Friday, June 29, 2012

Did Venezuela and Ecuador Try to Arrange a Pro-Lugo Military Intervention in Paraguay?

In the wake of widespread regional condemnation of last week’s “golpeachment,” the new Paraguayan government appears to be hitting back at two of its biggest critics: Venezuela and Ecuador. The country’s new Minster of Defense, Maria Liz Garcia de Arnold, caused a stir yesterday when she told reporters that government representatives of Venezuela and Ecuador had met with Paraguayan military leaders in an attempt to convince them to intervene in the impeachment process against ex-president Fernando Lugo.  

According to Garcia, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Ecuadoran Ambassador Julio Prado met with the heads of the Paraguayan armed forces in the presidential palace on June 22nd, the same day that the Senate voted to remove Lugo from office. Both officials were in the country as part of an Unasur delegation sent to monitor the impeachment. Maduro allegedly urged the officers to come to Lugo’s defense, and promised international support for a military intervention. Garcia said the commanders refused, “opting to respect the decision of Congress.”

The allegations were later backed by President Federico Franco, who admitted to the AP that this was the reason behind his decision on Wednesday to reshuffle the country’s military leadership.  "We will not tolerate military officers who want to become insubordinate or accept the recommendations of foreign countries," Franco told the wire agency in an interview.

For their part, both Ecuadoran and Venezuelan officials have strongly denied these accusations. Madero dismissed the claims as an attempt to distract attention from an illegitimate coup, saying that they lack “any basis in reality.” Similarly, the Ecuadoran government released a statement saying that Garcia’s remarks “do not conform to the truth of what happened.”

News Briefs

  • Brazil’s foreign minister has announced that Paraguay will be suspended from the Mercosur trade bloc as a result of Lugo’s impeachment, but that economic sanctions would not be imposed on the country.
  • In a new podcast from the Washington Office on Latin America, Adam Isaacson speaks with Latin America scholar Greg Weeks of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte about the regional implications of Lugo’s ouster.
  • On the eve of Mexico’s presidential election, all four candidates in the race gathered for a brief ceremony yesterday to sign a pact promising to respect the results of the vote.  The AP rather pointedly notes that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who some speculate may not recognize a loss on Sunday, signed the document like all the other candidates and left without making remarks to the press. The Economist offers a round-up of the last opinion polls before the election, which confirm Enrique Peña Nieto’s commanding lead.
  • The House of Representatives found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress yesterday as a result of his refusal to release internal records related to Operation Fast and Furious.  The LA Times reports that this is the first time in US history that a sitting Cabinet member has been held in contempt of Congress.
  • On a related note, a Fortune Magazine investigation offers a defense of the controversial ATF operation, finding that officials lost track of weapons trafficked into Mexico as a result of “prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.”
  • A new Gallup poll has found that support for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos fell by 16 points over the last two months, and at 48 percent is now at the lowest point in his presidency.
  • The BBC reports that Venezuela’s Supreme Court has frozen $5.7 million in assets belonging to news channel Globovision, as a result of its failure to pay a $2.1 million fine imposed by the government last year over its coverage of prison riots, which regulators say “promoted hatred and intolerance for political aims.”
  • Al Jazeera English profiles Victor Carranza, Colombia’s infamous “emerald czar.” Carranza has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his imminent death could fuel a bloody conflict in the central province of Boyaca.
  • The LA Times’ World Now blog has the latest on the mining conflict in Peru’s Cajamarca region. Cajamarca President Gregorio Santos, who has been a key figure in protests against a proposed mining project in the area, has rejected the latest offer put forth by President Ollanta Humala and Newmont Mining for the project.
  • The Miami Herald reports that Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, has announced that it will conduct off shore drilling in Cuban waters.