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Issue #1553      27 June 2012

Lugo faces right-wing “coup” bid

President Fernando Lugo faced trial in Paraguay’s Senate last week after hostile MPs voted to impeach the former bishop. The trigger for the impeachment was an attempt by police to evict about 150 farmers from a remote, 4,900-acre reserve, which is part of a huge estate owned by an opposition Colorado Party politician.

Seventeen people died in the clash and many people blamed Mr Lugo.

Mr Lugo, who was elected four years ago on promises that he would help the country’s poor, went on national television to dismiss rumours that he would resign and vowed to face the trial “with all its consequences.”

The lower house had voted 76-1 to impeach the president.

Mr Lugo’s 2008 election ended 61 years of rule by the Colorado Party and he has constantly clashed with Congress.

Socialist Carlos Filizzola, who until recently was Mr Lugo’s interior minister, called the impeachment vote an “institutional coup” and said he thought the president’s fate had already been decided.

But the fall in Mr Lugo’s popularity arises partly from his failure to enact agrarian reform in a country where tens of thousands of people are demanding land.

This failure has led to a loss of support from some peasant groups. Paraguay’s land ownership problems stretch back nearly 140 years to a war Paraguay lost to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Saddled with crushing war debt, Paraguay began selling off government holdings amounting to 95 percent of the country’s land, with the most fertile parcels going to political cronies.

Privatisations accelerated under the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner and in the early 1990s, when about 17 million acres ended up in the hands of just 1,877 people, according to a 2004 government study.

“Lugo isn’t fulfilling his main election promise of carrying out agrarian reform but it is not his fault. The fault lies with a judicial system that blocks all attempts to expropriate land in the hands of foreigners or to recover formerly state land that was given to supporters of the Stroessner dictatorship,” said Belarmino Balbuena, leader of the progressive Paraguayan Campesino Movement.

Morning Star  

Next article – Beecroft: I didn’t do any real research

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