Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was removed from office on Friday afternoon after a vote of impeachment in the Senate. Vice President Federico Franco was sworn in as Lugo’s replacement hours later.
The move has been called an “institutional coup” by Lugo’s supporters, while several presidents around Latin America declared that they did not recognise the new government.
The impeachment process began on on Thursday, after Lugo was accused of not performing his duties in the aftermath of violent clashes between police and farmers that left 17 dead on 15th June. One day later, 39 (out of 45) senators supported the motion, and at approximately 6.30pm Lugo was removed from office.
The fallen president said that he would accept the decision, but added that Paraguay´s history had been “wounded deeply” in what he called a “parliamentary coup”.
“They have broken all rules for the defence in a premeditated fashion and I hope those responsible appreciate the severity of what has happened,” added Lugo. He also thanked his supporters and called for calm among protestors.
Outside the presidential palace, police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse crowds that had gathered to protest Lugo’s impeachment.
The removal of Lugo was heavily criticised by other Latin American leaders and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa called the impeachment “illegitimate”, while Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff said that Paraguay could be expelled from regional trading bloc Mercosur.
In Buenos Aires, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said the decision was a “direct attack on Paraguay´s institutions”, which was tantamount to a “coup d’êtat”. Groups gathered at the Obelisco in support of Lugo.
Newly-sworn president Federico Franco said the transition was “absolutely constitutional” and asked regional leaders for understanding.
Franco confirmed he will see out the remainder of Lugo’s term, which is due to end in 2013.