Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lugo Fights Back

Ousted Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo may have been removed from office, but he is not accepting his lot quietly. Vowing to “re-establish the democratic order,” Lugo convened a parallel shadow cabinet yesterday to lay out his next steps in organizing a popular movement designed to restore him to power.

The cabinet consists of several former officials in his government, including the ministers of health, foreign affairs, and communications. It also includes Carlos Filizzola, Lugo’s interior minister who resigned in the wake of a violent land conflict last week. When asked by what means Lugo would pursue a return to office, Filizzola told ABC Digital they would rely on combination of legal measures, international pressure and popular mobilizations.

The first major act of resistance will occur this Friday, at a meeting of the Mercosur trade bloc. Although Paraguay has been temporarily suspended from the organization, Lugo has confirmed that he will attend the summit in a “testimonial” rather than “official” capacity. The New York Times notes that Lugo’s successor, Federico Franco, has dismissed the importance of this move by stressing that Paraguay continues to hold pro-term presidency of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur). However, Mercopress reports that Unasur will be having an extraordinary meeting at Friday’s summit, and Lugo will be expected to hand over leadership of Unasur to Peru.

In spite of the uproar abroad, it is unclear whether Lugo will be able to make any significant advances at home. Protests in his favor have so far been few and far between, so it is unlikely that popular demonstrations alone will be able to return him to power. Meanwhile, the country’s Supreme Court yesterday ruled that he had been ousted in accordance with the constitution, leaving him no legal means to challenge the move.  

News Briefs
  • Americas Quarterly’s Javier El-Hage argues that regional attempts to ostracize Paraguay are misguided, and claims that governments like those in Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador are acting hypocritically by expressing concerns over democracy in Paraguay
  • A shootout broke out inside Mexico City’s International Airport yesterday, resulting in the death of three federal police officers. The victims were attempting to arrest two other police officers suspected of drug trafficking, who apparently escaped after the incident. Reuters notes that the relatively peaceful Mexico City has become more violent of late, with some 300 gang-related murders in 2011. 
  • After the US Supreme Court upheld certain portions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, the Mexican government has filed a “friend of the court” brief challenging the decision on the grounds that it would violate the human rights of Mexicans visiting or living in Arizona.
  • Bolivian police remain on strike over a pay dispute, having rejected a deal on Sunday with the Evo Morales government. The Andean Information Network offers a detailed look at the crisis, which the group compares to a “mutiny.”
  • The Wall Street Journal profiles changing dynamics in South American coca growth, which could potentially lead to more widespread cocaine production in the region.
  • The government of Ecuador is still weighing Julian Assange’s extradition request. The AP says Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino and has not given any indication of when a decision will be made, although the country’s ambassador to the UK returned to Quito over the weekend to assess the situation with Patino and President Rafael Correa. The Guardian reports that a number of prominent left-wing Americans, including Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg have all signed a letter urging Ecuador to accept the request.
  • The Miami Herald reports that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is on a tour of South America this week, and has announced that China is interested in pursuing a free trade agreement with Mercosur.
  • Colorlines has a summary of the achievements of El Salvador’s gang truce, and suggests that it could be a viable strategy for law enforcement in the US.