by Shamus Cooke
June 23, 2012
The recent coup against Paraguay's
democratically elected president is not only a blow to democracy, but an
attack against the working and poor population that supported and elected
President Fernando Lugo, whom they see as a bulwark against the wealthy
elite who've dominated the country for decades.
The U.S. mainstream media and politicians are not calling the events in
Paraguay a coup, since the president is being "legally impeached" by the
elite-dominated Paraguayan Congress.
But as economist Mark Weisbrot explains
in the Guardian:
"The Congress of Paraguay is trying to oust
the president, Fernando Lugo, by means of an impeachment proceeding for
which he was given less than 24 hours to prepare and only two hours to
present a defense.
It appears that a decision to convict him
has already been written...The main trigger for the impeachment is an
armed clash between peasants fighting for land rights with police...
But this violent confrontation is merely a
pretext, as it is clear that the president had no responsibility for
what happened. Nor have Lugo's opponents presented any evidence for
their charges in today's ‘trial.’
President Lugo proposed an investigation
into the incident; the opposition was not interested, preferring their
rigged judicial proceedings."
What was the real reason the right-wing Paraguay
Senate wanted to expel their democratically elected president?
article by the Guardian makes this
"The president was also tried on four other
charges: that he improperly allowed leftist parties to hold a political
meeting in an army base in 2009; that he allowed about 3,000 squatters
[landless peasants] to illegally invade a large Brazilian-owned soybean
farm; that his government failed to capture members of a [leftist]
guerrilla group, the Paraguayan People's Army... and that he signed an
international [leftist] protocol without properly submitting it to
congress for approval."
The article adds that the president's former
political allies were,
"...upset after he gave a majority of
cabinet ministry posts to leftist allies, and handed a minority to the
moderates... The political split had become sharply clear as Lugo
publicly acknowledged recently that he would support leftist candidates
in future elections."
It's obvious that the President's real crimes
are that he chose to ally himself more closely with Paraguay's left, which
in reality means the working and poor masses of the country, who, like other
Latin American countries, choose socialism as their form of political
Although Paraguay's elite lost control of the presidency when Lugo was
elected, they used their stranglehold over the Senate to reverse the gains
made by Paraguay's poor.
This is similar to the situation in Egypt:
old regime of the wealthy elite lost their president/dictator, they used
their control of the judiciary in an attempt to reverse the gains of the
Is it fair to blame
the Obama administration for the recent coup in
Paraguay? Yes, but it takes an introductory lesson on U.S.-Latin American
relations to understand why.
Paraguay's right wing - a tiny wealthy elite -
has a long-standing relationship with the United States, which has backed
dictatorships for decades in the country - a common pattern in most Latin
The United States promotes the interests of the wealthy of these mostly-poor
countries, and in turn, these elite-run countries are obedient to the
pro-corporate foreign policy of the United States (The Open Veins of Latin
America is an excellent book that outlines the history).
Paraguay's elite is incapable of acting so boldly without first consulting
the United States, since neighboring countries are overwhelmingly hostile to
such an act because they fear a U.S.-backed coup in their own countries.
Paraguay's elite has only the military for internal support, which for
decades has been funded and trained by the United States. President Lugo did
not fully sever the U.S. military's links to his country.
According to Wikipedia,
"The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)
provides technical assistance and training to help modernize and
professionalize the [Paraguay]military..."
In short, it is not remotely possible for
Paraguay's elite to act without assurance from the United States that it
would continue to receive U.S. political and financial support; the elite
now needs a steady flow of guns and tanks to defend itself from the poor of
The Latin American countries surrounding Paraguay denounced the events as
they unfolded and made an emergency trip to the country in an attempt to
What was the Obama administration's response?
Business Week explains:
"As Paraguay’s Senate conducted the
impeachment trial, the U.S. State Department had said that it was
watching the situation closely."
“We understand that Paraguay’s Senate has
voted to impeach President Lugo,” said Darla Jordan, a spokeswoman for
the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs...
“We urge all Paraguayans to act peacefully,
with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay’s democratic
Obama might as well have said:
"We support the right-wing coup against the
elected president of Paraguay.”
Watching a crime against democracy happen - even
if it is "watched closely" - and failing to denounce it makes one complicit
in the act.
The State Department's carefully crafted words are meant to give
implicit support to the new illegal regime in Paraguay.
Obama acted as he did because Lugo turned left, away from corporate
interests, towards Paraguay's poor. Lugo had also more closely aligned
himself with regional governments which had worked towards economic
independence from the United States. Most importantly perhaps is that, in
2009, President Lugo forbid the building of a planned U.S. military base in
What was the response of Paraguay's working and poor people to their new
They amassed outside of the Congress and were
attacked by riot police and water cannons. It is unlikely that they will sit
on their hands during this episode, since President Lugo had raised their
hopes of having a more humane existence.
President Lugo has unfortunately given his opponents an advantage by
accepting the rulings that he himself called a coup, allowing himself to be
replaced by a Senate-appointed president. But Paraguay's working and poor
people will act with more boldness, in line with the social movements across
Latin America that have struck heavy blows against the power of their
President Obama's devious actions towards Paraguay reaffirm which side of
the wealth divide he stands on.