Thursday, August 01, 2019

Impeachment in Paraguay (Again!)

Latin American impeachment is a no-confidence vote these days. I wrote about it for Brazil three years ago and then talked to Leiv Marsteintredet about it on my podcast two years ago. Paraguay is the most recent example, where Mario Abdo faces calls for impeachment over a controversial energy deal with Brazil.

"We are going to prepare the corresponding documentation for the prosecution of poor performance. We have to do new elections," said Efrain Alegre, leader of Paraguay's Liberal Party, the main opposition group.
Not crimes, or even high crimes and misdemeanors. Just poor performance, which is no confidence. In Mexico, AMLO called for the same and got it passed in the Chamber of Deputies, but it has since stalled in the Senate.

As long as the parameters are clear, this is not necessarily a bad thing, though the structure of a presidential system (especially with separately elected legislature) makes it a lot trickier.

In 2012, Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was ousted through impeachment in a process of "golpeachment." If the path for removal is not clearly laid out, then it becomes constitutionally problematic. BTW, Lugo himself is in the senate now, and from what I gather his party has not yet decided whether to participate in the impeachment process. The constitution (from 1992) has not changed since Lugo was removed. Article 225 is the relevant part:

El Presidente de la República, el Vicepresidente, los ministros del Poder Ejecutivo, los ministros de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, el Fiscal General del Estado, el Defensor del Pueblo, el Contralor General de la República, el Subcontralor y los integrantes del Tribunal Superior de Justicia Electoral, sólo podrán ser sometidos a juicio político por mal desempeño de sus funciones, por delitos cometidos en el ejercicio de sus cargos o por delitos comunes.

"Mal desempeño de sus funciones" is "poor performance of their duties." The issue is whether such a phrase applies to a single policy you disagree with. Its vagueness is what made Lugo's removal so shady.

In other words, do Paraguayans now view impeachment as no-confidence, as a common mechanism for unpopular leaders rather than an uncommon and solemn occasion? Perhaps Lugo's own experience means the answer might be yes.

Abdo says he is ready.


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