Saturday, June 23, 2012

Regional response to Paraguay

The presidents of Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela have said they will not recognize the government of Francisco Federico Franco. Costa Rica deplored Fernando Lugo's removal (and offered safe harbor) but did not mention recognition. Bolivia, Chile, and Colombia expressed concern. UNASUR is sending a delegation. Across the ideological spectrum, there is a sense that the politically-motivated and rushed procedure was not a legitimate way to remove a president.

So will that matter? Unfortunately, the answer is likely no, unless governments are willing to strangle the Paraguayan economy or credibly threaten to do so. International relations is all about power, and strong rhetoric now can be massaged later. The outcry about Honduras in 2009 ultimately had no impact whatsoever. In fact, Dilma Rousseff's response now strongly echoes that case:

"What the ministers are trying to do is to create an environment that allows a less traumatic solution for democracy, since President Lugo has a mandate that expires in eight or nine months and cannot be re-elected," said Dilma Rousseff, president of regional powerhouse Brazil.

Translated cynically: an election is coming up, so let's figure out a way to stall until then.

Franco, meanwhile, said that "God and destiny wanted me to assume the presidency." He did not mention the boatload of corrupt lawmakers.

Colin Snider has a good discussion over whether to label it a coup. I agree with his assessment that it is an illegitimate way to remove a president, but it's not precisely a "coup."


Roque Planas 3:13 PM  

I'm still playing catch up here, but I'm hoping for reporting that gets at the backstory here -- both the land conflict and the behind-the-scenes effort to remove Lugo. It seems like his administration just imploded. Amazing that he had so few allies.

Greg Weeks 3:17 PM  

That last point is a very good one, and I do not know the answer. This sped through seemingly without counterattack.

Anonymous,  8:12 PM  

Link to the accusation text.

Greg: do you know that the incident with the 16 killings took place in the land of an ex-senator from "el partido colorado" (Like the PRI in Mexico)?

Here in South America what we believe that happened is the following: Lugo has support from the poor but does not have any support from the "poderes facticos" (do you say factic powers in english??). These, from the beginning, wanted to get rid of him. They found their opportunity. Lugo sent the public forces, but they were received by infiltrated snipers. Then, the overreaction.


Allan Vega 8:35 PM  

Interesting to have another dictator called Franco. I don't know much about the situation in Paraguay but this coup or removals of legitimate officials is nothing new for the region. History just keeps repeating itself.

Justin Delacour 5:17 AM  

That doesn't look to me like an accurate interpretation of what the Brazilian president said. The way I understand it, she was saying it doesn't make much sense to remove Lugo at this late hour in his presidency. Why weaken a country's democratic institutions with such an arbitrary impeachment process when the guy you seek to oust is already on his way out in nine months? Rousseff's statement says nothing to the effect that Brazil has no plans of doing anything. I wouldn't yet jump to the conclusion that Paraguay's Mercosur partners are just gonna sit on their hands on this one. Of course, I don't think Lugo will get the presidency back, but, if this move jeopardizes some of Paraguay's economic relationships, the reaction could cause future legislators in the region to think twice about whether this kind of maneuver serves any useful purpose.

Greg Weeks 8:13 AM  

Well, I hope I am wrong.

Justin Delacour 5:50 PM  

And just to clarify, you could be right. Only time will tell. However, when I think about (1) who Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Fernandez and Jose Mujica are and (2) what capacities Brazil and Argentina have to penalize the new Paraguayan government, I have a hard time believing they're not going to take some sort of action in response to this debacle. In light of the fact that Paraguay is in Brazil and Argentina's own neighborhood (and in their trade bloc, no less), it could be embarrassing to them to publicly lament this debacle but not actually do anything about it.

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