Paraguay in Crisis After Ouster of Leftist President

South American leaders call removal of Fernando Lugo a 'coup'

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 23, 2012 5:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – The ouster of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop elected with a strong anti-poverty mandate, is whipping up fierce criticism around the region, with the leaders of other South American countries calling it a "coup" and threatening not to recognize the new government, reports the AP. Argentina "is not going to validate the coup d'etat that just occurred," said President Cristina Fernandez. While Venezuela's Hugo Chavez called the new government "illegal and illegitimate."

Lugo stepped down after being impeached by the Senate yesterday on five charges of malfeasance in office, especially for his role in a confrontation between police and farmers being evicted from a forest reserve that resulted in the deaths of six police officers and 11 farmers. "Although the law's been twisted like a fragile branch in the wind, I accept Congress' decision," said Lugo, trying to defuse a growing standoff in the streets between his supporters and riot police. An hour after Lugo stepped down, Vice President Federico Franco, a strong critic of Lugo, was sworn in as the new president for the rest of Lugo's term, which ends in August 2013.

A supporter of Paraguay President Fernando Lugo runs from tear gas during clashes with police outside Congress in Asuncion.
A supporter of Paraguay President Fernando Lugo runs from tear gas during clashes with police outside Congress in Asuncion.   (AP Photo/Cesar Olmedo)
Riot policemen leave the Plaza de Armas square, in front of the Congress, in Asuncion.
Riot policemen leave the Plaza de Armas square, in front of the Congress, in Asuncion.   (Getty Images)
New President Federico Franco gives a thumbs up during his swearing-in ceremony.
New President Federico Franco gives a thumbs up during his swearing-in ceremony.   (AP Photo/Cesar Olmedo)
Paraguay's former President Fernando Lugo addresses the nation after the Senate voted to remove him from office.
Paraguay's former President Fernando Lugo addresses the nation after the Senate voted to remove him from office.   (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
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