present a defense.  This is due process?

      Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

      by davidseth on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 07:52:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some S.A. governments. A few S.A. governments. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        absdoggy, llywrch

        Another way to phrase that would be, "A few South American governments, whose heads-of-state were particularly close with Lugo."

        Anyway, there is a big difference between "a democratically- and constitutionally-legitimate action that was carried out poorly" and "a coup."  Sure, there were problems with the procedure, but are we going to inflate the word "coup" the same way others have inflated the word "terrorism," to mean "anything we don't like?

        BTW, "due process" is a loaded term.  It's usually used to refer to the procedure that is supposed to be followed when someone is subject to criminal punishment, not a political defeat.  Take a look at our own Constitution - you can see the language on due process, and the language on impeachment, and they don't have anything to do with each other.

        There are plenty of things not to like about how Paraguay's political system worked here, but to try to bootstrap this into a coup, comparable to Zelaya being forced out of the country at gunpoint, cheapens the term and diminishes the danger of actual coups.

        Even if you really, really liked Lugo.

        Art is the handmaid of human good.

        by joe from Lowell on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 07:59:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  He could have had a year and it wouldn't matter (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Impeachment in Paraguay isn't a two-step process as it is in the United States, with a frankly political step first and then a trial of sorts.  

        I think we're getting off-track here.  What happened in Paraguay was perfectly legal, and perfectly repugnant; its new government is perfectly legitimate but doesn't deserve the grace of friendly relations with its neighbors or with the United States.  That's the incentive not to impeach the President for spurious reasons in the future.

        Romney '12: Bully for America!

        by Rich in PA on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:44:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The US will never (10+ / 0-)

    condemn anything that puts a pro-business leader in charge over a leftist one.  

    •  ORLY? "Obama Says Coup In Honduras is Illegal" (0+ / 0-)

      U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was illegal and would set a "terrible precedent" of transition by military force unless it was reversed.

      "We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there," Obama told reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

      The mythology that has grown up around this episode is strikingly at odds with the available record.

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:04:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Talk is cheap, frankly (5+ / 0-)

        Those who watched the Honduran coup might remember the "restraint" used by Clinton et all in their "condemnation", as well as several diplomatic moves which were decidedly not in favor of Zelaya, the rightful leader at the time. The entire msm discourse about this was based on a false premise - something Zelaya MIGHT have done, which wasn't illegal in the slightest. The media discourse was "he's trying to change the constitution". Baloney to that connotation.

        The US has always maintained a close military relationship with Honduras, so an actual overt challenge to the MILITARY coup would've been ludicrous. A few months prior to the coup our military was even training the Honduran army...complete with PR photos.

        So as usual, when we really aren't opposed to the subversion of freedom, we flap our gums and tut-tut about it until everyone gets bored enough with the subject to move on.

      •  Smoke and mirrors. You need to look behind the (5+ / 0-)


        "If we were able to get to a ... status quo that returned to the rule of law and constitutional order within a relatively short period of time, I think that would be a good outcome," Clinton said.
        Honduran Scholars Call on US to Cease Support for Military and Police

        Adrienne Pine: 40 Honduran scholars, supported by 300 academics from 29 countries, sent a letter to President Obama demanding the end of U.S. support for Honduran military and police training—and that the war on drugs is not a rationale for supporting a regime that is violently suppressing its own people.
        JAY: So we understand, if we listen to what President Obama and the administration and State Department say, that Honduran has had a democratic election, that democratization is taking place. So why do you find the need for this letter?

        PINE: Well, what we've seen over the past years since the coup, the past two and a half years since the coup, almost three years, is that the police and military, which carried out the coup, has continued to brutalize the population in very specific ways, in particular focusing on people who oppose the regime and who stand up against police abuse....

        So these police and military forces in Honduras are trained by the U.S., both [incompr.] like the School of the Americas and directly in trainings from U.S. forces. The U.S. also maintains a military presence in Honduras, a number of bases which is ever increasing, and we never get a full count of that. But there have been several bases that have been installed since the coup. And the U.S., of course, finances the military and police in Honduras.

        •  Yep, years later, when the situation returned... (0+ / 0-)

          to normal, we reestablished relations.

          The ever-moving goal posts of the people determined to rewrite history on this topic never cease to amaze me.

          Art is the handmaid of human good.

          by joe from Lowell on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 01:17:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  What are you talking about? nt (2+ / 0-)
          •  Clinton only cut off part of the economic aid (4+ / 0-)

            package for 6 months before reinstating it. She was in full support of the new Honduran president, the wealthy landowner Porfirio Lobo, and was the first to legitimize the election.

            “Other countries in the region say they want to wait a while [to normalize relations]. I don’t know what they are waiting for, but that is their right to wait.” - Clinton

            Since then, things have steadily got worse for the Honduran people.

            Re-Assessing the US-Honduras Relationship
            May 27th 2012

            Last March, U.S.-Honduran relations came under studied scrutiny after Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and 93 other House members sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocating an across-the-board cutoff of all military and security aid to Honduras.
            The House proposal and the Senators’ associated concerns have emerged in reaction to Honduras’ enduring shabby human rights record, which has been stained by near-daily violations dating back to the 2009 coup against constitutionalist president Manuel Zelaya and the subsequent installment of a golpista regime.

            Since then, Honduran security forces have been in the international hot seat for using excessive force against demonstrators and standing idly by as the country’s civilian death toll has mounted. Human rights organizations have highlighted the volatility which so plagues the country by underscoring the fact that at least 22 journalists have been murdered in Honduras over the past two years. Indicative of an overall lack of public safety, these killings have effectively deterred many reporters from inquiring into the country’s rampant corruption and human rights abuses, staunching media efforts to expose such issues.
            According to the State Department, the United States’ mission in the country is to “support… democracy and respect for human rights.” Under President Porfirio Lobo’s administration, however, claims that a true democratic system has been implemented, or that the United States has adequately responded to the reprehensible actions of Honduran security forces, are questionable at best. The U.S. Human Rights and Labor Attaché, Jeremy Spector, has even gone so far as to label dissenting citizens “thugs.” Instead of holding Honduran military and police officials responsible for the social discord which became so commonplace after the coup, Washington has vilified demonstrators expressing their dissatisfaction with the Lobo regime.
            The current leaders of Honduras have consistently demonstrated that they are motivated more by self-interest than democratic principles, and yet Washington’s support continues, unabated.

            •  During the 6-month period, the newly-elected... (0+ / 0-)

              President took office.

              Yup, when the coup regime gave way to the duly-elected President, our policy changed.

              That's the way it's supposed to work.

              Art is the handmaid of human good.

              by joe from Lowell on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 09:03:59 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It was months - not years (0+ / 0-)
                Yep, years later, when the situation returned... to normal, we reestablished relations.
                The situation never returned to "normal". It reverted to the crap that went on in the 1980's.

                Clinton consistently ignored human rights abuses by new government both during the "free and fair elections" and since.

                Listen to Clinton's lies and deceptions:

  •  No pleasing some people. (8+ / 0-)

    If the US takes a leading role for or against political changes (left or right) in Latin America, we get blasted for meddling in others' affairs. Yet when we stay in the background and let other LA nations take the lead, we're criticized for lack of leadership.

  •  Doesn't really seem like a coup. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cryonaut, Catte Nappe, Zornorph

    It was a 39-4 vote, which wasn't even close, with his own party voting to impeach him.

  •  So let me see if I've got this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, cryonaut, pvlb, Rich in PA

    because the US didn't instantly jump in and condemn this move and Paraguay neighbors did we are somehow dropping the ball. Personally I would rather have the State Department take it's  own sweet time to before making proclamations about the goings on in other countries. I dislike it intensely when we open our yaps only to find out later that maybe we didn't have all the facts.

    So if in fact this was a coup yes it should be condemned. If in fact that the impeachment followed the letter of the Paraguayan Constitution, but it happened a little to fast to be credible or lacked sufficient evident to be supported it should be condemned.

    Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

    by jsfox on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:05:28 AM PDT

  •  The corporatocracy won't condemn what the (6+ / 0-)

    corporatocracy has created.  The U.S. will back the wealthy elite in that country and Lugo was leaning too far left.  

    "The Global War on Terror is a justification for U.S. Imperialism. It must be stopped."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:14:51 AM PDT

    •  Bingo (7+ / 0-)

      the "dispute" that led to the government mutiny was over land that was once state owned, which Lugo MAY have tacitly supported the reclamation of. His "crimes", as stated by his political opponents include sympathy for various leftist organizations.

      The mealy-mouthed US response is almost identical to what was said about Honduras - "Oh yes we condemn it, but we don't want to interfere".

      They only interfere when the left makes an advance.

      I might add that the landowner in question is also a rightwing politician. But I'm sure that has nothing to do with it, right?

  •  There are a lot of left-leaning (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    for 6 too

    governments in LatAm right now, with whom the administration is working closely.

    I agree with other commentors, that the long arm and ugly history of US meddling in LatAm, makes this a time for judiciousness, rather than hasty pronouncements.

    Kathleen Sebelius 2016

    by pvlb on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:22:50 AM PDT

  •  Bolivia is poorer than Paraguay! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    downsouth, llywrch

    But they're both poor, so never mind.  The Honduras/Paraguay comparison is interesting.  In Honduras it really was a coup--Zelaya was put on a plane without any recourse, the argument being that he was about the subvert the constitution by agitating for re-election.  Honduras's constitution weirdly (but understandably, given the regional context) makes even agitation for re-election an impeachable offense, so the issue with Zelaya was that he didn't get to contest the charges.  That's the sense in which it was a coup.

    Paraguay's weird constitutional provision is that impeachment is frankly political, with no burden on the legislature to make a substantive case.  Lugo's lawyers complain that he didn't have a chance to make a defense, but that's beside the point because nobody in the legislature (well, beyond Lugo's four votes out of 45!) would have cared, and constitutionally they didn't have to.  Literally, in Paraguay if 2/3 of the legislature wants to remove the president they can do it at any time.  This is an extremely dumb provision that they might want to revisit, but it's hard to see it as something extralegal, i.e. as a coup.  I support the strong response of several Latin American countries, because a bad political decision is fair game for a strong political response, but I think ostracism rather than active punishment is the appropriate response to a country that's done something very ill-advised but not in conflict with its constitution and laws.

    Romney '12: Bully for America!

    by Rich in PA on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:39:45 AM PDT

    •  On another note... (0+ / 0-)

      ...this arbitrary impeachment and corresponding wave of sympathy for Lugo in and out of the country is probably the Left's only path to seriously contesting the presidency in 2013, so there's a sense in which Lugo is taking one for the team (and a sense in which the impeachers are being awfully short-sighted).  

      Romney '12: Bully for America!

      by Rich in PA on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:54:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And the US Ambassador warned of the plot (7+ / 0-)

        in March 2009.


        Former President and Colorado leader are apparently behind it, and were looking for a pretext.  The campesino-"landowner" private property shootout (6 police, 11 campesinos dead) seems to have providded it.  The land in question (part of 50,000 Ha, or 225,00 Ac - - big spread!)had been given to the former Colorado Party leader and Senator under the Stroessner regime, and the locals who were pushed off were p*ssed.

        It gets more interesting: a group of "Brasiguayo" landowners (Brazilians who have purchased huge tracts of land in eastern PY for soybean growing) have given their support to the new President (Franco), and are going to talk to the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to ask for her support of Franco.  Can anyone say, "Monsanto"?

        Land redistribution in a country where 3% of the population owns 85% of the land is an issue, and Lugo had been working on it.  No wonder the opposition took him out.

        Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

        by tom 47 on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 11:59:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well the US is not really in a position (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to condemn parliamentary or judicial coups d'tat anyway.

  •  Yes, let The OAS lead. If the neighbors are (0+ / 0-)

    concerned about who they are consorting with that ought to be very persuasive with our government.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 09:11:55 AM PDT

  •  Did the LA Times really call the president... (0+ / 0-)

    ...of Colombia "Miguel Santos"? (Pause to check the lin.) Why yes, yes they did.

    Romney '12: Bully for America!

    by Rich in PA on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 09:34:03 AM PDT

  •  President Lugo has launched an opposition site: (6+ / 0-)

    You'll have to read Spanish, but a lot of background is there, including the March 2009 US ambassador's cable telling of the coup plot.

    There are several demonstrations planned for locations cross the country.  It has about 6.5 million folks.

    OAS live session on the Paraguay crisis:

    Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 12:39:41 PM PDT

  •  More good background on land reform (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    for 6 too, Claudius Bombarnac

    and roots of the problem:

    Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 07:48:33 PM PDT

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